Israel is exploring ways to “lower the birthrate” of Palestinian Bedouins, its agriculture minister Yair Shamir has stated.
“We have to take all the Bedouin and get them out of the desert a bit and bring them closer to a normal state from the perspective of legislation, life expectancy, education and livelihood,” Shamir said, as reported by the Israeli daily Haaretz. “Perhaps we could even deal with the phenomenon of multiple wives to reduce the birthrate and raise the standard of living.”
According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Naqab (Negev) region of present-day Israel is home to an estimated 160,000 Palestinian Bedouins who carry Israeli citizenship. During a recent tour of the region, Shamir lamented that the Bedouin population would grow to half a million by 2035.
“Only a suicidal country doesn’t recognize the Bedouin problem,” Shamir said. “The blindness is terrible.”
Shamir is a member of the Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) political party, founded by radical right-wing politician Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s current foreign minister. The party is known for its notoriously anti-Palestinian members, such as David Rotem and Uzi Landau, both members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.
Yair is also the son of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, a one-time member of the notorious Stern Gang (also known as Lehi), which violently attacked Palestinians and British colonial representatives during the British Mandate period (1920-1948).
The minister’s comments are “hardly even news in Israel,” explained Nadim Nashif, director of Baladna, a Haifa-based group campaigning for the rights of Palestinians in Israel.