, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 387–406 | Cite as

De-arabization of the bedouin: A study of an inevitable failure

  • Yossi Yonah
  • Ismael Abu-Saad
  • Avi Kaplan


This paper offers an assessment of the efforts to de-Arabize the Bedouin Arab youth of the Negev. We show that despite the extensive efforts to achieve this goal, they have become pronouncedly alienated from the State of Israel, and are increasingly perceiving themselves as an integral part of Israel’s Palestinian Arab national minority. The findings of our research illustrate the futility of the policy to de-Arabize the Bedouin and to instill in them the unfounded belief that they are full and equal citizens of the State of Israel. We argue that the failure of the policy in this regard is inevitable primarily for the following reason: Israel’s national identity is constructed in a manner that leaves no room for Arab culture and heritage and this identity provided the legitimization for discriminatory policies against the Bedouin, as well as against other Arab groups. Thus, the shift toward Palestinian national and cultural identity found among Bedouin youth, can be partly explained as a result of their growing awareness of this political reality and their decreasing readiness to accept it. But then again, this shift is nothing but another manifestation, albeit a sobering one at that, of the challenge facing Zionist ideology since the pre-state era, more than 50 years ago. To put it succinctly, the challenge is this: if Israel aspires to be judged as a liberal democracy and to ensure its legitimacy and political stability, it must make significant changes in its basic governing principles. It must either incorporate the culture and collective aspirations of its Arab citizens within the national identity, and/or allow them some form of political autonomy.


Bedouin democracy discrimination ethno-cultural nationalism exclusion identity Israel liberalism Palestinians Zionism 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yossi Yonah
    • 1
  • Ismael Abu-Saad
    • 1
  • Avi Kaplan
    • 1
  1. 1.Ben-Gurion University of the NegevBeer-SheevaIsrael

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