Indigenous peoples in Israel

Israel’s Arab Bedouin are indigenous to the Negev-Naqab desert and, centuries ago, they were semi-nomadic. They combined herding with agriculture in villages linked by kinship systems, which largely determined land ownership.

Prior to 1948, around 90,000 Bedouin lived in the Negev. After 1948, most were expelled to Jordan and Sinai. Only around 11,000 survived in Israel. In the early 1950s, the Israeli government concentrated this population within a restricted geographical area that represented about ten percent of the Bedouin’s former territory, with the promise of a return to their original lands within six months. This promise has yet to be fulfilled.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, 53,111 Bedouin live in 35 “unrecognized villages”, which lack basic services and infrastructure. A further 148,729 Bedouin live in seven townships and ten villages that have been recognized over the last decade. However, these townships and villages hinder the traditional Bedouin way of life and provide few employment opportunities.

Israel has not ratified ILO Convention No. 169 and has violated many of its provisions. Additionally, Israel did not participate in the vote on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and has failed to meet this Declaration’s provisions.

Yearly update

Read the 2012 yearbook article on indigenous peoples in Israel to learn about major developments and events during 2011 (internal link)