The Bedouin Divide
32 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2017 Last revised: 28 Aug 2017
Date Written: March 30, 2017
The Bedouin are the indigenous people of the southern half of Israel – the Negev (in Arabic: Naqab) dessert. The 230K population constitutes 3.5% of the Israeli population and close to 30% of the population of the Negev. Yet, despite their centuries’ old ancestral roots in the region, since the founding of the state they have been systematically discriminated against and deprived of basic freedoms and rights, among them partaking in egalitarian policy discourse regarding their own livelihood, including the equal opportunity to utilize network communication technologies in their towns and villages. More than 60,000 of them live in “unrecognized” villages, which the State Comptroller has described as “insufferable conditions.”
This first-of-its-kind inventory of wireless services available to the Bedouin community demonstrates empirically the combined effect of discriminating state policies and industry neglect of a poverty-stricken and systematically marginalized community. Incorporating critical analyses of policy documents, systematic mapping of infrastructure and facilities, and industry responses, this study paints a picture of exclusionary practices and the way they are implemented and justified in the digital wireless media industry.
The empirical data consists of:
1. Official universal service and mobile deployment standards as dictated by law, regulations and licenses.
2. Levels of connectivity to wireline services in Bedouin towns, both “recognized” and “unrecognized,” compared with each other, with neighboring Jewish towns and with national averages and standards.
3. Levels of connectivity to wireless services in Bedouin towns as compared to neighboring Jewish towns, taking into account the number of towers/transmitters in each locality and the density of the population.
4. Mapping of the Bedouin “diaspora” and measures of the distance between towers/ transmitters and villages. These measures, using official location maps provided by the ministry of environmental protection, are divided by different service providers.
5. Quality of service, determined by fieldwork in which transmission and reception of signals were measured, identifying deployment of the different “generations” of mobile services.
6. Official positions and reactions of industry and operators regarding service provision to Bedouin towns and villages.
Initial findings indicate:
1. None of the Bedouin towns are served by the cable industry. Landline penetration among the Bedouin is significantly lower than among Jewish towns.
2. There is a large variation in connectivity levels to broadband among Bedouin towns. It ranges from 10% in Tel-Sheva to 45% in Rahat. The national level of broadband penetration in 2014 was over 71%.
3. There is large variation in number of cellular towers/transmitters per capita among the Bedouin “recognized” towns, ranging from 1/3,000 residents in Kseife to 1/9,400 in Hura.
4. There is a dramatic difference in the number of towers/transmitters between Jewish suburbs and Bedouin towns. Some Jewish settlements have as many as 1 tower per 157 residents (Shoval and Nevatim). The lowest rate being 1/1,775 (Meitar).
5. In the “unrecognized” Bedouin diaspora, the distance of the closest tower to a village can be as much as 7 kilometers. Of the 52 villages only 2(!) are less than a kilometer away from the closest tower.
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