Did the Guardian double the actual number of Bedouins facing relocation?

harrietOn Dec. 1 we posted about Harriet Sherwood’s story at the Guardian titled ‘Israel’s plan to forcibly resettle Negev Bedouins prompts global protests‘. 

The legislation Sherwood reported on is known as Prawer-Begin (which passed its first Knesset reading) and concerns Israeli-Bedouin settlement in the Negev – a plan formulated to address economic development issues for the Bedouin and to resolve their long-standing land claims.

According to the commission studying the issues, there are some 210,000 Israeli-Bedouin in the Negev. Of this number, 120,000 already live in planned, legal communities (and won’t be effected by the new plan), while another 60,000 live in unauthorized communities which will now be legalized and developed by Israeli authorities.  Plans for the remaining 30,000, who live in non-regulated, illegal communities and encampments, will include relocation of only a few kilometers, and the offer of agricultural, communal, suburban or urban homes, all with full property rights.

We were able to confirm the accuracy of these numbers this morning with a spokesperson at the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Interestingly, most blogs and news sites – even some which are extremely hostile to Israel – have accurately reported the number (30,000) of Israeli-Bedouin facing relocation.

Despite the characteristically one-sided nature of Sherwood’s report, we focused our original post on her inaccurate use of the term “Jewish settlements” to refer to future Israeli cities in the Negev which are envisioned under the plan. However, her Dec. 1 report also included another claim – in the following sentence – which seemed highly suspect.

Under the Prawer Plan, which is expected to pass into Israeli law by the end of the year, 35 “unrecognised” Bedouin villages will be demolished and between 40,000 and 70,000 people removed to government designated towns

Additionally, the title of her Nov. 29 story on the same issue also included this 70,000 figure:  ‘Britons protest over Israel plan to remove 70,000 Bedouins‘.  The story contained this passage:

More than 50 public figures in Britain, including high-profile artists, musicians and writers, have put their names to a letter opposing an Israeli plan to forcibly remove up to 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins from their historic desert land…

This passage linked to the original Guardian letter, signed by the usual gang of anti-Zionist activists, and included this:

Earlier this year, the Israeli Knesset approved the Prawer-Begin plan. If implemented, this plan will result in the destruction of more than 35 Palestinian towns and villages in Al-Naqab (Negev) in the south of Israel and the expulsion and confinement of up to 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins.

So, how did the Guardian and their “high profile artists, musicians and writers” arrive at the 70,000 figure?

Here are the top Google hits when you type a few of the key search terms:


In the first link, Russia Todaycites the Guardian figure.

The second hit is the Guardian.

The third hit is Socialist Worker Online and links to the fourth hit, the site of the radical NGOAdalah.

The fifth hit, JewsNews, also cites the Guardian letter.

The sixth and seventh hits also go to the Guardian.

So, as Adalah seems to be one of the few ‘sources’ citing the 70,000 figure, we checked their claim and saw it in this passage from one of their many pages on the Bedouin/Prawer-Begin issue:

If fully implemented, the Prawer-Begin Plan will result in the destruction of 35 “unrecognized” Arab Bedouin villages, the forced displacement of up to 70,000 Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel…

However, even Adalah’s official legal argument – Adalah and ACRI Objection to the Prawer Plan – notes only that there are roughly 70,000 Bedouin (in total) currently living in unauthorized villages, and makes no claim that all of these 70,000 are facing relocation.

In other words, those suggesting that 70,000 are “under threat of displacement” are not taking into consideration the actual (Prawer-Begin) plan which – if implemented – will result in less than half of these 70,000 Bedouin (who are currently living in unauthorized communities) being displaced.

If the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent decided to spend some more time researching the issue, she would have concluded that there is no evidence to support the 70,000 number.

33 replies »

  1. The difference between ‘The Guardian’ and ‘Socialist Worker’ is that one is a bunch of Trots writing for a Lib. Dem. audience and the other is a bunch of Trots writing for a Trot audience.
    Sometimes the crossover, between the two rags, is so strong as to make them indistinguishable.

        • Yes, but guilt by association isn`t mine. Sherwood is obsessed with imagined misdeeds of Israel, no doubt about that, that doesn`t make her a trot, but maybe an Antisemtite.
          Not every Trotskyst is an Antisemite.

  2. Just as with the recent “Jewish settlements” in the Negev article, Sherwood really needs to answer to this, ie. where she got that figure from.

  3. Oh it is alright that mas killer only killed half the number quoted in the Guardian – The mass killer obviously walked free. Why do these idiots at the Guardian multiply the figures all the time? Have they got nothing better to do? Mind you what am I doing commenting here on such frivolous issues as the evacuation of Beduins?

  4. Yes the Guardian got it wrong and the article is right to point it out. It is also right there seems to be people in the Guardian who will always be relied on to exaggerate and this is unacceptable.

    Only 30 K peoples lives are about to be affected . Lets talk about the Guardian.

    • “Only 30 K peoples lives are about to be affected”

      It truly amazes me that you think it of no importance that 30,000 men, women and children are being ethnically cleansed from their homeland to be ghettoised into townships where they have no prospect of living the life to which they are accustomed or (in all probability) of gaining meaningful employment. The depths of racism and cruelty to which the Israeli government aspire reach a new low.

