Emptied Lands
A Legal Geography of Bedouin Rights in the Negev
Alexandre Kedar, Ahmad Amara, and Oren Yiftachel



This book project spans over two decades of research and activist work. During this period, we collaborated with hundreds of people, and it is impossible to mention each by name. However, we want to extend a warm acknowledgment to each and every one for their help, expertise, courage, and humanity in the uphill battle for Bedouin rights and recognition.

We thank especially the Bedouin families who patiently taught us so much of what we know about their indigenous culture and history; they opened their cherished and sacred archives to us and gave invaluable support to our research and activism. Most notably we thank the al-‘Uqbi family, especially the tireless Nuri Hassan al-‘Uqbi, who has never stopped seeking justice for his community; and and to Sayach al-Touri Abu-Mudighim, Awad Abu-Freih and their families. These people, as well as all other communities living without state recognition, provide constant inspiration about dignity and struggle under extreme difficulties.

From Alexandre (Sandy) Kedar. I would like to thank and acknowledge the help, assistance, and encouragement received from my family, particularly my wife, Claudia, who read, commented, supported, and was there for me in the long journey of writing this book. No words can express my love for her. Claudia’s love, intelligence, perceptiveness, and ongoing support have made this book possible.

I cannot leave out my wonderful children, Tomer, Michal, and Yoav, whom I love so much and who through the years have heard, endured, and commented on the manuscript.

My 93-year-old father, Paul, and 90-year-old mother, Ruthie, read the manuscript and commented on it; and their continuing intellectual curiosity and ongoing commitment to human rights in Israel has inspired me.

I also thank my siblings, Daniko, Dondon, and Tamar, and their partners; my co-authors, Oren Yiftachel and Ahmad Amara, for their excellent work and commitment; Shmulik David and Eitan Michaeli from SHATIL; and attorney Michael Sfard and his team for their extraordinary commitment and work.

Many friends and colleagues commented on the manuscript and advised me, including Rinat Azrieli, Gad Barzilai, Orna Ben-Naftali, Brenna Bhandar, Aeyal Gross, Tamar Hostovsky-Brandes, Jonathan Yovel, Ilan Saban, Michal Saliternik, Steve Ratner, and Amnon Reichman.

Last, I thank my excellent research assistants: Maayan Azugi, Lior Fein, Lior Frank, Lilach Grimberg, Ronen Magril, Elad Moretzky, Irena Nunteko, Uri Sabah, and Jacki Silbermann.

From Ahmad Amara. I would like to thank the many people who offered their support, wisdom, help, and company during the work on this book. I benefited greatly from these gifts, and I am deeply indebted to them. Their presence and contributions made this book possible. I owe much to my PhD advisers, Ronald Zweig, Zachary Lockman, and Lauren Benton, whose guidance, support, and comments enhanced the quality of my research and expanded my horizons. I also thank my PhD committee members, Beshara Doumani and Eugene Rogan, whose bright scholarship and mentorship accompanied this research project. My special thanks also go to my Turkish and Ottoman language teachers, Sibel Erol, Hasan Karataş, and Züleyha Çolak. I owe much as well to my friend and hocam, Abdullah Uğur.

I am also thankful to the staff at the following archives: the British National Archives; the Middle East Center Archives at St. Anthony’s College at Oxford University; the Israel State Archives; the Central Zionist Archives; and the Başbakanlık Archives in Istanbul.

My broader research, some of which is in this book, was made possible by the support of New York University (NYU), through a MacCracken Fellowship; the Social Science Research Council, through an International Dissertation Research Fellowship; the NYU Global Research Initiative; and an NYU GSAS Dean’s Dissertation Award; as well as the summer research support of the History Department, the Hebrew and Judaic Studies Department, and the Taub Center at NYU, and the Palestinian American Research Center and the Center for the Study of Multiculturalism and Diversity of the Hebrew University.

Friends and colleagues were always there to exchange and discuss ideas, to read drafts of my work, and to generously extend their support and honest critiques. Thanks to Munir Fakhr al-Din, Yoav Alon, Atilla Aytekin, Nora Barakat, Shay Hazkani, Ibrahim Kalkan, Alaa Khalaylih, Fred Meiton, Mansour Nasasra, Sophie Richter-Devroe, Avi Rubin, Lena Salaymih, Helga Tawil Souri, Salim Tamari, Omar Tesdell, Alex Winder, and especially my friend Samuel Dolbee. Special thanks for the great and long journey throughout the writing go to my friends and team buddies Oren Yiftachel and Sandy Kedar.

Last but not least, my utmost appreciation goes to my family, who provided unlimited support: my parents, Mohammad and Nazima; my brothers, Said Shehadeh, Ziad Omar, and Shimon Zafrani; my other half, Sandra, for bearing with me through my work and studies; and Zaina and Yazan, who gave me the energy and the will.

From Oren Yiftachel. I would like to acknowledge the great assistance received from Amanda Yiftachel, partner and editor, for her personal support, professional persistence, and a loving hug when it was most needed. I also thank Naomi Liel, Asher, Ella, and Cobber Yiftachel for their patience and understanding of their always-too-busy father.

Sandy Kedar and Ahmad Amara showed that in genuine teamwork, the total is always greater than the sum of its parts, and I thank the many colleagues and researchers who offered their generous support: Prof. Aref Abu-Rabia, advocate Rawia Abu-Rabia, Dr. Safa Abu-Rabia, Dr. Sarab Abu-Rabia, Prof. Ismael Abu-Saad, Dr. Salman Abu-Sitta, Netta ‘Amar-Schiff, Eli Atzmon, Prof. Ghazi Falah, Prof. Gary Field, Dr. Yuval Karplus, Prof. Avinoam Meir, Dr. Mansour Nasasra, Dr. Batya Roded, Dr. Avi Rubin, Prof. Ilan Saban, and Prof. Eyal Weizman. My gratitude is extended also to advocate Michael Sfard for his persistence, wisdom, legal brilliance, and highest values of morality and justice. Thanks also go to the great team of research assistants, who had to deal with so many tedious tasks: Nufar Avni, Neria Greniman, Hagit Levin, Rani Mandelbaum, Amir Meltzer, Shai Moses, Riham Raghe, and Ido Rosenblum. I thank Roni Livnon-Bluestein and Neria Greniman for excellent cartographic work.

All three of us would like to acknowledge the contribution of the Israel Science Foundation for its generous support of the research through Grant 920/13 and a 2016 workshop grant so that we could present a draft of this book. Our special gratitude is extended to the SUP editorial team, particularly Nora Spiegel, Anne Fuzellier Jain, Mimi Braverman and to the anonymous referees, whose comments helped us greatly in finalizing the text. Particular thanks to Michelle Lipinski for her tireless persistence and guidance which were second to none.