Ideas for Revising Blueprint Negev – submitted to JNF-US by Save the Negev
STN held a series of meetings with JNF head Russell Robinson last winter and spring. Rabbi Eric Lankin was also involved in some of those discussions. Though the meetings were very positive, and JNF has expressed genuine interest in helping the Bedouin, it's not clear whether they are actually able to carry out any of the promises they have made. As a quasi-governmental organization, it's going to be hard for them to find a way to benefit the Bedouin in unrecognized villages in an equitable way unless the Israeli government also changes its position. In general, it has been hard for JNF to get out of a developer's mindset into a mindset that allows for building less to sometimes be the better option. We cannot tell yet whether JNF-US intends to implement any of these ideas, most especially, a thorough and transparent environmental and social impact review process for all Blueprint Negev projects. Unfortunately, the discussions we were having have been on hiatus since my father died in May. Though I hope they will resume soon, JNF is currently refusing to engage in further discussion. ~ Rabbi David Seidenberg
I. Oversight and transparency
A. Committee to review environmental and sustainability impact of Blueprint Negev and JNF projects
1. This committee could be formed with the advice of Green Zionist Alliance (GZA) and the Arava Institute.
2. The KKL sustainability committee is a necessary but insufficient review process (assuming it exists), and the areas which must be supplemented should be determined in consultation with the GZA and some of its member groups like the Arava Institute and the Heschel Center.
3. A policy with regard to environmental racism is a necessary element of this review (environmental racism can be generally defined as differential negative impact on minority groups of environmental policy, while in the Negev in particular, environmental racism must include the desire by some mainstream Israeli environmental groups to define the traditional Bedouin way of life as an environmental hazard).
B. Committee to review impact on the Bedouin of Blueprint Negev and JNF projects
1. with respect to poverty and standard of living.
2. with respect to ability of traditional culture to survive and to thrive.
3. with respect to political rights and empowerment of Bedouin as a minority group.
4. Committee should be composed of representatives from townships and unrecognized villages and from advocacy groups including Bustan and organizations like Arava Institute and Ben Gurion, along with whatever representatives JNF itself deems helpful.
C. Funding the review process
1. Committees studying impact on Blueprint Negev projects may require some funding in order to fulfill their tasks.
2. JNF could also provide partial funding for proposed GZA intern to study Negev development in general and its environmental and sustainability impact (note that “sustainability” includes some aspects of issues of co-existence and the survival of indigenous cultures).
D. Repository of plans, budgets and other information about Blueprint Negev projects available for public inspection
1. Information should include any prior environmental or sustainability review and any useful information about the process that led to the adoption of a particular project (note that people from the KKL sustainability committee claim that they have not reviewed any non-KKL Blueprint Negev projects).
2. Groups that are deeply involved with the Negev, whether with the environment or with the Bedouin, feel (without exception) that they know next to nothing about what Blueprint Negev is planning or hoping to fund.
3. Opening as much of the planning process and record to the public as possible affords the best chance of oversight and correction of problems.
4. A mechanism for raising concerns should be part of this repository and should facilitate people contacting the above-mentioned oversight committees; those committees will function best if they can hear concerns from third parties and hopefully catch any issue before it becomes a problem.
5. Special attention should be paid to making information available about the projects in the Bedouin communities, since these may have the greatest social impact.
E. Provide up front figures on the amount of money raised (or projected to be raised) for Tnuat Or projects and other organizations’ projects versus official KKL projects
II. Moral commitments concerning what projects will be funded and how they will be described
A. Public statement and press release that JNF and Blueprint Negev will not fund Yatir or Hiran
B. Public commitment that JNF and Blueprint Negev will not fund any project that requires the demolition of any Bedouin homes or villages
C. Commitment that JNF will not fund projects on disputed land (the standards for determining what constitutes disputed land should be developed in consultation with the above-mentioned committee on the Bedouin)
D. Removal of anti-Bedouin statements from Tnuat Or’s website and correction of Tnuat Or’s video to include Bedouin
E. Removal of language of “demographic threat” directed at the Bedouin from any Tnuat Or or Blueprint Negev publicity or materials
F. Rejection of any language justifying the demolition of Yatir and Hiran or any other Bedouin communities on the basis of their being “illegal” or unrecognized, and removal of such language from all JNF communications
G. One of the communities funded by Blueprint Negev could be a mixed Bedouin and Jewish community
III. Greater funding for projects in Bedouin communities and commitment to greater Bedouin input
A. Current plans include $10 million for projects in Bedouin communities according to JNF’s letter, a mere 1.6 % of the $600 million total
B. Percentage should be at least 10-30% of total
C. All new Bedouin communities should be planned with extensive Bedouin input; (according to JNF publicity, current government plans include 11 new Bedouin townships, of which JNF has advocated that one or two will be planned with Bedouin input)
D. All new Bedouin communities should be planned to allow families that wish to continue traditional ways of living such as keeping herds
E. No Bedouin individuals should be forced to give up their land claims in order to join or lease land in these communities
F. Create programming to educate donors about the Bedouin and the communities they live in; Bustan is willing to provide any help needed to make this possible
G. See also II.G. above
IV. Development projects that will benefit Bedouin in the unrecognized villages
A. Projects that will benefit the unrecognized villages directly
1. JNF-US could specifically examine Bustan’s “Children’s Power Project” to see if it is a potential recipient of donor money or in-kind donations, or if it provides a model for any project JNF could do (Children’s Power Project provides solar panel systems to families in unrecognized villages who have children with medical needs that require electricity).
B. Projects that will benefit all Bedouin, whether in the townships or the villages, equally
1. An example would be to exchange the diesel generators currently used by many Bedouin families for solar panels – this would have a meaningful impact on people in the unrecognized villages and might also help some Bedouin in the townships, and it would have a serious and measurable impact on carbon emissions and environmental quality.
2. Any infrastructure projects which benefit new Jewish settlements should also benefit any nearby Bedouin villages or townships, whether or not they are recognized.
3. Fund the creation of a model eco-village within one of the Bedouin communities.
C. Organizations working with the Bedouin and sustainability issues in the Negev, including Bustan, should be consulted in developing these projects
V. Development of other projects, especially environmental projects, in consultation with the above committees and constituencies, which we can strongly support and for which we can raise money
VI. Review of JNF’s “Go Neutral” campaign by outside environmental committee to make sure that promises are scientifically accurate and offered programs are optimized for their impact on global warming
A. GZA has done a preliminary study of the “Go Neutral” campaign which can form the basis for this evaluation
B. Inaccurate or exaggerated claims could lead people into thinking they are doing more than they are doing, and so lead them to do less
C. Tree-planting has been criticized by scientists as a carbon sequestration method when done without certain controls and standards
D. Other options could be pursued by JNF that might have a greater impact on carbon emissions (e.g. utilization of solar-generated energy – see IV.B.1. above)
E. Forests should not be planned so as to hem in Bedouin communities, especially when the opposite practices are in place with respect to Jewish communities – this is a KKL issue rather than a JNF issue, though JNF may have some influence here
F. Note that the publicity for the “Go Neutral” campaign mentions Yatir forest and the Bedouin whose herds graze there, even though those Bedouin have had their village demolished by the government