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Bedouin Contemporary Resilience: The Struggle for Dominating Local Governance

Bedouin Contemporary Resilience: The Struggle for Dominating Local Governance

Prof. Avinoam Meir
Department of Geography and Environmental Development, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel

localities with their culture and bio-physical environment, rejecting in fact the modern Understanding resilience of contemporary Israeli Indigenous Bedouin in the Negev desert rests on several assumptions. First, they may not be generalized as struggling necessarily for classical desert survival, as only a negligible number of small communities in remote areas in the eastern Negev and Negev Highlands may be represented as such. Second, resilience may not necessarily be approached in terms of natural bio-physical resources solely and in facing climate change, but may assume a multifaceted dimensionality including social-cultural-political resources. Third, in a more-than-bio-physical-resources perspective, resilience should be looked at as closely associated with the notion of place and its broad spatio-temporal relationality, whereby bio-physical resources are one among many components. And fourth, place-based resilience of the Bedouin as a desert community has been acquired historically through desert pastoral-semi nomadic subsistence to become an inherited cultural quality imported now into their contemporary semi-urbanized labor market life.

With these assumptions as scaffoldings, the resilience of contemporary post-nomadic and post-pastoral Bedouin will be examined in the arena that turns out to be crucial for them— municipal politics. In particular this resilience is manifested in their struggle for domination of local governance in their localities. Based on a recent study, this question is explored as a process spanning the pre-1948 to present day period through the dynamics of domination of local governance. The State of Israel has been compelling the Bedouin to resettle into seven towns, but as of today only about half of the 270,000 Bedouin have resettled, the rest are still living in unrecognized squatter villages. As a consequence of the power of Bedouin place-based and land steadfastness, eleven (as of now) such villages are now in a process of recognition and becoming municipalized.

Most of these localities are located within what the Bedouin regard as their traditional pastoral-nomadic territories. Hence, there has been a sustained tension between the Bedouin and the state over the issue of who indeed dominates local governance in Bedouin localities. For reasons of national ideology, national security, national partisan politics and regional development targeted primarily to the Jewish population, the state has been consistently maneuvering to retain municipal control through non-democratic measures, administrative-bureaucratic apparatus and legislative tools so as to eliminate local and regional effects of Bedouin municipal-territorial dominance. In contrast the Bedouin have been reacting with civil action and legal measures to transfer domination of local governance into their hands at all spatial scales of municipal bodies—local councils and regional councils.

Thus, from a phase of virtually full domination of their tribal semi-nomadic local governance in the pre-state period, through a phase of lost-domination in early statehood years and early stages of semi-urbanization, through to contemporary recognition of some villages, the Bedouin have been gradually extricating domination of local governance from state grip and becoming dominant in municipal affairs of their localities. This process has been powered by a long-term tension between governance up-scaling predilection by the Israeli settler-state and down-scaling predilection by the Indigenous Bedouin. The Indigenous Bedouin have been realizing their value of historical place-based resilience and relationality of their governance imposed upon them.

The extended abstract and supplementary material