A Beginner’s Guide to the Unrecognized Villages of Israel


Aniqa Raihan

It’s no secret that there is an occupation happening in and around Israel.

Most people agree that the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been occupied since 1967. Much less thought and literature is dedicated to the treatment of Palestinians living inside modern-day Israel proper. I decided to head over there and see for myself.

It is commonly believed that Palestinian citizens of Israel — officially known as Arab Israelis — enjoy full equality in the Jewish State. There are Arab members of parliament, the Arab population in Israel has been growing steadily for decades, and the Arab cultural scene is thriving in places like Haifa. While all of these statements are true, Palestinians insist that occupation still exists inside the state of Israel, and nowhere is that fact more apparent than in the unrecognized Bedouin villages of the Negev desert.

Before the creation of modern Israel, the Negev desert, which constitutes the southern half of the country, was almost entirely populated by Arab Bedouins. Nearly 90 percent fled during the Nakba of 1948. 11,000 Bedouins remained, a population which has now grown to over 200,000.

Of the Bedouins still living in the Negev, half live in government-designated towns and cities, much like Native reservations in the United States, and the other half live in unrecognized villages. The Bedouin are Israeli citizens, but because their villages aren’t formally recognized by the state, they have no access to state services including water, electricity, telephones, sewage systems, and roads.

Today, the unrecognized villages of the Negev desert have the highest unemployment and poverty rates in Israel. I visited three villages to understand the effect of occupation.

Be’er Sheva is the largest city in the Negev desert. It is home to 205,000 people, about 10 percent of whom are Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Originally founded in 4,000 BCE, Be’er Sheva has been at times a Bedouin encampment, part of the Ottoman Empire, and now, the fourth most populous metropolitan center in Israel. It is a thriving college town, a growing tech hub, and interestingly, the chess capital of the world.

Less than 5 miles away are unrecognized villages where people live in tents and tin shacks.

The largest of the unrecognized villages is Wadi an-Na’am. It was established in the 1950s by internally displaced Bedouins from surrounding villages who’d been forcibly removed from their homes and lands, but it’s never been officially recognized.

In the 1970s, Israel built Neot Hovav, the country’s primary toxic waste disposal facility, in Wadi an-Na’am. Since its establishment, the facility has experienced frequent accidents, fires, explosions, and leaks, resulting in birth defects and long-term health problems in the Bedouin community.

The village is also surrounded by military firing zones, where the Israeli Defense Forces carry out military drills and trainings using live ammunition. Unexploded shells are often left behind from these exercises. The last accident killed two children aged 8 and 10.

An electric power plant is clearly visible from the village.

This plant generates electricity for Be’er Sheva and surrounding localities, but not for Wadi an-Na’am or the 45 other unrecognized villages like it. People in the villages depend instead on an inconsistent combination of solar panels and generators. Adalah, a human rights and legal organization, currently has three open cases regarding elementary schools in Wadi an-Na’am that lack electricity.

Israel recently announced its intention to relocate the residents of Wadi an-Na’am to the nearby town of Segev Shalom. The villagers oppose this plan because it would destroy their agrarian lifestyle. In 2015 the Association for Civil Rights in Israel presented two alternative options, both of which would allow the villagers to maintain their way of life, but the relocation will move forward as originally proposed.

I also visited Umm al-Hiran, an unrecognized village on the verge of demolition. Like Wadi an-Na’am, Umm al-Hiran was established in the 1950s by order of the Israeli military governor as part of a state-sanctioned effort to relocate and concentrate the Bedouin. Half of the village was briefly granted recognition in 2008, but the decision was reversed two years later.

The state has marked Umm al-Hiran as the site of a future Jewish development to be called Hiran, a project that necessitates the demolition of the entire village. Residents filed appeals and fought back in court, but in 2015, the Supreme Court of Israel rejected a petition to prevent demolition of the village. Construction was briefly halted following protests led by Adalah, but is expected to continue soon.

At 3 a.m. on January 18 of this year, Israeli police arrived at Umm al-Hiran to conduct home demolitions. A local teacher named Yacoub Abu Al-Qia’an got in his car and began to drive away, but was shot at by the police.

One of the bullets hit his right knee, causing him to lose control of his vehicle and accelerate into a group of officers. One officer was killed, as was Yacoub. Israeli authorities initially declared him a terrorist connected to ISIS, but retracted when video evidence surfaced proving that he was shot before his car accelerated.

This memorial stands at the scene of the shooting.

And finally, I visited the most notorious of the unrecognized villages, al-Araqib. This village, which was once home to 600 people, has been demolished 119 times. Now, only 5 tents and a tribal cemetery remain. There are more graves than villagers.