      • What happened sencar? Didn’t you find your copy of the Protocols today and were pressed to read instead the Hamas Charter?
        BTW Have you ever heard of the Australian Aborigines? The Dale-farm travelers? The population of Diego Garcia? The Roma of Europe? The Greek Cypriots? The Turkish citizens of Bulgaria? The Hungarians of Szigetkoz? The Germans of Masuria? I’m sure you didn’t. No Jews were involved so no possibility to vent your hate. Your transparent crap makes camel laugh out loud and even I don’t have a camel.

        • Your only argument, Peter, is to quote other examples of ‘racism and cruelty’ – as if that justifies Israeli government behaviour. I don’t justify any of them. Do you defend the ethnic cleansing of the Bedouins?

          • 1. It is not ethnic cleansing at all just in your sick Jew-hating psyche. (not brain sencar)
            2. When you post here any link connecting to your expression of indignation on any web forum, newspaper, blog etc. regarding any of the above atrocities then I’ll be ready to consider you simply an asshole and not a sickening Jew-hater masquerading as a human rights warrior.

            • ” It is not ethnic cleansing at all”

              Encyclopedia Britannica: ethnic cleansing, the attempt to create ethnically homogeneous geographic areas through the deportation or forcible displacement of persons belonging to particular ethnic groups.

              Since Ben Gurion’s time Israel has been clear in its intention to replace the Negev Bedouin population with overwhelmingly Jewish settlements. This is the very essence of ethnic cleansing. Do you seriously dispute this, Peter.

              • Nobody want to create ethnically homogeneous areas anywhere only in your and co sick fantasies. Maybe you should somehow support your allegation that the Israeli government wants to replace the Bedouin population with Jews in the Negev.
                BTW do you really think that I’m disputing anything with you?!
                But I’m waiting for your links … don’t worry I’m not holding my breath…

                • sencar is busy now protesting in Tanzania against the restriction of the Masai hunters and their expulsion from National Parks…
                  What is so amusing with these modern day brown shirts is their ignorance.
                  Only one glance on the map of Israel they could find a lot of Bedouin permanent and recognized villages either in the Negev or in the Galilee where the standard of living is incomparably higher than in the itinerary communities, the children go to schools, there are health and social services at hand, not to speak about electricity and clean water supply. But I understand their anger – these warriors for human rights can’t tolerate taking away the Bedouins’ ancestral rights to forced marriages, child marriage and polygamy – rampant in the not settled communities.

        • ” Didn’t you find your copy of the Protocols ”

          Go for it Peter another devastating retort…. full of subtlety and depth.

          To me it is like a defence lawyer saying the defendent merely dipped one guy’s pocket.. not 2 as the prosecution alleges. The guy should not only be released but congratulated.

    • I knew as soon as I read this piece that it wouldn’t be long before someone pointed this out. You just don’t get it, do you? Sherwood and her pals purport to be professional journalists. C.P. Scott famously said (and the Guardian still trumpets at every opportunity) “Comment is free, but facts are sacred”. Note the second part of that sentence?

      If so-called professional journalists can’t be bothered to check the accuracy of something as straightforward as these numbers, does that not cast doubt on their professionalism? Do not such errors (when often repeated, and always to the detriment of Israel) raise doubts about the impartiality of the reporting? Most fundamentally, if the basic facts are wrong, can you trust the journalist to give you an accurate picture of what is going on at all?

      On this story – you arew of course right. The “ethnic cleansing” or “persecution” of 30,000 is bo less awful than if it were 70,000. But there is no “ethnic cleansing” or “persecution” going on here. As I say in an earlier comment on another thread, this is a genuine attempt by the Israeli governemnt to find a balance between teh need to enforce planning laws, regularise and improve the lives of the Bedouin and protect the environment for ALL the residents of the Negev.

      • ” The “ethnic cleansing” or “persecution” of 30,000 is no less awful than if it were 70,000 ”

        Indeed the Guardian has done the Israelis a service by changing the debate away from morality to numbers.

        • A fair arrangement for the Bedouins is no simple matter. One thing certain is that the path the state has chosen is not expulsion, disinheriting or transfer, but rather a generous offer that has cost and will cost the state hundreds of millions of shekels, and provides the Bedouins with tremendous benefits. This is discriminating against the Jews and affirmative action favoring the Bedouins. No Jew is entitled to receive free land in a Bedouin community, nor to buy land that is offered to Bedouins at reduced prices, when that possibility exists. A Bedouin, on the other hand, can choose between a Bedouin community and a Jewish community. If he wants to live in Hura, there is land with infrastructure waiting for him, at no charge. If he wants to live in Hiran, he may do so, under the same conditions as a Jew, Armenian or Buddhist

        • OK, “website”. Go on then, let’s debate morality. What is oppressive or racist about the Israeli government’s actions here? Yes, it does involve the compulsory re-location (by a very short distance) of many people, but given the problems, what other solution (one that would work in the real world, not a dream “everyone should be left alone to live how and where they like” solution) whoudl you propose?

          Oh – and remember, assertion is not argument.

        • You want some numbers, Webshite? 64 years of existence. There’s something concrete. 5 wars waged against and won in defense. And how many articles does the Guardian come up with per year bashing the Israeli state?

          But, yeah, use what the Guardian tells you. Because 99% of the time, if they are whining about Israel, they wil cast 100% doubt on their credibility.

        • An interesting comment coming from a supporter of a movement that relies so heavily on numbers, in all sorts of creative ways, in order to claim (falsely) the moral high ground.

  5. Lebenal Oh I love your logic given the problem what other solution The FS one comes to mind – is that not the ultimate aim?