Dozens of members of the Joint List, mostly Hadash activists — including chairman Ayman Odeh and MK Dov Khenin, set out on a march alongside Arab-Bedouin leaders and other citizen on Thursday, March 26, on a four-day trek from the Negev’s unrecognized villages to the President’s Residence in Jerusalem where they are due to arrive Sunday. The marchers were joined by representatives of the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee and the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages.
At the outset of the march in the unrecognized village of Wadi al-Na‘am just south of Be’er Sheva, Odeh told the marchers: “Nearly 100,000 citizens live in the Negev in destitute conditions. Can you imagine your own life without electricity, without running water, where your children have to drive kilometers, on poor roads, just to get to school?”
“The reality in the unrecognized villages is unbearable, and it is our responsibility to struggle together to bring about real change for these citizens. I invite all citizens of the country, Arabs and Jews, to join us in our call to recognize all the unrecognized villages, and to invest in a joint future for all residents of the Negev.”
Odeh organized the march as part of his pre-election promise to support the forty-year struggle of the unrecognized villages. The marchers intend to present President Reuven Rivlin with an operative plan for recognizing the Bedouin villages of the Negev, a plan which will emphasize the benefits that such acknowledgment will have on both the Jewish and Arab populations of the Negev.
Fady Masamra, who heads the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages, spoke to the +972 website at the start of the march: “The issue of recognizing the villages has been up in the air for too many years. This march is just the beginning of the recognition process. The 100,000 residents of the unrecognized villages have suffered enough. Children have lived without water and electricity for long enough — now it needs to stop. This is a call for everyone who believes in human rights to come and march with us and join the struggle of the Negev’s indigenous people.”
Hadash MK Dov Khenin also spoke to +972, saying: “We are marching today from the place that most acutely represents the injustice and danger of the unrecognized villages. Students from Wadi al-Na‘am learn in tin shacks next door to the chemical factories of Ramat Hovav. Despite the dangers facing the villagers, we have not been able to advance a solution to their unbearable situation over the past years. Wadi al-Na‘am is just one story out of many. We cannot continue to be complacent about this kind of reality. Instead of fighting the Arab Bedouin citizens, the time has come for the government to solve their problems, by first and foremost recognizing their villages.”
The marchers made camp on Thursday in the unrecognized village al-Araqib, which has been destroyed by Israeli authorities over 80 times. They will also spend the night in Beit Jubreen and Abu Ghosh before concluding their march in Jerusalem on Sunday.
Joint List Lawmakers to Lead 4-Day March from Negev to Jerusalem for Arab-Bedouin Rights