Photo Credit: Jamal Awad/Flash90
Bedouins protest against tree planting by the Jewish National Fund outside the village of al-Atrash in the Negev, January 13, 2022.

A new report published recently by Regavim (“Virtual Reality: The truth behind ‘the historic villages’ narrative of the Bedouin in the Negev) examines the Bedouin narrative according to which the residents of the Bedouin diaspora live in 46 historical villages, some of which existed even before the establishment of the State of Israel and some since the 1950s.

Virtual Reality: The truth behind ‘the historic villages’ narrative of the Bedouin in the Negev, March 2023. / Regavim

Based on this narrative, which has accompanied the public discourse in Israel for several decades, the Bedouins seek to promote recognition of all those villages and turn them into legal settlements in their existing locations, with all the benefits that this move would entail.


So far, 11 Bedouin villages were established based on this concept between 2003-2006, in the Abu-Basma and Neve Midbar regional councils, all of which, with one exception, have failed miserably.

The research was conducted using an advanced information system and included identifying each point from those 46 villages on maps from the 1940s to today, marking a radius of one kilometer, and analyzing the maps to identify settlements there.

The findings are unequivocal: in most of the villages there were no buildings at all before the establishment of the state, nor in the 1950s and 1960s, and not one of them was a village. In fact, over the years, the Bedouins migrated from the area, and settlement in the diaspora region in the Negev began to gain momentum only in the mid-1990s when aerial photographs clearly show a significant acceleration in illegal construction near the time they were recognized in the early 2000s.

“The ‘historical villages’ narrative has been proven to be a fake and a lie,” says Avraham Binyamin, director of the policy at the Regavim movement. “The Bedouins, whose caused failed in the courts, realized that they needed a different narrative to justify the takeover of the Negev lands and their demand for rights.”

“Unfortunately, the fabricated stories about ancient Bedouin settlements are seeping into the public discourse and preparing the whitewashing of additional takeovers, a move that has been proven ineffective,” according to Binyamin, who adds: “The Bedouin settlement should be normalized, but not based on unfounded arguments or through the illegal whitewashing of construction, but in planned settlements that provide all education and health services to their residents, according to Israeli standards.”


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