While I won’t suggest for a minute Israeli-Bedouin relations are most congenial, I would suggest the conflict lies more with a semi-nomadic culture clashing with the confines and values of the modern world. The question becomes just how much tolerance and accommodation should a modern society reasonably exhibit towards an older tribal culture when traditional pursuits clash with 21st century ethics?
But is it not just the Israelis who have ‘Bedouin’ issues. Egypt has their fair share of issues with the Bedouin too. Taken from an October 2007 report from International Relations and Security Network.
Thousands of Bedouin took to the streets of the northern Sinai town of Al-Arish the weekend before last, ransacking the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party and defacing pictures of President Hosni Mubarak, news reports said. Police reportedly stood back at first as the demonstration, which was protesting the failure of police to protect local residents during inter-tribal clashes on 6 October, degenerated into violence in which at least six were injured.
The weekend incidents followed anti-government protests in September in which Bedouin took to the streets in towns and villages across the Sinai, blocking roads, burning tires and holding a major demonstration near the Israeli border.
In August, a Bedouin teen was killed and 18 wounded in violent clashes with security forces seeking to disperse a demonstration by Rafah residents in the nearby town of Al-Masoura protesting government plans to demolish the houses of 3,000-5,000 families in their town, which abuts the Gaza Strip.
The repeated upheavals signal the collapse of a tentative April agreement between tribal sheikhs and government representatives in which the latter gave vague commitments to release Bedouin security prisoners and improve the overall situation of Sinai tribes.
Bedouin have long claimed systematic discrimination in state resource allocation and mistreatment at the hands of security forces. The resultant sense of alienation has led directly to the recent disturbances and the alleged coalescence of the first Bedouin jihadi movements.
In a piece on Bedouin land ownership in relation to state land reclamation projects, Dr Nabil El-Khodary underlines the depth of the discrimination facing local Bedouin, who "are viewed [by planners] as having questionable farming skills," meaning "that it is unlikely that the customary land rights of the local Bedouin will be respected." "Instead, they have been designated as the labor pool for the other settlers who have been allocated larger farm plots," the article reads.
A 2004 Egyptian Organization for Human Rights fact-finding mission into the security forces' response to the first Sinai bombings found that 3,000 residents of Al-Arish -the bombers' hometown - had been detained by security forces at some point and that "many detainees were subjected to various forms of torture."Ruling party officials strongly deny such claims and that discrimination exists.
Israeli tourists were the primary target of the 7 October 2004 militant attacks on the Taba Hilton and camp sites. The resultant flight of Israeli tourists has devastated the Sinai tourism industry and local economy.
The deepening poverty has contributed to a significant rise in tensions between Sinai residents whose families largely hail from the Nile Valley/Delta and local Bedouin who are shut out of major tourism developments in many locales.It is important not to generalize, as specific tribes and clans do play a significant role in the local tourist economies, but even where this is true, significant inter-communal hatreds regularly spring to the surface in casual conversation.
According to analysts, northern Bedouin tribes have benefited less than their southern Sinai counterparts, situated along the main strip of tourist development on the Red Sea coast, and are leading the current agitation.
Egyptian authorities planning to demonlish 3-5,000 Beouin homes – perish the thought and for heaven’s sake - nobody tell Dr. Dawg as it might put a dent in his Israeli apartheid thesis and possibly even induce cardiac arrest.
And because this article is circa 2007, I don’t want to leave anyone with any doubts that Egyptian Bedouin relations have improved greatly so I suggest reading this Al-Ahram weekly report or trolling my archives – start searching under ‘keystone kops’.