by Mohamed Kaabiya
The Bedouin people are crying out and fighting for their existence within Israeli society while the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee turns its back on them.
The Arab Higher Monitoring Committee in Israel is an independent political organization that was established in 1982 in an effort to coordinate the political activities of Israeli Arabs and their various organizations. The committee comprises local leaders, Knesset members from Arab parties and members of apolitical organizations. However, unfortunately, most of the committee's activities and those of the Arab political parties are tainted by hypocrisy. When it was established, the committee set a goal of promoting and developing Arab society in Israel. In reality, there are many contradictions between this goal and what is actually happening. In this piece, I will examine some of the committee's main values and goals and I will explore what is happening on a practical level on the ground.
The action to eliminate all signs of racial discrimination:
In practice, the policies of the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee itself are discriminatory. It purports to represent the entire Arab community in the country, but the right to vote and influence decisions are given only to those approved by its members. Moreover, the Bedouin community in the north, some 100,000 people who vote in Israeli elections, have no representation in the committee, despite the fact that they voted for the Arab parties in considerable numbers during the last election.
A committee like this does not give expression to the views of the entire spectrum of the Arab sector and completely ignores the Bedouin population in the north of Israel, a population that lives with increased conflict of identity and belonging.
The action against the home demolition policies:
We are all aware of the issue of home demolition and the problem of housing construction permits. With every home destroyed where our Bedouin brothers in the south live, we see committee members arriving at the site, and instead of trying to find a solution, they incite in an effort to step into the media spotlight. They speak in sound bites designed to enrage the young people and get them out onto the streets to protest -- with some of these protests turning violent. In the end, our sons are arrested and must deal with legal proceedings and criminal records while the Knesset members return to their homes in their pristine suits.
It is not only in the south where we see this hypocrisy; there are also land and construction permit problems in the Bedouin villages in the Galilee region. But there, we don't see Arab public figures taking an interest in solving the problem -- not that we want them on the ground there, since that is not where solutions come from anyway. They sit in the holy of holies for decision-making -- the Knesset, and it is from there that they need to take action. But what can be done when our representatives in the Knesset are busy dealing with the problems of other people, and not those of their voters?
A solution for refugees in their national homeland:
Do you not first have the responsibility to find a solution for the Arab citizens who stayed here and did not leave their land and their homes? To deal with the growing crime in our sector? Welfare? To deal with the integration of the Arab sector into Israeli society? Or are these topics less attractive and "sexy" than the Arab-Israeli conflict on which you are piggybacking?
The committee is very good at publishing and distributing flyers and posters -- to make announcements about school strikes, when those suffering from the strikes are our children, the students, and to spread threats and lies. One thing it is not very good at is truly trying to help advance the Arab-Israeli public.
I, as a member of the Bedouin community, see the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee and the Arab parties as my representatives in the political arena. I am not interested in an organization that tries to distance me from the country and its society. The Bedouin people are crying out and fighting for their existence within Israeli society while the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee turns its back on them. This has been especially true recently, when the Bedouin community was denied the opportunity to elect the committee head. Furthermore, as a community that has given its body and soul to the State of Israel since before its establishment, the Bedouin have particular demands, especially for their sons who have been released from the army. It is a community that cannot be represented by a committee with a foreign agenda.
The Bedouin must do some serious soul-searching. We must renounce, for once and for all, the hypocritical, unworthy and inadequate representation of the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee and the Arab parties, and follow in the footsteps of our forefathers in this land. We must continue fighting for this country's existence and for our own existence within it, and try to integrate into Israel's society and institutions, which have always recognized and respected our contributions.
Mohamed Kaabiya is the coordinator for the Bedouin division of the "Aharai! IDF" organization, which helps encourage and prepare youth for IDF service.
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