Ahlam Shibli احلام شبلي

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© Ahlam Shibli


Al-Naqab, Palestine, 2002–03
series of 44 photographs, 38 x 57.7 cm; 57.7 x 38 cm, gelatine silver prints; chromogenic prints

We should transform the Bedouin into an urban proletariat—in industry, services, construction, and agriculture. 88% of the Israeli population are not farmers, let the Bedouin be like them. Indeed, this will be a radical move which means that the Bedouin would not live on his land with his herds, but would become an urban person who comes home in the afternoon and puts his slippers on... [The children] will go to school, their hair combed and parted. This will be a revolution, but it can be achieved in two generations. Without coercion but with government direction... this phenomenon of the Bedouins will disappear.

Moshe Dayan, 31 July 1963

Since the mid-960s the Palestinians of Bedouin descent, inhabitants of al-Naqab (Negev), have been subjected to a policy of dispossession of their traditional lands and relocation to seven townships planned by the Israeli government, largely without consulting the people affected. The land they leave behind is then made available for use by Jewish citizens.

In 2003 approximately half of the 110,000 Palestinian Bedouin in al-Naqab were living in these townships. According to official statistics, they were among the poorest of all communities in Israel, lacking sufficient public services, haunted by high rates of unemployment and criminality, and denied viable prospects of development.

The remaining half of the Palestinian Bedouin in al-Naqab refused to move to these townships to avoid losing their lands and being subjected to culturally adverse and socially degrading living conditions. They were living in more than one hundred "unrecognized" villages, where the laws of the Jewish State prohibited them from building permanent structures, where houses were regularly demolished, fields deemed illegal by the authorities and sprayed with toxic chemicals, families evicted from their homes, and where no public access to electricity, running water, or public services such as health care, sanitation, and education beyond primary school level was provided. To date, this situation has not substantially changed.

'Goter' is a word foreign to the Arabic language, used only by the Palestinians of al-Naqab. According to local people, it is derived from the English "Go there," a command Palestinian Bedouin would hear from the military during the era of the British Mandate (1917–48).

The work addresses the position of the Palestinians of Bedouin descent in the State of Israel: where there is a house there is no home, where there is a home there is no house.