On July 27, an Israeli police force of 1,500 evicted over 300 Bedouin Israeli citizens – mostly children – from the village of Al-Arakib in the Negev, leaving them homeless, expelled from their land, and bereft of their possessions. Bulldozers from the Israel Lands Administration then proceeded to demolish their homes, sheep pens, fruit orchards and olive tree groves, so that the Jewish National Fund can plant a forest on their land.
You can read more about this shameful episode here in the LA Times and here in the BBC News. I also encourage you to read the reactions of the New Israel Fund and Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority rights in Israel.
From an Adalah press release:
Residents of the Arab Bedouin unrecognized village al-Araqib in the Naqab (Negev) in the south of Israel were woken up at dawn on 27 July 2010 to find themselves surrounded by police officers, some of them on horseback. The police declared the village to be a “closed area”, and warned residents that any attempt to resist their orders would lead to their forced evacuation. The police ordered the residents to leave their homes in two minutes. The residents tried to take their belongings from their houses, but the police did not wait and began to immediately demolish their homes. No less than 1,300 police officers, accompanied by the Green Patrol, a unit within the Nature Reserves and Parks Authority that often harass the Arab Bedouin, took part in the brutal destruction of the village. Throughout the demolition operation, a helicopter flew above the village. When the demolition ended, all 45 houses of the houses were razed to the ground and its 250 residents – men, women, elderly people and children, were left without a roof over their heads and all of their belongings confiscated.
In violation of law, most police officers who took part in the raid covered their faces and did not wear identity tags. They had weapons, tear gas, truncheons and other arms. Apparently in this way, the police officers sought to prevent the residents from identifying them. T-he residents did not respond violently to the destruction.
One of the most shocking aspects of the raid was that a bus filled with dozens of radical right-wing Jewish youth accompanied the police to the village. The youth began to tease the Arab Bedouin residents, who are citizens of Israel and who just lost their homes, and applauded when the police officers demolished the homes. This conduct amounts to vigilantism, a punishment outside of the law.
During the operation of destruction, the police confiscated all personal possessions of the residents from their homes including refrigerators, ovens, closets, bedroom and dining room furniture, textiles, carpets, crafts, etc. They also took other property from the area surrounding the houses such as electricity generators, plows, flour bags and the like.
Representatives of the Tax Authority also accompanied the police and seized property of residents in debt to the tax authorities. This confiscation was undertaken without prior warning or demand from the residents to pay their debt, and therefore, it too was illegal. Residents were required to pay NIS 22,500 (almost US $6,000) to retrieve their property.
One final encouragement if you are a member of the Jewish community: while this action is clearly a violation of international human rights, it is also of critical importance to Jews, who are implicated in all actions taken by the Jewish state. Please sign and pass on this petition which is being disseminated by the Jewish Alliance for Change. The campaign hopes to add American Jewish voices to a growing Israeli petition, which will be hand delivered to the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on August 10.