Last week, Bedouin youths from the town of Tel Sheva were caught at the Sde Teiman IDF base wearing IDF jackets and in possession of M-16 bullets. While they were being interrogated, another Bedouin man came along and threw a stun grenade at the soldiers. The grenade-thrower was identified as Lakiya resident Khafez Albahiri.
Court Set Thieves Free
On Friday, the three suspects were brought before the court in Be’er Sheva. The judge decided to release the two caught with ammunition, and the third Bedouin man, the grenade-thrower, was put on remand until today.
This incident is part of a wider problem in the Negev in general, and at the Tze’elim base in particular: a sore lack of governance and the IDF’s failure to deal with local Bedouins. One week ago, expensive technology equipment was stolen from the IDF base. Around a month ago, over 90,000 bullets were stolen. About a year ago, soldiers were attacked and surrounded by violent Bedouin residents who tried to steal military equipment.
“Stolen IDF weapons, ammunition, and equipment make their way unimpeded into the hands of criminal elements – and even worse, into the hands of terrorists, Naomi Kahn, the Director of the International Division of Regavim, said to Israel365 News. “Thieves roam the firing grounds at will, and the only thing IDF officers can do is disrupt training exercises, wasting precious time and money, and wait for them to clear the area at their own pace.”
Illegal Building Source of Problem
Khan explained that the problem is due to Bedouins being allowed to illegally build without any oversight, even on land that is part of active army bases. Kahn noted that if the Israeli government acts to prevent this, international pressure is exerted against Israel.
One recent example of this was when the Israeli High court ordered the destruction of Khirbet Humsa, a Bedouin site erected without any permits or claims to property rights on an area that has been an IDF firing zone since 1972. The site has been demolished by court order several times and was a collection of tents, water tanks, and solar panels, recently purchased with European funding. There are currently at least 38 such sites built illegally on land the Israeli military has designated for training.
Left-wing groups, claiming to be advocating for the Bedouins, condemn Israel’s attempts to relocate the Bedouins to safe areas.
“They are building these structures on IDF bases, doing whatever they want, and claiming rights to land they never had,” Khan said. “The state of Israel has done nothing because it doesn’t want to be accused of colonialism or mistreating these people. These people are citizens of Israel and have full rights. They should act like responsible citizens and respect the law. The result is that due to European meddling, there is no law in the Negev and the Bedouins are being put in danger for a cynical anti-Israel agenda.”
It should be noted that many Bedouin served honorably in IDF combat units.
“If you ignore a problem when it’s small, you’ll have to deal with it eventually – and by then it may have grown beyond control,” Khan said. In the last two weeks alone the Negev has seen horrific and varied forms of criminal behavior: The shocking sexual assault of a little girl in her home, the break-in at the Israel Air Force base at Sde Teiman that included a stun grenade attack on our soldiers, a string of robberies in Be’er Sheva that were caught on film, a massive ammunition heist, and now, a break-in at the Nevatim base, where Israel’s top-secret aeronautical technology is housed. The State of Israel must draw the line, and formulate a comprehensive, all-encompassing and non-negotiable solution to the problem of Bedouin crime in the Negev. ”