Bedouin to challenge legal doctrine used to dispossess them

June 5, 2014
Sarah Benton

Click headline to sign the Petition to stop the eviction of Al Arakib. The full wording and reason for the petition is the last item in this posting. 509 signers at time of posting.

On May 25, the entire village of Jiflik Abu Al-Ajaj was demolished. In total, 17 residential structures, housing 67 people, and 18 animal shelters for an approximate 4,000 sheep and goats were destroyed. Army photographers have returned since the demolition to document any attempts to rebuild the community. The governor of Jericho responded: “This is a war crime, a crime against Human Rights, a crime against humanitarian law!” June 04,2014, from ICAHD Facebook, photo by EAPPI

We ask the court to redress the injustice of our 1951 expulsion

ICAHD, Facebook
June 01, 2014

Tomorrow, June 2, Supreme Court to hear Negev Bedouin land claim case

Nuri al-Ukbi : We ask the court to redress the injustice of our 1951 expulsion

Att. Michael Sfard : We will challenge legal doctrine used to dispossess Bedouin

Press Release June 1, 2014

Tomorrow , Monday June 2, 2014, at 9 am, the Supreme Court in Jerusalem will hear the appeal of the heirs of Sheikh Suleiman Al-Ukbi regarding the right of ownership of land at Al Araqib and Zazhilika, northwest of Be’er Sheba. The panel including Justices Elyahim Rubinstein , Esther Hayut and Salim Jubran will deliberate on an appeal of the ruling of Judge Sarah Dovrat of the Be’er Sheba District Court , who had ruled against the heirs.

Nuri al-Ukbi , a veteran Bedouin rights campaigner who is one of the appellants , said : “In 1951, members of my tribe were expelled from their village and lands in Al Araqib , and deported by force to Hora, about twenty kilometers to the east, close to the then border with Jordan. The authorities in the State of Israel used methods of intimidation and fraud in order to justify the criminal deportation of civilians from their homes and lands.

Documents and written history prove that Araqib was a place of residence and cultivated land of the al-Ukbi Tribe for generations , ever since the days of the Ottoman Empire , and they still lived there during the first four years after the establishment of Israel. As a citizen of Israel, Sheikh Suleiman Muhammad al-Ukbi voted in the first elections to the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) in 1949 , the ballot box being placed at his residence in El Araqib. The same residence served every Monday and Thursday as the venue for a Tribal Court, acting under authorization of the State of Israel and sitting with it National Flag and State Emblem displayed. Then, the state suddenly turned on its Bedouin citizens and violated their basic rights, solely because of their ethnicity, and in 1951 expelled them mercilessly from their land. We have appealed to the Be’er Sheva District Court, seeking justice – and were rejected. We hope that the Supreme Court will now redress this long-lasting injustice.”

Bedouin women flee from tear-gas firing police as they try to defend their village, Al Araqib. Photo by Active Stills

Attorney Michael Sfard, who represents the appellants , said : ” For the first time was joined together a team of experts on Geography , Judicial History and International Law to challenge the legal doctrine by which the State of Israel for decades dispossessed the Negev Bedouin and denied their land rights. has

The appellants seek to overturn a precedent set in the early 1980’s, under which the determination regarding Bedouin rights is made by examining the Negev situation in the Nineteenth Century and relying extensively on travelogues published by European missionaries, who asserted that at that time there were no fixed Bedouin abodes and that the Bedouins maintained no agriculture in the Negev. These were momentary and superficial guests from another continent ,who judged what was and was not “an agricultural settlement” by European standards. They failed to notice that the people which they saw were living on the land, maintaining agriculture under the harsh conditions of an arid region and with endless struggle making use of every drop of water available to them.

As part of a research conducted on behalf of the appellants , there were submitted to the Be’er Sheva District Court dozens of documents found at archives in Israel and abroad – indicating that the precedent set in the eighties was based both on a judicial error and on an incorrect analysis of the reality of the Negev in the Nineteenth Century . However, Judge Dovrat in the District Court preferred to cling to the precedent and ignored the innovative facts presented to her. Now the Supreme Court will have to deliberate on the issue.

