After waiting only five minutes for participants to arrive at a Knesset hearing on the issue of polygamy in the Bedouin sector, MK Aida Touma-Suleiman (Joint List) abruptly canceled the meeting, Hebrew-language media reported.
Suleiman, chair of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, claimed she was ending the meeting becaus, “at this very moment, land is being stolen in the Negev.”
MKs Amichai Chikli (Yamina) and Galit Distel Atbaryan (Likud) were the two remaining participants who had yet to arrive. Chikli was arriving from a parallel hearing, and Atbaryan was awaiting her COVID-19 antigen test results at the entrance to the Knesset.
However, while it is Knesset policy to wait a reasonable amount of time before ending a meeting due to late participants, Suleiman waited only minutes before blaming the “absence of the MKs who convened the hearing.”
Referring to JNF projects on state land in the Negev, she said: “At this very moment, the JNF is carrying out planting work on land that belongs to the Al Atrash family in the Negev, and under the guise of forestation work is actually stealing land and inflicting violence on the Arab Bedouin population there.”
Naomi Kahn, Director of Regavim’s International Division, was slated to present data on the state of polygamy in the Negev.
“Touma-Suleiman made it abundantly clear, in both words and actions, where her priorities lie – not in advancing the welfare and status of women, but in aiding and abetting the anarchy and lawlessness that are engulfing the Negev,” Kahn said.
Kahn is one of the authors of Regavim’s comprehensive study of the practice of polygamy in Israel’s Bedouin sector, “PolygamyToo.”
Polygamy is illegal in Israel, and according to a 2018 Regavim report, “creates a spiral of poverty, hardship, and illiteracy, and exacerbates the housing and planning crises that plague Bedouin communities.”