As the war between Israel and Gaza continues into its second month, there are growing concerns about the potential displacement of people from Gaza into the Sinai Peninsula, which has long been home to the Bedouin tribes. Despite public statements from President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi that Egypt will not allow such a displacement, reports have emerged suggesting that Israel might offer to pay off some of Egypt’s public debt in exchange for the forced displacement of Gazans into Sinai. However, Egyptian photographer Rehab Eldalil, who is of Bedouin descent, points out that Sinai is not an empty desert, but rather a region with rich historical, cultural, and economic significance for Egypt.
The Sinai Peninsula is a popular tourist destination, religious and historical site, and an important economic center due to its natural resources and the Suez Canal. It is also home to several Bedouin tribes who have lived there for centuries, practicing their traditions and developing their own legal system. Despite their deep connection to the land, Bedouins have faced neglect and suspicion from the authorities, especially during conflicts and geopolitical changes.
The relationship between Israel, Egypt, and the Bedouin tribes of Sinai is complex and has evolved over the years. During Israel’s occupation of Sinai from 1967 to 1982, Bedouins faced suspicion and prejudice from non-Sinai Egyptians, and their rights as citizens were often ignored. The Sinai Bedouins also found themselves displaced and marginalized when the region became a focus of tourism and security concerns. The rise of armed groups in the area further deepened the Egyptian government’s security concerns.
Despite these challenges, Bedouins have continued to call for the right to return to their ancestral lands and have sought the government’s cooperation in protecting and managing the terrain. There have also been instances of collaboration between the Bedouin tribes and the government on intelligence and security in Sinai.
The situation in Sinai is further complicated by the presence of Palestinians who were expelled from their homes during the creation of Israel in 1948. Many of these Palestinians, who have lived in Sinai for generations, share close ties with the Bedouin communities and have been affected by the current war between Israel and Gaza.
Overall, the complex historical and cultural connections between the Bedouin tribes, Israel, and Egypt, and the presence of displaced Palestinians in Sinai, underscore the need for a comprehensive and respectful approach to the region’s future. Eldalil and others continue to advocate for the rights and dignity of the Bedouins and the Palestinians, while calling for sustainable and inclusive solutions that honor the region’s diverse heritage and protect its people and resources.