Imagine if a member of the English Defence League, or anyone else for that matter, came to the School of Oriental and African Studies in London to talk about the “Islamisation” of England or Europe or any place in the world. Do you think there’d be a riot?
SOAS would have barred such an invitation long before.
However, a discussion about “Judaisation” under the guise of academia is encouraged and applauded judging by last night’s audience at the Centre for Palestine Studies, which is based at SOAS, where the Arab Israeli (or Palestinian Israeli) lecturer Dr Thabet Abu Rass spoke on the topic of The Bedouin in the Naqab (Negev): The invisible Palestinians and the Prawer Plan.
I lost count how many times Dr Rass used “Judaisation” or “Judaising” to accuse Israel of nefariously attempting to make Israeli places like the Galilee, Nazareth and the Negev majority Jewish areas to the detriment of Israel’s Arab citizens already living there.
One has to ask the question, if “Islamisation” is considered offensive then why is “Judaisation” considered not offensive?
Meanwhile, one has to strongly doubt whether the Bedouin will be happy to be considered Palestinian by both Dr Rass and the Centre for Palestine Studies. The Bedouin seem to have a completely different culture, history and relationship with Israel than the Palestinians do. But Dr Rass described the Bedouin last night as “part of the Palestinian people”.
Dr Rass is Adalah’s director of their Negev office, while Adalah styles itself as “The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel”.
Dr Rass, who obtained a PhD in Geography and Regional Development from the University of Arizona, also lectures at Ben Gurion University and Sapir College but last night he started off by saying of those he teaches: “Some of my students are the most extreme settlers from Hebron.”
He continued that “Israel’s Arab minority is under attack”, that Avigdor Lieberman is attempting to “Judaise the Galilee” and that “the state of Israel is trying to increase its Jewishness”.
Dr Rass claimed there is “no free market of land in Israel” and that “93% of Israel is defined as state land” which, he said, was comparable to China, Cuba and North Korea.
Dr Rass then put the natural Bedouin growth rate at 4% and said there was only one group higher than this in the world.
There then came derogatory laughter from the audience before some of them called out “ultra-orthodox Jews!” Sometimes, you do get a sense of total disparagement of Jewish people and for those few seconds I felt it.
Dr Rass mainly concentrated on the Bedouin town of Al-Araqib in the Negev, near Be’er Sheva, with its 300 residents. He accused Israel of demolishing its homes 49 times since July 2010 and described how Israel uproots Al-Araqib’s crops every spring.
And he described how a Bedouin village called Umm Al-Hiran was removed by Israel, soon to be replaced by a Jewish town called Hiran.
Dr Rass claimed Israel is trying to forcibly displace the Negev Bedouin and then confine them to just 1% of the Negev’s total area. He described this as “the severest attack of land confiscation since 1948”.
Dr Rass blames this, of course, on that policy of “Judaisation”. He continued that there was a “discourse of fear” in Israel which binds Israelis together. He said that when things were quiet with Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah it is “the Bedouin who become the enemy”. Such a “politics of fear”, he said, pushes Israel to the right.
He tried to make the case that the Bedouin had legal and historic rights to the Negev. He produced an old Bedouin voting card and a photocopied Arabic land certificate from 1941. He also produced an aerial photo from 1945 of the Negev showing its fertility presumably to emphasise the quality of the land he was accusing Israel of stealing.
His parting shot at Israel was “for the first time since 1948 Israel is closing places to the Bedouin. From Be’er Sheva to Ashkelon the Bedouin cannot own land. Israel is closing areas off on an ethnic basis. Israel is going to destroy Bedouin unrecognised towns and build Jewish settlements. It is going to criminalise the Bedouin for sitting on their ancestral lands. Israel is not an apartheid state, but it is creeping apartheid“.
As I understand it, Israel is not closing anything off “on an ethnic basis”. The Bedouin can apply to purchase property in any of the new Negev developments.
Chairing this Centre for Palestine Studies’ latest anti-Israel hatefest under the guise of academia was Sharri Plonski. Two years ago, while studying at SOAS, Plonski chaired a SOAS Israel Society event Is BDS working? Now she’s a SOAS lecturer.
Meanwhile, Adalah is being advised on the situation of the Bedouin by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, which calls for a racist boycott of Israel leading to Israel’s eventual obliteration. Adalah is also supported by Christian Aid in this project. Once again we see hard-earned charity funds wasted on projects primarily aimed at demonising Israel.
If you really wish to know the truth about the Prawer Plan see here and watch the clip below. You won’t be surprised to learn that Adalah and Dr Rass have misrepresented the Bedouin cause.
Many Bedouin are in favour of Prawer. The plan should improve their lives immeasurably, allowing them to live in far more advantageous locations with proper mains supplies and schools, while also benefiting financially from the move. Consultations are still taking place, though, and nothing has been set in stone yet.
The Bedouin might even, finally, be allowed to enjoy all the benefits of a full life in Israel that Dr Thabet Abu Rass has taken advantage of himself. He said that he has recently visited the British Foreign Office, the White House and Congress.
It seems that the only people against the Bedouin are Dr Rass, Adalah and anyone else who wants to stop the Bedouin from enjoying enhanced lives.