Amazingly, the demolitions aren’t even the worst past: Perhaps the most unsettling aspect of this yearslong tragedy is the government’s demand that the residents of al-Araqib pay for the cost of demolishing their homes.

I have been part of the movement for Palestinian justice for a year and a half now. I have spent hundreds of hours reading about the blockade of Gaza, the murders of Mahmoud Shaalan and Rachel Corrie, the intifadas, the checkpoints, the BDS movement, and more, but I was still shocked by what I saw in the Negev desert. The Bedouin are continually displaced and disenfranchised by the state — and too often, they are also erased from the mainstream Palestinian narrative.

This is occupation, pure and simple, and it is 70 years past time the world recognizes it.

The post A Beginner’s Guide to the Unrecognized Villages of Israel appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.


An Independent Thinker’s Guide to the Tax Debate


(Photo: 401(k) 2012/Flickr)

For 40 years, tax cutters in Congress have told us, “we have a tax cut for you.” And each time, they count on us to suspend all judgment.

In exchange, we’ve gotten staggering inequality, collapsing public infrastructure, a fraying safety net, and exploding deficits. Meanwhile, a small segment of the richest one tenth of 1 percent have become fabulously wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

Ready for more?

Now, Trump and congressional Republicans have rolled out a tax plan that the independent Tax Policy Center estimates will give 80 percent of the benefits to the richest 1 percent of taxpayers.

The good news is the majority aren’t falling for it this time around. Recent polls indicate that over 62 percent of the public oppose additional tax cuts for the wealthy and 65 percent are against additional tax cuts to large corporations.

Here’s the independent thinker’s guide to the tax debate for people who aspire to be guided by facts, not magical thinking. When you hear congressional leaders utter these claims, take a closer look.

“Corporate tax cuts create jobs.”

You’ll hear that the U.S. has the “highest corporate taxes in the world.” While the legal rate is 35 percent, the effective rate — the percentage of income actually paid — is closer to 15 percent, thanks to loopholes and other deductions.

The Wall Street corporations pulling out their big lobbying guns have a lot of experience with lowering their tax bills this way, but they don’t use the extra cash to create jobs.

The evidence, as my Institute for Policy Studies colleague Sarah Anderson found, is that they more often buy back their stock, give their CEOs a massive bonus, pay their shareholders a dividend, and lay off workers.

“Bringing back offshore profits will create jobs.”

Enormously profitable corporations like Apple, Pfizer, and General Electric have an estimated $ 2.64 trillion in taxable income stashed offshore. Republicans like to say that if we give them a tax amnesty, they’ll bring this money home and create jobs.

Any parent understands the folly of rewarding bad behavior. Yet that’s what we’re being asked to do.

When Congress passed a “repatriation tax holiday” in 2004, these same companies gave raises to their CEOs, raised dividends, bought back their stock, and — you guessed it — laid off workers. The biggest 15 corporations that got the amnesty brought back $ 150 billion while cutting their U.S. workforces by 21,000 between 2004 and 2007.

For decades now, those big corporations have made middle class taxpayers and small businesses pick up the slack for funding care for veterans, public infrastructure, cyber security, and hurricane mop-ups. Let’s not give them another tax break for their trouble.

“Tax cuts pay for themselves.”

Members of Congress who consider themselves hard-nosed deficit hawks when it comes to helping hurricane victims or increasing college aid for middle class families are quick to suspend basic principles of math when it comes to tax cuts for the rich.

The long discredited theory of “trickledown economics” — the idea that tax cuts for the 1 percent will create sufficient economic growth to pay for themselves — is rising up like zombies at Halloween. As the economist Ha Joon Chang observed, “Once you realize that trickle-down economics does not work, you will see the excessive tax cuts for the rich as what they are — a simple upward redistribution of income.”

“Abolishing the estate tax will help ordinary people.”

This is the biggest whopper of them all. The estate tax is only paid by families with wealth starting at $ 11 million and individuals with $ 5.5 million and up. There is no credible economic argument that this will have any positive impact on the economy, but it would be a huge boon for billionaire families like the Trumps.

This tax cut plan is an unprecedented money grab. Whether the heist happens, is entirely up to the rest of us.

The post An Independent Thinker’s Guide to the Tax Debate appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.


What the Public Wants: A Guide for Clueless CEOs


(Photo: Flickr / Glenn Halog)

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that “Populist Tone Rankles America’s Executives.”

Apparently the CEOs and board members of big American companies are “increasingly frustrated” by the anti-business rhetoric of both parties, and concerned such sentiments might translate into meaningful public policy change after the election.

