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Lawfare
Lawfare - IAM Review of "Contested Indigeneity: The Development of an Indigenous Discourse on the Bedouin of the Negev"

Lawfare Report 
Review

Seth J. Frantzman, Havatzelet Yahel, Ruth Kark
Contested Indigeneity: The Development of an Indigenous Discourse on the Bedouin of the Negev, Israel

Israel Studies

The burgeoning international human rights efforts have helped to create a "consciousness movement" of indigenous people.  Spurred by activists, human right lawyers and scholars, in 1983 the U.N. created a working group on indigenous population.  The group failed to come up with a definition of who qualifies for this category, but the U.N. adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007.  The Declaration and some subsequent resolutions were also ambiguous with regard to the compensation for indigenous people, notably whether they should be entitled of their lands and resources.   
Citing this vagueness of the U.N. Declaration, Canada, New Zealand and Australia reject it, stating that  the "provisions of the Declaration are overly broad, unclear and open to interpretation . . . the text is not balanced, and suggests that Indigenous rights prevail over the rights of others.”  The three countries have subsequently reversed the decision but stipulated that the Declaration is vague enough to lend itself to different interpretations.

U.N. failure to define indigeneity created a veritable hodgepodge of claims by ethnic, religious and cultural groups.  The Middle East is a case in point; the Egyptian Copts claimed to be an indigenous group as well as the Bahais and the Iranian Arabs.   The Iraqi Marsh Arabs, a truly indigenous population, were listed once, but then disappeared from the U.N. registry, apparently because they did not invest in writing an entry.  As for the various Bedouin tribes, their status is only sporadically reflected either in the U.N. Directory of the scholarly literature.
The Bedouin tribes in Negev are a clear exception in this respect.   The article credits the rapid advancement of Bedouin indigenous consciousness (and status) to two closely related factors. First, a group of Israeli academics, including Oren Yiftachel (BGU) Tovi Fenster (TAU) Alexander Kedar (Haifa U) and Geremy Forman  (Haifa U) conceptualized the Bedouins as indigenous people.  Their writings influenced the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous People, something that Yiftachel apparently hoped for when he stated that Jewish activism "is intended to influence the public discourse and raise consciousness" on behalf of the Bedouins.  Second, Jewish and Bedouin activists have mounted a campaign to lobby UN and human rights groups to recognize the indigenous status of  the Negev tribes, which is now referred to as Naqab.

The high-level activism that propelled the Israeli Bedouins into the "top of the chart" of UN indigenous peoples, has produced an ironic consequence.  As the article indicates, the same Bedouin tribal groups outside Israel have not benefited from the such hightened attention and thus failed to reach the coveted "indigenous" status.   This categorization makes little sense from an anthropological point of view, but can be easily explained when the high-velocity politics of the process are considered. Looked at from such angle, it is hard to escape the conclusion that pro-Bedouin activism is one more front in the increasingly broad and successful campaign of lawfare against Israel waged by Palestinians and their supporters.     
 
 
 
 

Israel Studies

Seth J. Frantzman
Havatzelet Yahel
Ruth Kark
Contested Indigeneity: The Development of an Indigenous Discourse on the Bedouin of the Negev, Israel
Israel Studies - Volume 17, Number 1, Spring 2012, pp. 78-104

Indiana University Press 

Abstract:

The article examines the history of the development of a discourse that regards the Bedouin of the Negev desert in Southern Israel as an indigenous people of Israel. This movement has generated a great deal of activity in recent years, particularly the submission of a petition to the U.N. by activists asking for the Bedouin to be recognized as having indigenous communal rights in 2005. The subject is examined in the context of the worldwide recognition of indigenous rights that culminated in the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted on the 13th of September 2007. The article takes account of the processes and activities of individuals who have helped lead and craft a narrative of an indigenous Bedouin identity. It also explores the rise of an indigenous consciousness movement as reflected in states, academic institutions, NGOs, and individuals across the world, with a focus on some of the implications for Israel and the region of the current struggle for recognition for indigenous rights

 




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