Land, Towns and Planning: The Negev Bedouin and the State of Israel

  • Emanuel Marx Tel Aviv University
  • Avinoam Meir Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Keywords: Urbanization Policy, Land Ownership, Land Conflict, Bedouin Towns, Unrecognized Settlements, State Planning, Insurgent Planning


The Negev Bedouin and the Israeli state are involved in a long-term struggle over land. Conflicts between pastoralists and states over land tenure are quite common. However; unlike many other cases, in Israel the conflict also has an ethnic dimension, as the state considers the Bedouin as a separate and relatively powerless segment of the repressed Moslem Arab population. The state views itself as representing Western modern culture, and the Bedouin as the most backward sector of Middle Eastern Arab culture. Thus the Bedouin are treated as a "minority" twice over. In this paper we show how the state's desire to seize the Bedouin's land, and the Bedouin's efforts to hold on to it, have been major actors in shaping their society and space. After sketching out the general background, we first portray the state's expropriation of Bedouin land. Then we analyze the state's partially successful attempts to set up towns for Bedouin, as a major lever to evacuate them from their land. Finally, at a rather detailed level, we discuss the most recent phase of the conflict, the process of insurgent planning by the Bedouin as their own strategy to protect the remaining land outside the towns from further encroachment by the state.


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