Bedouin village destroyed again to make way for trees

May 8, 2012
Sarah Benton


Children of al-Arakib watch as border police enter village

Jewish National Fund resumes forestation project in al-Arakib

After having their homes destroyed by the State over 30 times in the last two years, the residents of al-Arakib can do little else but watch as a forest is built on the ruins of their homes.

Mairav Zonszein, +972

The Jewish National Fund resumed cultivating land Monday morning in al-Arakib, an unrecognized Beduoin village in southern Israel which the quasi-governmental agency has earmarked for a large forestation project. A week ago, the families in the village got word that the JNF would return and asked for activists to come and support them.

JNF equipment, escorted by heavy police presence, showed up Monday morning and sealed off the entrance to the village. Families and activists watched from the village cemetery, the only spot that has been deemed untouchable due to its historic and emotional significance. Residents told +972 that JNF representatives gave their word in private conversations a couple of months ago that they would not plant on a specific plot of land – known as plot 24 – since it is the subject of an ongoing court case, however this morning they prepared this precise piece of land for cultivation.

Since July 17, 2010, the village has been demolished by the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) more times than anyone can count, and each time the families have returned and built it up again to confirm their claim on the land. Despite remaining steadfast in their claims to the land, most families have relocated to neighboring towns like Rahat to avoid the anguish of constant destruction, such that only a handful of residents still live inside al-Arakib.

Here is footage of the 25th demolition of the village.

The ILA claims the Bedouin are trespassing on state land, but the issue is still being fought in court proceedings over land ownership. While the residents do not have official land deeds, they do have documents from the Ottoman era showing their ancestors purchased the land in 1906. The state insists the land was appropriated in 1954 such that court findings regarding ownership before then are irrelevant anyway.

The issue of Al-Arakib is part of a larger story concerning 35 unrecognized villages inside Israel. According to a 2011 report by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, approximately half the Bedouin population in the Negev, about 90,000 people—live in quasi-recognized or unrecognized villages similar to al-Arakib. The government adoption of the Prawer Plan last September calls for the uprooting of 30,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel and their relocation to established Bedouin towns (with financial compensation), thereby denying the community’s connection to the land and way of life.

Critics of the plan have called it a “declaration of war” on the Bedouin community, since they are being treated like a security threat, and not as citizens with equal rights.

Rabbis for Human Rights activist Moriel Rothman contributed to this report.

For more on Israeli policies regarding the Bedouin population, click here.

Meretz to JNF: Stop the racist policy at Al-Arakib!
Media release, Meretz USA

The Meretz party this week condemned the actions of the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet l’Yisrael) at the unrecognized Bedouin village of al-Arakib, north of Beersheva, branding them a “racist policy, arising from a viewpoint that regards the Bedouin in the Negev as a nuisance, rather than as citizens with equal rights.”

Meretz called for the recognition of al-Arakib and for the provision of basic infrastructure there, and demanded that the JNF immediately suspend its plans to plant a forest at al-Arakib that would deny the villagers any chance of return.

Since last July, the Meretz Executive noted, the homes in al-Arakib have been demolished more than ten times by the Israel Land Administration and the Israel Police – first the permanent houses, and since then the tents and temporary structures that the residents have continually rebuilt.

Over the last few weeks, the situation has deteriorated further: The police had begun to use clubs, rubber bullets and teargas during the demolitions, while making arrests of villagers and other activists. In addition, the JNF had begun to prepare the ground for the planting of a forest atop al-Arakib’s ruins so that the village could not be rebuilt.

The District Court in Beerhseva issued a temporary injunction against the JNF’s actions, and although the injunction was not extended, the judge recommended that the JNF not continue its work so as not to create irreversible facts on the ground. The JNF rejected the judge’s recommendation, however.

In light of these developments, the Meretz Executive resolved as follows:

The Meretz Executive regards the demolition of the al-Arakib village as a racist policy, arising from a viewpoint that regards the Bedouin in the Negev as a nuisance, rather than as citizens with equal rights.

Both law and justice require that al-Arakib be recognized, and that infrastructure be provided there for the welfare of its residents.

The Meretz Executive condemns the conduct of the JNF, which insists on entering village land and planting trees where the houses of the residents once stood. It calls on the JNF to cease all its activities in the al-Arakib area.

Meretz representatives on the JNF directorate, Micha Drori and Radi Sfuri, have approached JNF officials, demanding that its operations at al-Arakib cease.

© Copyright JFJFP 2017