Public Comment

Commentary: Bedouin Tragedy

By Heidi Basch
Friday July 20, 2007

Last week in the West Bank Bedouin village, Arab al-Jahaleen, a 15-year-old boy named Khaled was killed by a speeding garbage truck. Khaled was on the edge of the road collecting scrap metal and other discarded materials useful in constructing the ramshackle homes his community lives in, when the driver struck and killed him. The road upon which he scrambled for these materials divides his village from the nearby Israeli dump.  

Fearing for his life in retaliation for the boy whose brains had been splattered across the road, once the truck stopped the driver got out and started to run. In the moments after the incident took place, the children threw rocks at the truck. As more villagers discovered what happened, the truck was set aflame. 

Volunteers from Rabbis for Human Rights were playing with the children of this village, joining a German-NGO sponsored summer camp. “Earlier that morning I had been playing basketball with that boy, and then he was dead,” said an eyewitness volunteer to the incident, bewildered by what he had seen. 

Israeli police arrived at the scene shortly after the incident. The abandoned Israeli garbage truck remained in the road, burning. Police broke up the enraged group of people. Burial preparations for Khaled began immediately.  

Whether or not the driver will be held responsible for this crime is unknown.  

Bedouins in Israel suffer the gamut of Israeli occupation casualties. House demolitions, lack of electricity, water, employment, lack of access to health care and education are but a few of the hardships which plague these traditionally nomadic people. Relocated time and again, al-Jahaleen is one example of Israel’s ill-treatment of the Bedouins, giving them no other option but to make a life surrounded by garbage. 

More Israelis and the international community need to become aware of the sub par life Bedouins are forced to live under the Israeli government’s inhumane policies toward these people. It is impossible to imagine a true negotiated peace in which injustices without recourse occur daily—against Bedouins, Palestinians and Israelis as well.  

Rocks and fire do not substitute for legal process. Although the life of a fifteen-year-old boy could never be compensated for, it is unacceptable that culpability and the appropriate punishment for this crime will go unmeted. It behooves all members of a society to enforce its government’s commitment to democracy. Therefore it is the responsibility of the people to become aware of these tragic incidents that happen too frequently, and to demand justice. 


Heidi Basch is an Oakland resident.