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.
We won’t sign the petition out of respect that you want American Jewish voices to sign this particular petition, however, these two Christians will be sure that the Illinois senators have a copy of this latest violation against human beings.
More info on the issue:
From Jpost 7-28-10 By Ben Hartman
“The Israel Lands Administration issued a statement on Tuesday saying the demolitions came after “a legal and physical struggle that stretched over many years.”
Eleven cinderblock buildings and 34 made of tin were demolished, the ILA said.
Some 850 trees were removed and will be replanted elsewhere. The ILA said the uprooted trees had been planted by residents to strengthen their claim to the illegal settlement.
In the statement, the ILA said that residents first “invaded” the area in 1998, were soon evicted, and returned a year later.
The ILA said residents had been asked to rent the land for agricultural purposes for NIS 2 per dunam (0.1 hectare), but “they refused to pay and continued to infiltrate the land year after year.”
After an eviction notice was issued in 2003, the residents filed a petition that made its way to the High Court of Justice.
While the petition was being heard, the residents “continued to infiltrate and squat on state-owned land, and in fact expanded their infiltration through constructing illegal and unproved buildings, crudely trampling on the law,” the ILA said.
In 2007, the Beersheba Magistrates’s Court dismissed residents’ request for a delay in implementation of the eviction orders and ruled that residents were “infiltrators repeatedly seizing state land after being evicted.”
There are tens of thousands of illegal structures in Beduin communities in the country, and several thousand more are built each year; far more than the number the state manages to demolish. Many of these settlements lack basic services, with residents living “off the grid” and not paying municipal taxes.”
In evaluating a statement by the Israel Land Authority, we need to consider its essential agenda. The ILA is an Israeli government body that controls 93% of the land in Israel, which is either owned by the Jewish state or by the Jewish National Fund. It’s particularly worth noting that the ILA has never given the permission to establish one new Arab town or village since Israel was established in 1948.)
So I would fully expect the ILA – an Israeli state agency with a very clear self-interest in this matter – to release a statement such as this. For my part, I’m much more inclined to trust the reaction of an independent NGO such as Human Rights Watch, which released this extensive statement on the matter on 8/1:
Here’s an excerpt that offers some critical historical background (something the ILA statement did not do):
And to give a further source to what Brant has said see the following extract:
Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, The Bedouin-Arabs in the Negev-Naqab Desert in Israel, August, 2009
Click to access Negev_Coexistence_Forum_Civil_Equality.pdf
In Collaboration with:
Association for Support and Defense of
Bedouin Rights in Israel
Physicians for Human Rights – Israel
The Bedouin-Arabs are an indigenous people, most of whom internally displaced from lands they had owned for centuries. From the 1950s on the Bedouin-Arabs were dispossessed from their land by means of laws passed by the Israeli Parliament (the Knesset), the Israeli legal system and varied administrative measures. Today the 190,000 Bedouin-Arabs living in the Negev are the most disadvantaged citizens in Israel and are struggling for their rights of land ownership, equality, recognition, and the pursuit of their distinctive way of life. About 60% of the Bedouin-Arab citizens live in seven failing government-planned towns. The remainder 40% live in dozens of villages that are not recognized by the government as well as in several new recognized townships. These Israeli citizens do not receive basic services, such as running water, electricity, roads, proper education, health and welfare services. In addition, they live under the continuous threat of home demolition, crop destruction and further displacement.
The main issue at hand is the lack of recognition of land ownership rights of the Bedouin-Arabs in the Negev and the refusal of the state to grant recognition to the “unrecognized villages”. This has resulted in a series of infringements upon civil and political rights involving discrimination and inequality between the Jewish and Bedouin-Arab populations, who reside side by side in the Negev. Discrimination is evident in various areas, including health, education, welfare, planning, the right to vote and religious services.”
It makes me very sad to hear things like that happening in 2010. I signed the petition.