“The precipitousness of the political debate is a little scary right now,” Boeing CEO Jim McNerney told The Wall Street Journal. General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt informed investors that relations between government and big business are “the worst I have ever seen.”

Former Republican U.S. Senator Judd Gregg, currently a board member of Honeywell, complained that the GOP has “been captured by a large number of people who basically do not like big.”

Bernie Sanders has shined a bright spotlight on Wall Street greed and millions of voters are cheering him on. With GOP candidates Cruz and Trump both opposed to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce agenda on free trade, corporate mergers, and immigration, the corporate elites are running scared.

How clueless can you be? Our imperial CEOs need a little populism 101. Here are a few clues on what the public is demanding:

Clue #1: Pay Your Taxes: General Electric, Boeing, Verizon and 23 other profitable Fortune 500 firms paid no federal income taxes from 2008 through 2013, according to Citizens for Tax Justice. Show some love to the country that pays for the infrastructure upon which you transport your products, protects your intellectual property in global tribunals, and educates your workers and takes care of them when they are sick or retired.

Clue #2. Stop Squeezing Us. Your global business model seems to be focused on squeezing your workers, your customers, and the communities where you’re based. Verizon is hammering their workers for another healthcare cut. General Electric just squeezed $ 151 million in tax breaks in their relocation to Boston.

It seems like what passes for “innovation” in corporate America is an experiment in “how hard can we squeeze customers and workers until they push back?” So are you really surprised that people are pushing back?

Have any of you luxury jet flying CEOs been on a commercial airline flight in the last ten years? Talk about squeezing your customers, physically in seats and literally for every nickel and dime. This is the capitalism we are living through. Big corporations take things away (like legroom, checked bags, and snacks) and sell them back to us.

Clue #3. Support Young Workers. Have you talked to any college students lately who don’t have daddy CEOs to pay their tuition? Do you know what it’s like to graduate from college with $ 100,000 in debt? Imagine entering a workforce where, thanks to corporate lobbying, the minimum wage is insufficient to live on.

This populism isn’t anti-business. But people are enraged with disconnected business elites at global companies that use their considerable clout to shape the rules of the economy – like trade policy, minimum wage, deregulation – and don’t pay their fair share of taxes to continue basic services.

Many small and medium-sized businesses in our communities are appreciated and valued. They are rooted in place and understand that you can’t keep squeezing your customers, workers, and communities before no one comes to your door. It’s the big boys that squeeze the hardest and then wonder, “why are people upset?”

The chairman of a medium-sized steel company, Jim Philipsky, tried to explain rising populism to his CEO brethren. He told The Wall Street Journal, “The establishment has been at the wheel for a long time, and the system has worked well for them, but not for everyone else.”

There’s a CEO who’s been paying attention.

The post What the Public Wants: A Guide for Clueless CEOs appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Chuck Collins directs the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies.


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Transformative Leadership for Women’s Rights: An Oxfam Guide

Understanding how leadership can create sustainable change that promotes women’s rights and gender equality


Written by Jeanette Kloosterman, Oxfam Novib in close collaboration with Chloe Safier, Oxfam International

As part of its commitments to promoting gender justice, Oxfam has begun to invest in an approach called Transformative Leadership for Women’s Rights.

As this is an unfamiliar term for many of our staff and partners, this guide explores what ‘transformative leadership for women’s rights’ (TLWR) means, and how it links to women’s rights and gender justice. We explore what distinguishes transformative leadership from other forms of leadership, and how change differs from transformation. Why is transformative leadership important for Oxfam, and what we are trying to achieve by promoting it?

By exploring what transformative leadership for women’s rights means in practice, this guide demonstrates how we can apply it in our programs and throughout our organizations.

Key recommendations

Adopting a TLWR approach within our programs and policies requires us to integrate findings from gender and power analysis into all stages of program or policy strategy design, monitoring and evaluation. In order to do this, we need to develop the following elements:

  • Context-specific gender power analysis in the initial stages of program design. This examines various dimensions of identity, marginalization and gender relations with respect to leadership.
  • A theory of change that provides a clear shared understanding of what we want to change and how. The theory of change must address power, leadership, values, and principles.
  • Strategies and activities that reflect an understanding of the existing gender power dynamics and how these influence the practice of leadership; and which provide compelling proposals for transforming them.
  • Programs or policies that encourage people to reflect on the self (and their own ways of exerting power or reflecting their principles), their leadership styles, and the organizational culture in which they work.
  • A monitoring, evaluation, accountability, and learning strategy that monitors shifts in various forms of power and leadership; measures how lasting change happens; and is based on principles that value and protect the work of our partners.




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