Ok, so Audrey got part of it. It’s pretty complicated, and I will absolutely write a more comprehensive post, but here’s a very brief, very basic explanation:
Ottomans: The Ottoman Land Ordinance of 1858 categori
zed all uncultivated land in the Negev as mawat (dead), encouraging cultivation as a means to ownership. Mawat land was the property of the state. The land law categorized the land and controlled uncultivated land, but the Ottoman government also respected traditional Bedouin customs of land ownership, purchase, and inheritance.
British: The British Mawat Land Ordinance of 1921 aimed to consolidate land in the hands of the government. Cultivators of mawat land were given a period of two months to register the land in their names, or it would be claimed by the state. Most Bedouin, however, did not register their land during this period for a few different reasons: they preferred to keep to their traditional means of buying and selling land and not get involved with the occupying gov, and the land registration system that began in the north and proceeded south didn’t reach many areas of the Beersheva district in time for those Bedouin that did want to register their lands to receive papers.
Israel:By 1948, the majority of the formerly nomadic Negev Bedouin was sedentary, and cultivated most of the arable land in the Negev. During the War of 1948, 80-85% of the Bedouin population fled or was expelled from Israel. The remaining 11,000 were transferred to the siyag, or “fence,” region in the Northern Negev.
The 1953 Land Acquisition Law turned this temporary evacuation into a permanent situation, and expropriated
the land of all persons not residing on or cultivating their land on April 1st, 1952
the land of all persons not residing on or cultivating their land on April 1st, 1952. Although the Israeli government told the Bedouin they would be allowed to return to their ancestral lands, to date none have been allowed to do so. The Israeli Land Rights Settlement Ordinance of 1969 abolished the mawat category and determined that all such lands would be registered as state property unless a formal legal title could be produced according to Ottoman or British laws. Any land not registered in 1921 was taken unless it could be proven that the land was not mawat.
Present (land claims): The Bedouin have submitted over 3,200 legal claims for the disputed land, covering 990,000 dunams, which is only about 3% of the total land in the big, mostly-empty Negev desert. Since 2004, the Israel Land Authority (ILA) has been filing counter land claims against those made by Bedouins. Only a very small percentage of those claims have been settled, and in every such case the court has ordered the land to be registered as state land.
Why Demolish? The State claims that the Bedouin are illegal squatters, and would prefer that they all move into 9 over-crowded government-planned towns that are the poorest in the country with no jobs to speak of or agricultural space.
Since the Bedouin villages are “unrecognized,” building there is illegal, hence the demolitions.
What’s going to happen? The Goldberg Commission put out some recommendations in 2008 that weren’t perfect but were along the right lines of recognizing at least some villages and admitting the Bedouin’s historical connection to the land. The Prawer Committee that was charged with implementing those recommendations has just leaked a draft of a plan that does neither of those things, and that would amount to forced urbanization of the Bedouin population. The plan was constructed without even asking the Bedouin their opinions.
Ok – I promise more soon, but I hope that is somewhat helpful. Please feel free to post a comment if you have questions and I’ll do my best to answer!