A central argument brought by the appellants is that the state practices a blatant double standard: On the one hand, it does not recognize Bedouin land ownership in the Negev; on the other, it does recognize the land deeds in transactions when Zionist organizations bought Bedouin land at Ottoman British Mandatory times. At the time, naturally, Zionist bodies such as the JNF and Hachsharat Ha’Yishuv did recognize the rights of the Bedouin sellers over the land, and paid an appropriate price for their land.

Importance of the deliberations goes beyond the specific question of ownership in the lands of Araqib Village, which in recent years has become a symbol . Success of the appellants can also affect hundreds of other land disputes between the state and the Bedouin, and might even impact the status of the government’s ‘Prawer Plan’, which assumes that the Bedouin of the Negev have no land ownership rights.

Supreme Court accepts conciliation process for Bedouin land defence

By ICAHD, Facebook
June 4, 2014

From what I can make out the Supreme Court adjourned its deliberation for a fortnight while the state decides if it accepts the court’s suggestion of a six-months conciliation/mediation process.

This is the message received from the plaintiffs via Gush Shalom.

Israeli Supreme Court offers a conciliation process to achieve a fair solution on Bedouin lands case; state must answer in two weeks whether it agrees to conciliation on Araqib lands

At the end of long deliberation at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, the court suggested the holding of a conciliation process in order to reach a fair solution on the question of Bedouin land ownership at Al Araqib , northwest of Beersheba.

The judges expressed their displeasure with the extremely long delay in dealing with claims filed by the Bedouins over fifty years ago, and suggested that negotiations be conducted for six months between the Ukbi tribes people the state authorities, in order to achieve “a fair solution”.

Attorney Michael Sfard, representing the al-Ukbis, proposed to establish a process of conciliation. The judges were favourably inclined to this proposal, but state representatives sought a month’s extension before answering. Ultimately, the court ruled that the state must present its position regarding conciliation within two weeks.

The judges, led by Elyakim Rubinstein along with Esther Hayut and Salim Jubran, showed a clear tendency to bring about a mutually-agreed compromise – rather than either endorse or reject the ruling of Judge Sarah Dovrat of the Be’er Sheva District Court , who had ruled against the Ukbis and completely rejected their ownership claim.

The Judges’ tendency to promote negotiations, as well as their support for the conciliation idea proposed by the Ukbis’ counsel, suggest that the judges regard the issue as complex, many-faceted, not to be considered by purely judicial criteria; such consideration might justify rethinking what is due to the Bedouins, and move away from the tight-fisted policies hitherto implemented by the Israel Lands Administration. It should be noted that in previous cases where negotiations were conducted between the state authorities and Bedouin residents of the Negev , the proposals offered by the state consisted of no more than monetary compensations (usually low) and in rare cases a small piece of land (but not the original land from which the Bedouin had been dispossessed , but land in another location determined arbitrarily by the state) . It would be difficult to define any such proposals as a “Fair Solution “.

Members of the al-Ukbi Tribe had been expelled in 1951 from their homes and lands at Al Araqib, by the military government at the time ruling over the Arab citizens of Israel . Simultaneously with the expulsion, the then Government of Israel unilaterally expropriated the land and declared it to be state property, without even bothering to inform the previous owners of having taken that course.

Nuri al -Ukbi, a veteran Bedouin rights activist who is one of the appellants, said : “With the injustice done to us in 1951 never being redressed, we hope and expect to find justice at the Supreme Court. The way the court’s deliberations were going seems positive, and we accepted the court’s proposal for conciliation. In that way, we can present all the facts which substantiate our case. At the very least I hope we would be able to establish our residence on the site of our family home in Al-Araqib, the house which served the State of Israel as a polling station in the first Knesset elections in 1949 , and where a Tribal Court was active with accreditation from the State of Israel, with the national flag and state emblem displayed when it was sitting. Such a measure would ameliorate our pain, and it would be to the benefit of the state as well to solve the problem of 400 people and provide them with shelter. It would be a proof that redressing injustice is possible even after the passage of many years, an injustice which the state authorities caused us without the slightest shred of justification .”

