Negev Bedouin and Indigenous People: A Comparative Review

  • Havazelet Yahel
  • Ruth KarkEmail author
  • Seth Frantzman
Part of the Perspectives on Geographical Marginality book series (PGEO)


In 2007 the United Nation (UN) adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP). Even though this declaration is not legally binding, it drew international attention to the situation of indigenous populations as marginal groups that deserve special attention in the current process of globalization. The DRIP strengthened demands for indigenous rights . In Israel , the indigenous discourse began in the last 2 decades, focusing mainly on the Bedouin’s demand for private land ownership by way of recognition as the indigenous population of the Negev, in southern Israel. This article seeks to explore the development of the indigenous concept at the international level and applies the analysis to the case of the Negev Bedouin . The first part presents the roots of the indigenous concept and the development of the indigenous rights regime under international law. Since the DRIP does not include a formal workable definition it is necessary to explore legal definitions and to present a set of widely accepted characteristics. The second part deals with the regional and local levels: the Middle East (ME) and Israel. We present a brief history of the region, the various regimes, and the Islamic and Ottoman legal heritage. We distinguish between the ME’s history and the terra nullius or “discovered” territories where the indigenous concept was first applied. Then we relate specifically to the Bedouin of the Negev, their Arabian Peninsula origin, and the late date of arrival in the Negev of their forbearers. We also explore their current situation. The third part examines the question of whether the Negev Bedouin claim for recognition as an “indigenous people ” is consistent with the main features and parameters that were explored in the first part. Following the analysis, we argue that implementing the indigenous concept in Israel is inappropriate and that the Negev Bedouin claims are not compatible with prevailing notions of indigeneity .


Indigenous rights Indigenous concept Negev Bedouin Israel 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of israel & ZionismBen-Gurion University of the NegevSde-BokerIsrael
  2. 2.Department of GeographyThe Hebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael
  3. 3.The Jerusalem PostJerusalemIsrael

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