Bedouins in Sinai fear Gaza Palestinians being displaced by Israel

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Bedouins in Sinai fear Gaza Palestinians being displaced by Israel. Rehab Eldalil fears that Israel is attempting to push the 2.3 million Gaza Strip residents into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula – where her ancestors came from – as Israel’s war on Gaza enters its second month.

A displacement of Palestinians would mean the end of the Palestinian cause, according to Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and would put Egypt’s national security at risk. Israeli news reports have suggested allowing the forced displacement from Gaza into Sinai in exchange for paying off some of Egypt’s public debt.

This narrative, says Eldalil, negatively impacts Palestinians and promotes the idea that Sinai is an empty desert they can go to.

The answer is no, and it never was.

In addition to being a popular tourist destination, the 61,000sq km (23,500sq mile) triangle of land is an important religious and historical site for Egypt. The country boasts several oil and natural gas fields, as well as the Suez Canal, which is one of the busiest shipping routes in the world, generating around $9 billion in revenue per year.

The Sinai Desert occupies its northern two-thirds, while the mountainous south boasts Egypt’s highest peak, St Catherine. The peninsula has also long been home to myriad Bedouin tribes, some of whom eventually settled into towns.

Local and national geopolitical conflicts have often neglected these communities. Gaza war is making Bedouins nervous.

A native of Sinai

There was once a common language between the Arabian Peninsula, the Levant, and North Africa before colonial powers drew borders. Bedouin Arab tribes were responsible for this phenomenon.

As she heard from the elders of her tribe, the Jabaliya (people from the mountains), these communities stopped being nomads and settled as the first natives of the desert over 1,000 years ago.

There were seven major tribes on the Peninsula when they began, but there are now 33, according to experts.

The legacy of these original tribes is still alive, according to Eldalil, who has several visual projects exploring Bedouin identity and heritage.

According to her, embroidery and Bedouin traditional poetry are important traditions in the community.

The Bedouin law is another. According to her, if there is a problem, the families will sit down together and fix it in a more civilised manner than you will find in many progressive countries.

Eldalil continues, “They have had a lot of issues with the government because of their own unspoken rules and laws, just like any other indigenous community around the world.”

They have experienced tensions with the authorities due to their deep connection to the land, she says. They know every inch of sand and corner of the mountains, walking for days and weeks within the desert. There is a need to control them, since they know their land so well.”

Managing Israel

In her decades of research into Bedouin life, Hilary Gilbert asserts that Bedouins have an “environmental identity”.

According to the University of Nottingham research fellow in anthropology and development, they consider themselves as part of the natural world and its guardians.

During Israel’s 15-year occupation of the Sinai Peninsula in 1967, many of these “guardians” refused to leave their land, causing suspicion from non-Sinai Egyptians towards them. The Bedouins were viewed as untrustworthy and different, in addition to having an ingrained prejudice that they collaborated with Israelis.

In the aftermath of Israel’s departure and the Egyptian government’s return, the Bedouins were ignored benignly.”

It was hard for Bedouins to access their citizenship rights. Paperwork and national identity cards were hard to come by, schools, hospitals, and public services were lacking, and soldiers were excluded.

Bedouins living in Sinai did not benefit from the tourism that Sinai became in the late 1980s – in fact, they were displaced and disadvantaged.

As a result of the Arab Spring in 2011, Egypt increased its scrutiny of Sinai Bedouins at the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza. At the same time, the Egyptian government became increasingly concerned about Sinai’s security as ISIL(ISIS)-affiliated Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis grew.

Current president Abdel Fatah el-Sisi defeated armed groups in the Sinai when he came to power in 2013. As part of the 2014 operation, 79km (49 miles) of buffer zone were created in North Sinai.

Thousands of people were forced out of their homes and forced to move out, according to Human Rights Watch.

Eldalil’s father used to live in North Sinai, where the land became a desert. As a result of the anti-terrorism campaign, all the homes near him have been abandoned.”

Al-Arish, Ismailia, and Sharqiya were among the Egyptian cities forced to leave by the army. As promised, they would be evicted only until terrorism was eliminated

Despite the Egyptian government’s efforts to collaborate with different tribes on intelligence and security in Sinai since 2018, these communities remain displaced.

During a 48-hour sit-in in August, some Bedouins returned to their lands in Sheikh Zuweid. Sit-in was dissolved after authorities promised to start returning on October 20.

Egyptian authorities appear to have changed their minds since the hostilities started in Gaza on October 7.

A member of these Bedouin communities that “the moment came and we couldn’t go back.”

A number of young people were arrested during the October gathering of Sawarka and Rumailat tribes.

Bedouins have been welcomed by some refugee organizations as well.

Their land is protected

Eldalil says the government could easily collaborate with communities, get to know the landscape, the land, and how to manage it. Indigenous peoples are extremely proud of protecting their land, after all.

The Palestinians already living in Sinai feel the same way.

Mohammed is one of the people who worked and lived in the Sinai after the 1948 Nakba, or Palestinian expulsion, which took place during the establishment of Israel.

“There are more than a third of Palestinians in North Sinai, and we are treated as Egyptians regardless of whether we are unable to get Egyptian citizenship due to strict laws,” Mohammed says. It is the same blood that unites us and the Bedouins.

Since the partial opening of the Rafah crossing in early November, Bedouins in Sinai have been volunteering to provide assistance to injured Palestinians coming from Gaza.

Eldalil hopes that Cairo and the Bedouins in Sinai will continue to nurture their relationship despite fears that a forced exodus from Gaza could displace local communities.

It is indeed true that there is an indigenous population in Sinai: the Bedouin, who like the Palestinians are also entitled to remain on their land.

That news provided by timenews.

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