During the court deliberations, historical and judicial issues were raised far beyond the specific case of the Araqib lands. The parties discussed the judicial status of the Negev lands under the Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate and the situation on the ground in the Negev during those periods – as all those issues carry weighty implications for the present status of the lands and of ownership over them. Comparisons were also made to similar situations in other countries, such as Australia’s attitudes to the Aborigines.

Prof Oren Yiftah’el of Ben Gurion University, who had given an expert testimony at the original hearing in the District Court , said : ” After years of enormous effort in research we obtained – through archives, aerial photos and the testimonies of tribes people – solid evidence backing the land rights of Bedouins in the northern Negev . This is the first time that such materials are presented at the Supreme Court. Though there is as yet no ruling, I hope that presentation of these materials would in itself make it clear to the judges that sixty years of Bedouin dispossession in general – and the Ukbis’ dispossession in particular – were based on a judicial and historical falsehood . A conciliation process might lead to a reasonable outcome, and we will continue as much as possible to help the Bedouins assert their rights.”

Nuri al –Ukbi +972-(0)54-5465556
Attorney Michael Sfard : +972-(0)54-4713930 ,
Prof Oren Yiftah’el +972-(0)54-6775512

Below: Israeli police stand by a bulldozer which has been used to demolish the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in Israel’s Negev region in an early morning raid on July 27, 2010. The village has so far been demolished, and rebuilt, 18 times. © 2010

How Israel is trying to bypass the courts and get Bedouin off their land

The monster who came to visit the Sateh el-Bahr Bedouin encampment.

By Amira Hass, Haaretz
June 04, 2014

“Once upon a time there was a house and a guest, a woman, came to visit.” Between a cup of tea and a cup of coffee, this is how Khalil al-Hamadeen began his story in his family’s diwan, or hosting tent, at the Sateh al-Bahr (“Sea Level”) Bedouin encampment.

The encampment lives up to its name: It is located on a descending hill between Jerusalem and Jericho, more or less at sea level.

A pleasant breeze blew through the tent and the mattresses, as the host continued his story. “The guest asked to stay. The host agreed immediately, but his wife refused. She said, ‘Be careful. This is a ghoul, and she will harm us all.’ ‘What are you talking about?’ the husband said. ‘She is very nice.’”

To a feminist ear, it sounds like a subversive folk tale about the institution of polygamy and the pain it causes the first wife. But that was not the story we had been waiting for. After all, we had come to hear how the members of this Bedouin tribe were coping with the methods devised by the State of Israel to get rid of them.

The story of the how they have been dealing with expulsions is longer than the story about the ghoulish guest (whose end will be told at the end of this article).

We left out the first parts: pre-1948 life in the Negev, wanderings with the flocks according to the season. It appears that even then, the Sateh al-Bahr region was one of the permanent stations where the Jahalin tribe, to which the Hamadeen clan belongs, pitched their tents.

After 1948, Israel expelled the Jahalin tribe from the Negev region, and it scattered throughout the Jordan Valley region and along the mountain ridge. The clans wandered among various places, and the Sateh al-Bahr region remained a permanent stop in autumn and winter. In the spring, the clan packed up their tents of camel hair and went westward with their children, near the villages in the Beit Hanina region.

What looks to the foreign eye like a random scattering of Bedouin tent camps in the region is a calculated and conscious jigsaw puzzle based on the customs of the clans and tribes, and the importance they place on keeping a specific distance from one another.

In 1967, the Hamadeen families were thrown off a hill just a bit higher in the Sateh al-Bahr region and moved several hundred meters north. Wandering from camp to camp became more difficult by the early 1980s. The open areas between the villages began to shrink because of the state’s land expropriations. Sometimes, they discovered that the army had destroyed the structures they had left behind (animal pens, for example) at the winter camp.

Slowly, the Sateh al-Bahr region turned into a permanent year-round camp. The tents made way for tin shacks, hovels and asbestos huts. The grazing areas grew steadily smaller. “Our parents realized that they had to vary their sources of income,” said Jamil, the son of Haj Khalil.

