Bedouins inside Israel feel they're not treated fairly by the government and that has some of them identifying with Palestinians in Gaza. Some Israelis worry the Bedouins' could become radicalized. The World's Quil Lawrence reports.
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MARCO: I'm Marco Werman, this is The World. Israeli jets pounded Gaza again today. It was the seventh day of air strikes for the Palestinian territory. The death toll from the week long Israeli operation is well past 400 now. A United Nations agency said some 25 percent of those killed have been civilians. A spokesman for the Israeli Defense Force is Major Avital Leibovitch; insisted Hamas is responsible for civilian casualties.
AVITAL: And if Hamas chooses to locate rockets in the middle of civilian areas then Hamas should be accountable to the fact that they would get hurt.
MARCO: Meanwhile, there were protests in support of Gaza's beleaguered residence in the West Bank and Jordan, which prompted Israel to beef up its own internal security as we hear in this report from The World's Quil Lawrence.
QUIL: Israel announced early this morning that all access for Palestinians from the West Bank would be closed for 48 hours. Not unusual when disturbances are expected after Friday prayers, but a larger concern might come from within Israel's established borders. Police spread out across the country on high alert, particularly near communities of Arab citizens of Israel. That includes the Bedouin village of Wadi Na'am, which held a demonstration though it didn't exactly have to do with Gaza, leaders of the Bedouin community came together to rebuild a mosque that was demolished last week by order of the Israeli government.
Fighter jets flew overhead on their way toward Gaza, as a few dozen Bedouins built a temporary mosque tent. They cleared away stones from the rough ground underneath and then laid down a long carpet for prayers. This is one of hundreds of Bedouin villages in the southern Negev Desert that Israel considers illegal. Quite often that results in demolitions. The Bedouin here say that leaves them feeling something in common with Gaza. Atra Abu Frieh is Director of the Council of Unrecognized Villages in the Negev or Naqab in Arabic.
ATRA: [TRANSLATION] The same problem, the same misery, whether it's under Negev, Naqab, or it is in Gaza. They are demolishing mosques in the Naqab and they are demolishing mosques in Gaza. The Arabs in the Naqab, they are part of the Palestinian nation, the Palestinian people.
QUIL: Frieh doesn't suggest that the Bedouin are facing the same bombardment as in Gaza, but he points to the generator being used to rebuild the mosque. He says Bedouin villages get little or no electricity or other services as they watch similarly illegal Jewish settlements tap into the national power and water grids. Bedouins also serve in the Israeli Defense Forces and some may well be involved in any ground defensive into Gaza. In fact, the Imam of the demolished mosque here in Wadi Na'am was formerly a soldier.
The Imam, Mahmoud Jarbeau, says what's happening in Gaza makes him ashamed to admit he served. To him it seems that he's fulfilled all the obligations of being an Israeli citizen without getting the benefits. The Bedouin here are close to Gaza, well within the range of Hamas rockets. They're also tied by family. Many have relatives in the Gaza Strip. A high level Israeli government commission recently delivered a report on the situation of the Bedouin recommending that some 46 Bedouin villages be officially recognized, and that others be paid compensation if their villages are destroyed. The government accepted the report, but there's no sign of action yet. In the meantime some fear the Bedouin are radicalizing.
About 200 people arrived to hear a sermon at the makeshift mosque. As a police helicopter passed overhead the Imam's words echoed off the rocky hillside. A few foreigners and Jewish Israelis also participated, including Oren Yiftachel, a professor at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. He says that the Israel government is asking for trouble if it ignores the problem.
OREN: I think they're already radicalizing, in a different way perhaps to Gaza, but it's...they are radicalizing, they are withdrawing from the State. They are...the Islamic movement is strong here. What you see here is Islamic movement, and listen to what he is saying. "Jahalym, mohalyn, you know, we are refuges inside." Any textbook of any Sociology 111 will tell you if you deprive people and you oppress them, they will radicalize. And the State is losing them, it's obvious.
QUIL: Two dozen Israeli police stood nearby on the highway next to Wadi Na'am, but today's event went peacefully. Eight years ago, during the Second Intifada, Arab Israelis clashed with police throwing stones, and police killed 13 protestors. Arab citizens of Israel are planning a large demonstration in the north of the country on Saturday. It may grow if Israel begins a ground assault on Gaza as many are predicting. For The World this is Quil Lawrence, Wadi Na'am Israel.