By D. Bender
A new desert storm is brewing up in the online Arab world, this time over a viral video of an Israeli Bedouin sheikh filmed celebrating at an Orthodox Jewish wedding, Israel’s Ch. 2 News said Tuesday.
A Bedouin university student from the Negev village of Hurah shared a video on his Facebook pages showing his clan’s sheikh dancing and celebrating with other family and guests at the affair. Following criticism of the video, however, the sheikh turned to traditional religious authorities, who sentenced the young man to a 1.2 million shekel ($319,000) fine.
“They handed down a penalty as if I’d murdered five people!” the flabbergasted nursing student said. “The video had been online for ages,” he said, “so, all in all, all I did was share it,” the youth said, astonished at the uproar, and added that he was fearful for his safety.
After sharing the clip, and adding a hearty “Blessings and success!” hundreds of others watched the festive event, although many – including the sheikh – were less than amused at the perceived disrespect, not to mention sharing in a joyous Jewish occasion.
Many viewers attacked the sheikh for daring to attend a Jewish wedding, and criticized his general conduct.
The offended sheikh turned to the Bedouin “Haq Al-Arab” Court, and filed a lawsuit against the student on the grounds that he had hurt his dignity and reputation and made him the laughingstock of the community.
On Sunday, a court judge came to the home of the defendant, who was at school, and asked his father whether he was willing to apologize for the incident. The father explained that his son acted innocently and apologized in his name.
But his pleas and apology didn’t help: to the father’s amazement, the judges then sentenced his son to pay the hefty fine after he was found guilty of violating the dancing sheikh’s dignity.
“I was shocked when I heard the sentence,” the student said.
Even after his father’s apology, however, under Bedouin law, the family has no right to appeal the sentence, and have no choice but to pay the disproportionate amount of compensation.
“Where will I get that kind of money?” the youth told the reporter. “Maybe I did something stupid, but we are in 2014. I’m not the only one who spread this video and I do not know the photographer, as many claim.”
“The problem is that there’s a co-signer on the fine who attended the trial, who is the one to collect the money,” the youth explained. “I fear for my life if I do not pay up. I’m afraid there will be threats against my family.”
State agencies, including the police, are loathe to get involved in issues of inter-Bedouin law; it’s a sensitive, and potentially explosive issue. The traditional Bedouin legal system has no recourse for appeal. Most Bedouins are committed to the system and are afraid to go against it, fearing that opposition would hurt the Bedouin tradition, and they themselves could be targeted for non-payment of damages or fines.
A source in the Bedouin sector said of the issue that, “It’s time that the state intervenes and stops this joke called ‘Haq Al-Arab.’ There are courts in Israel, and they alone are supposed to be the only jurisdiction in the State of Israel.”