Jamil, an agricultural engineer, works at the Palestinian Agriculture Ministry’s branch in A-Ram. He was born in Sateh al-Bahr. When he attended university for several years in Hebron, he felt stifled. He feels like a foreigner in the crowded buildings of A-Ram. “I need the space that’s here. We all do. It’s only here that we can manage,” he said.

The Israeli settlement of Mitzpeh Yeriho, founded in 1977 by followers of Meir Kahane. Photo 14 May 2007 by GoTerps

An army base is located several kilometers south of Sateh al-Bahr. The settlement of Mitzpeh Yeriho, which was built in 1977, is several hundred meters to the north, on the other side of the expanding Highway 1. The inhabitants were members of the Yeriho group, which was established by members of Gush Enumin and adherents of Rabbi Meir Kahane.

In 2012, several members of the Hamadeen clan decided to exchange their tin shacks – unbearably hot in summer and freezing cold in winter – for mobile homes donated by the European Union. These mobile homes have kitchenettes, showers and polystyrene boards for insulation inside the prefabricated walls. Several vegetable gardens were planted in the yards between them.

But the mobile homes awakened sleeping bears. The residents received demolition orders from the Civil Administration. Attorney Shlomo Lecker petitioned the High Court of Justice against the orders. After all, he said, the mobile homes took up no more space than the shacks had. Was a Bedouin not allowed to improve his living conditions? In November 2012, the High Court justice issued an interim injunction preventing the mobile homes from demolition.

On April 24, Justice Uzi Fogelman held a preliminary hearing on the petition. Attorney Reuven Edelman of the State Prosecutor’s Office, who represented the army and the Civil Administration, said that the state proposed that the petitioners move to the township where the Civil Administration was planning to move thousands more Bedouin of the Jahalin tribe north of Jericho. The master plan had not been presented for formal objections it had undergone, though, some changes following objections from the Jordan Valley Regional Council, which is amalgamating the region’s settlements).

This is state-owned land, about 2,000 dunams (about 490 acres), a pocket of Area C within the Jericho enclave (in Area A, which is under the Palestinian Authority’s control). The Civil Administration intends to amass between 3,800 and 6,000 Bedouin into the township, against their tradition and tribal law, and without allowing them any grazing land.

Plans for expelling the Bedouin from their encampments in Area C in the West Bank and concentrating them into several permanent townships have been devised in the Civil Administration’s halls for at least a decade. (In the meantime, three townships for their resettlement are being planned: al-Jabal, near the trash dump of Abu Dis; Fasayil and Nu’eimeh north of Jericho).

From open land to this: walking away from the checkpoint in the Separation Wall that traps Abu Dis, Photo from Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association.

In a subcommittee meeting held on April 27, the coordinator of government activities in the territories notified representatives of the settlements and members of Habayit Hayehudi, who were concerned over the prolonged presence of the Bedouin in the region, that the three plans were moving forward. As stated in the meeting, the territory to be evacuated will allow the settlements to expand.

In a High Court hearing on April 24, Justice Fogelman suggested that the parties meet for dialogue and discuss the state’s proposal. He instructed the representative of the State Prosecutor’s Office to submit documentation regarding the proposed alternative housing within seven days. The parties agreed to dialogue.

And then, on April 28, a Civil Administration inspector appeared at the encampment and left five warnings (with an unclear signature) “regarding the order to evacuate a closed area.” The warnings were given only to those who had submitted a petition to the High Court against the demolition of their mobile homes, and not to the rest of the families in the area, who do not have mobile homes.

The warning indicated that if they do not leave within 48 hours, the flocks belonging to the families – roughly 40 people, including 21 children – will be confiscated. Coincidentally or not, only a day earlier, Einav Shalev, the officer in charge of the Operations Branch at General Headquarters, told the Subcommittee for Judea and Samaria that a firing zone and training area there were a sure method for getting Palestinians out of Area C.

