Bedouin Politics/Colonialism

From Bedouininfo, the free wikispace

Brief Background Info

The Bedouin are an ethnic group that underwent a drastic series of changes in their political system. Change in the Bedouin political system was brought through a series of outside events which is unlike the American political system where change was brought on by the people. The series drastic change began in the 19th century when fellahin (peasant groups) from rural areas of Palestine , "affiliated themselves to Bedouin goatheards and farmers by renting and working their land"(Marteu 2). These two groups later developed into a tribe, which is form of political organization different from what they had before. Then the tribe was soon taken over multiple times by the Ottomans, the British, and then the Israelis (Marteu 2). It was not until Israel changed its political system did the Bedouin's political system become completely under Israel's rule. What is most interesting about their political system is there lack thereof. Since the Bedouin were colonized by many nations there political structure adapted to the nation which conquered it. Thus leading to a lot of changes to political system which makes it difficult to identify a political structure before colonization.
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Traditional Political Organization

Before the Bedouin were colonized by Israel their earlier political system revolved around a "semi-nomadic way of life" (Marteu 2). After the arrival of the fellahin and development of the tribe the Bedouin were "therefore composed of these three populations [Sudanese slaves included] which functioned in a closed relationship but almost never, or rarely, had matrimonial exchanges" (Marteu 2). Thus, the Bedouin considered themselves above all the other populations. They were called nobles. Daughters from the Bedouin would not marry to the "inferior groups" but daughters from the "inferior groups" could marry the Bedouin. This tradition is still practiced today.
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Contemporary Bedouin Politics/Colonization

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When the Bedouin were under the Sublime Porte the "political unit was the Gabila, a confederation of tribes led by a small number of Sheikhs" (Marteu 2). A Sheikh is an elder, leader, and/or governor. This means that they were under Ottoman rule and following Ottoman law. By 1906 when the Bedouins were semi-nomadic the Turks drew borders "of seven tribal confederations and thus set in motion a process of sedentarization" (Marteu 2).

When the British began to colonize the divided Bedouin ethnic group "the process of territorialization was extended" (Marteu 2). As a result the British placed more Sheikhs positions for tax collection and put "more poltical weight on 'ashira-- a smaller tribal unit" (Marteu 2). This lead them to practicing agriculture and slowly lose their political relevance (Marteu 2). By the 1930s close to all of the Bedouin were farming and privatizing resources. This means they were moving toward a more industrial culture.

Privatization was "reinforced and reshaped by the Israeli" after the Arab-Israeli war were most of them were displaced and those who remained "concentrated into a more compact perimeter northeast of Beer Sheva" which only was about 10% of space they had before. In the 1950s they were granted Israeli citizenship under the law "Law of Citizenship (1952)" and the idea of belonging to a tribe separate from what was registered at the time was strongly criticized. So, the Israeli's forced the Bedouin to register with one of the listed tribes. Israel chose a new 19 Sheikhs who now had "considerable power, becoming the intermediary between the population and the Israeli authorities" (Marteu 3). Soon, land acquiring and social organizations for the Bedouin community ceased as they were subject to the marital law which lasted until 1966. They were soon placed under the military government "that controlled their movements, their political expressions, and the way of the organized" (Marteu 3).

In the 1960's Israel tried to urbanize the Bedouin people by relocating them into cities and villages. By 1966 about seven settlements were created and contain more than half of the Bedouin population (Marteu 3). For the political structure in in the cities and villages Marteu explains< "The administration of the planned settlements was entrusted to a local authority appointed by the Ministry of Interior. It would not be until the 1990's that the organization of the first free elections for the Bedouin local council would take place" (Marteu 3). The moving of tribes to the cities in the 1960s "had caused the Israeli-made tribes to disintegrate; they lost all political relevance as well as their administrative legitimacy" (Marteu 3). this has led many of them to not know which tribe they came from or to simply use it as a reference of territorial origin

Recent Political Struggle within the Bedouin Community

There is a lot of unrest within the Bedouin community because they feel as if they are being taken advantage of by the"Palestinians". Here is a a respected soldier sharing his experience as an Arab Bedouin of today.