On September 6, the OR Movement, a key Jewish National Fund (JNF) partner organization, will be hosting a fashion show called the Desert Flower Runway Show in New York City to raise money for “the development of the Negev and the Galilee.” While the OR Movement claims to develop the Negev and Galilee for Israeli citizens of all backgrounds, it has been involved in establishing exclusively Jewish communities throughout the Negev, pushing Bedouin off their lands into impoverished and overcrowded Bedouin townships.
One of the OR Movement’s new communities is “Hiran,” an exclusively Jewish community planned on the ruins of the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm Al Hiran. The new Jewish town will displace 450 Bedouin. The JNF has allegedly been managing construction of the infrastructure,while all of Umm Al Hiran’s houses have demolition orders pending. A demolition operation on January 18 led to the tragic killings of a Bedouin citizen and a Jewish police officer. The residents are willing to live side by side with their Jewish neighbors in a joint Arab-Jewish “Hiran,” but the government, JNF and the OR Movement are seemingly unwilling.
Cynically, the OR Movement’s fashion show will feature dresses by Israeli designer Aviad Herman embroidered by the Laqiya Women Association’s Desert Embroidery Project, which was never told that the garments would be used to raise money the movement that is behind “Hiran.” Local Call, an Israeli online news magazine, interviewed the embroiderers who made the dress. According to Asma Elsana, the director of Desert Embroidery, “A guy called and said that he’s a big designer and needed help. We protest for Umm Al Hiran and for the Negev. If they had told us that they were fundraising for the OR Movement, we would have refused.” Calls by the Laqiya Women’s Association that their name not be mentioned in association with the OR Movement fashion show have been ignored. Dr. Amal Elsana Alhjooj, one of the founders Laqiya Women’s Association – Desert Embroidery and the Executive Director of the The International Community Action Network at McGill University, is outraged: “This kind of cultural appropriation has happened many times before. If the OR Movement is serious about coexistence, it should donate all the proceeds to the Laqiya Women’s Association as compensation for this deception.”
The OR Movement claims it wants to prove that there is hope for coexistence and joint life for Jews and Arabs in the Negev, but establishing exclusively Jewish communities on top of unrecognized Bedouin villages is not coexistence. A truly shared Negev cannot be built on displacement and exclusion.
There is a better way. There is more than enough land in the Negev for both Jewish and Bedouin citizens of Israel. The OR Movement should donate the proceeds from the auction of dresses made from Bedouin embroidery to the Laqiyia Women’s Association as compensation for misleading the women into making dresses for a cause they do not believe in. We also call on the OR Movement and JNF to end their participation in development projects that come at the expense of Bedouin citizens of Israel, like the “Hiran” project.
For more information please contact Itamar Haritan, T’ruah Israel Program Manager +972 (50)752-2429, email@example.com.