Lecker’s immediate intervention, in the form of an amended petition, worked. On May 4, Fogelman issued a temporary injunction prohibiting the eviction of the petitioners from the encampment and the confiscation of their flocks. He gave the state 45 days to respond to Lecker’s claims – for example, that the delivery of the warnings was a wrongful act that showed contempt of both court and the appellants, and ignored the agreement that had been reached only three days earlier that the parties would engage in dialogue about “the consensual regularization of the petitioners’ housing.”

In Lecker’s opinion, the purpose of threatening eviction and confiscation was to put pressure on them to “agree” to any proposal.

In response to Haaretz’s query about the matter, the IDF Spokesperson’s Office answered,

Firing Zone 92 was declared a closed military zone by the commanding officer of the Central Command and so marked. The declaration of the area as a closed military zone was done in 1967 and remains in effect to this day, since the army still uses the area for military purposes. Last week, eviction orders were delivered to several inhabitants living in the firing zone, who were living there in violation of the law, because it was a closed military zone and staying there constitutes a danger to their safety. It should be noted that the residents were offered alternative land in a location near the firing zone.

“Utter nonsense,” Lecker told Haaretz.

In 1992, Uri Shoham, the president of the military appeals court, annulled the declaration of that firing zone after Lecker proved that the declaration had never been publicized properly or brought to the attention of the inhabitants living in the firing zone (which did not include Mitzpeh Yeriho, which was very close by). This means, explained Lecker, that “anyone living in the area before the declaration was reissued is a ‘permanent resident’ of the closed zone and may not be evicted.”

The inhabitants of the Hamadeen encampment say that no military training took place in their area over the years. Any training that does take place happens several kilometers to the south, near the army base. “Sometimes members of the Tanzim (referring to the Civil Administration’s Supreme Planning Committee) come here and ask us in a gracious, compassionate tone: ‘Where would you like to move – to [a permanent township near] Azaria, or one near Jericho?’” says Hamadeen.

“They say they want to make our living conditions better. I tell them: ‘How can you talk about making our living conditions better when you don’t even ask us what we want?’”

Members of the Tanzim showed up last week too. They looked out over the encampment from a distance and flew a drone over it.

And that guest who was really a ghoul? Just as the host’s wife had warned in Hamadeen’s story, she suddenly started eating the people who lived in the home – first the children, then the wife. Finally, she approached the host and asked him in a gracious and compassionate tone: “Where would you like me to begin eating you?”

Prime Minister of Israel Benyamin Netanyahu : We call on you to stop the eviction of Al Arakib

This petition is awaiting approval by the Avaaz Community

Why this is important to me


The Arab Bedouin village of Al Arakib just north of the Israeli city of Be’er-Sheva has been destroyed more than 60 times since July 2010, and each time the villagers have rebuilt their homes, determined to stay on their ancestral lands, despite the physical and emotional hardships.

On May 21 2014 the remaining residents living in a compound that includes the historic village cemetery, received eviction orders stating that within just one month (June 12-July 13 2014) they must leave the village or be evicted by force. The orders include those no longer alive and people who have left the village.

The residents of Al Arakib lay claims to the lands on which their village is built and from which they were first evicted after the establishment of the State in the fifties. Their land claims are still before the courts and have yet to be decided.

During the last four years the non-violent resistance of Al Arakib has become a symbol of the Arab-Bedouin struggle against Israeli government plans to forcibly concentrate its Bedouin citizens in government “planned” townships and to demolish 35 so-called unrecognized villages , whose population numbers in the thousands. Al Arakib must not fall! Please act now to prevent an eviction that will set the Negev aflame.

To: Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu
Mr Gideon Sa’ar, Minister of the Interior
Mr Yair Shamir, Minister of Agriculture
Mr Yitzhak Aharonovitz, Minister of Internal Security


We demand that the eviction orders issued on May 21 2014 against the residents of Al Arakib be rescinded and that the sanctity of the cemetery compound be respected in accordance with Jewish and Muslim law. We demand that the villagers be permitted to remain on their ancestral lands, and to pursue their agricultural lifestyle as a recognized village in Israel. The Bedouin are Israeli citizens: please let them live in freedom and equality.

Posted by the Coalition for Al Arakib
The Negev Coexistence Forum
The Recognition Forum

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