Israel razes Bedouin village —again

Israeli forces used bulldozers to demolish the “unrecognized” Bedouin village of al-Araqeeb in the Negev desert on July 16—for the 53rd time in three years. The demolition came one day after thousands of Palestinian, Israeli Arab and Bedouin protesters took to the streets in towns across the West Bank, Gaza and inside the Green Line to oppose an Israeli bill that would forcibly expel tens of thousands of Bedouins from the Negev. Araqeeb, home to some 500 people, is one of about 40 Bedouin villages in the Negev not recognized by Israel’s Land Authority. Following the 38th demolition of Araqeeb last year, villagers said they wanted apply with the Guinness Book of World Records to claim a record for the number of times Israel has demolished a village.

The Praver Bill, currently before the Knesset, would forcibly expel up to 40,000 Bedouins who live on lands claimed by the Israeli state, totalling some 850,000 dunums. The bill for the “regularization” of Bedouin villages in the Negev was submitted by the government based on conclusions drawn by a committee headed by retired Justice Eliezer Goldberg, following a study by former minister Benny Begin. The Bedouins claim the measure is inadequate, excluding their majority of their settlements.

The Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality also opposes the bill, with director Haya Noah saying: “A decision by the parliament that distinguishes between groups based on ethnic origin and perpetuates unequal allocation of resources on a racist principle is a badge of shame for a rule system that calls itself a democracy.”

The largest protest against the bill was at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba, where some 300 activists blocked roads. Most businesses were closed in Israel’s Arab sector in a one-day strike against the bill. The general strike was called by the Arab Follow-Up Committee, which pledges more such actions in the days to come.

The protests recall the 1976 Land Day protests, when thousands of Arabs demonstrated in various Israel cities, mainly in the Galilee, against similar expropriation plans. Six Arabs were killed in the clashes with Israeli security forces in that campaign.

Al-Araqeeb village elder Aziz Abu Madijam, a 38-year-old father of six, told Ynet: “Two years ago there were almost 600 people in our village, but one day police arrived and demolished the village. From a nice village where everyone without exception is working and paying taxes we were back to being a small tent settlement. They try to represent the Bedouins as people who live in tents and drive luxury cars, but it’s only because they don’t let us build and develop our lands…. My grandfather’s grandfather bought these lands in 1904, when the land was under Ottoman rule. My grandfather lived on the same exact plot of land during the British Mandate, and me and my father have lived here under Israeli rule. And now we’re suddenly invaders upon the state’s property.”

“My house was a few yards away from the cemetery, a cemetery where my forefathers are buried, that was established in 1903,” Abu Madijam added. “After my house was raised I had to buy a tent and put it inside the burial vault since the police don’t come in there and raze. This is my land and I shall not let go of it.”

Abu Madijam’s wife told YNet: “This is where I lived my entire life and this is where I’ll perish. Even for each acre of my land they’ll offer me an acre in Tel Aviv, I’ll say no.” (Al Akhbar, July 16; WAFA, YNet, YNet, July 15; YNet, June 26)

From New Jewish Resistance, July 17

Please support our fund drive.

  1. UN rights chief urges Israel to reconsider Bedouin bill

    UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay (official website) on July 25 urged  Israel to reconsider a law that, if adopted, is likely to result in the demolition of up to 35 Bedouin villages in the Negev desert. The proposed Law for Regularizing Bedouin Habitation in the Negev (Prawer-Begin BillPDF) seeks to offer Bedouins limited compensation on the condition that they move to one of seven Bedouin townships the Israeli government has created. Regarding the law, Pillay stated, "[t]he Government must recognize and respect the specific rights of its Bedouin communities, including recognition of Bedouin land ownership claims." Amnesty International also demanded that Israel halt the demolition of Arab Bedouin homes, after receiving news that the village of al-'Araqib was once again razed by authorities. The first reading of the proposed bill passed in June, and is expected to go through the second and third readings before the end of this month.

    From Jurist, July 25. Used with permission.

  2. Israeli forces manhandle diplomats
    Diplomats from a number of European countries and the UN reacted angrily after Israeli soldiers intervened to prevent them delivering aid to Bedouins in the Jordan Valley Sept. 20. French diplomat Marion Fesneau-Castaing said she was forced to the ground from her vehicle. “This is how international law is being respected here,” she told Reuters. “They dragged me out of the truck and forced me to the ground with no regard for my diplomatic immunity.” An Israeli spokesman said it was reviewing whether the diplomats had abused their privileges.

    The aid was being delivered to Khirbet al-Makhul after 10 homes there were demolished Sept. 16 after Israel’s High Court ruled that they had been built without the correct permits. (BBC News, Sept. 20; JP, Sept. 16)

  3. Palestinians rally in Gaza against Prawer Plan

    Dozens of Palestinian youth demonstrated in Gaza City Nov. 30 in protest of Israel’s so-called Prawer Plan to displace Bedouin residents of Negev. Demonstrators raised posters rejecting the Prawer Plan and other Israeli practices against the Palestinian people.

    The rally was organized by Gaza Strip’s Intifada Youth Coalition in conjunction with an international “day of rage” against the Prawer Plan. 

    “We are sending a message to our people in the Negev, asserting that they are a part and parcel of us, despite the occupation’s plans to displace them and exile them from Palestine,” coalition spokeswoman Shurouq Mahmoud said in a statement.

    The demonstration was one of 24 protests against the Prawer Plan held that day worldwide

    From Ma’an News Agency, Nov. 30.