(Knesset member Taleb al-Sana speaks at protest)

When I asked the man standing next to me if he thought the Gaza attacks would spark the Third Intifada, he replied, “Inshallah.” God willing. Three days ago in Laqiya, one of seven Bedouin townships in the Negev, a protest march erupted in response to Israel’s air strikes on Gaza. Across the country Israeli Arabs have taken to the streets to protest the siege of Gaza, what they see as unchecked Israeli aggression against the people of Palestine. As the megaphone went around, one man declared: “This is our flesh, our blood, our brothers who are dying in Gaza. We need to send a clear message to the occupier that we are not a silent minority.” The mood here is one of bitter powerlessness, a frustration bred from years of marginalization.

You’ve seen the picture in the news before: angry kuffiya-clad youth waving Palestinian flags and chanting. But these are Israeli citizens: citizens who vote, pay taxes, and go to work every day in Israeli cities. But this anger doesn’t come out of nowhere. Despite being toted as Israel’s “safe Arabs,” the Bedouin have been systematically robbed of their land, denied the basic services we feel entitled to in an industrial democracy, and herded into 45 crowded villages bereft of infrastructure and services. They show up on no official maps, and the residents are under constant threat of home demolition, as all Bedouin homes in the villages have been ruled ‘illegal,’ despite the fact that no method of attaining a legal building permit exists for the Bedouin. No bureau to go to, no official to speak to, nothing.

Three weeks ago, a government-created commission ruled to recognize the majority of the villages, and many felt that at last the era of the Unrecognized Villages was coming to an end. A week later, the government demolished an entire Bedouin village and forcibly expelled its inhabitants. This past Thursday, the police came and demolished the first ecologically sustainable mosque in Israel, built from mud and straw, as well as a woman’s house that had stood for 30 years. These bring the annual total of Bedouin homes destroyed to 139.

The question therefore becomes: how long until the camel’s back snaps under the pressure of thousands of such straws? Will Israel’s treatment of the Bedouin eventually provoke a violent reaction among them? If we are to prevent a violent insurrection among our own citizens, our neighbors and coworkers, the government must take steps to reverse the alienation many feel towards the state. The man at the protest who wishes the Third Intifada upon us is not a Hamas terrorist, or an extremist trained in Pakistani jihad camps. He is an Israeli citizen, a veteran of the IDF, and compared to many of his co-religionists in the region, a decidedly middle-of-the-road voter. His views are not unique, and one must wonder what happened to turn someone who once believed in a safe and secure Israel to someone who now hopes for another Intifada.