July 27, 2010
Destruction implemented though land ownership still pending in court
Netanyahu calls Bedouin citizens of Israel "real threat" – and next, an entire village in the Negev is demolished
Early this morning police raided the unrecognized Bedouin village of al-Arakib in the Negev, destroyed all 40 of its houses, and evicted more than 300 residents. The residents, mostly children, were left homeless. The unprecedented raid began at about 4:30 in the morning, residents were surprised to wake up surrounded by a huge force of 1,500 police with guns, stun grenades, helmets and shields, including hundreds of Special Riot Police (Yasam) as well as mounted police, helicopters and bulldozers.
At the residents’ call, dozens of left-wing activists and volunteers arrived from all over the country, helping them to offer non-violent resistance. Several residents were bruised and beaten by police, thjough not needing medical attention. One woman demonstrator was detained by the police. The police removed the residents’ property into prepared containers, and bulldozers demolished the residential buildings and sheepfolds and destroyed the residents’ fruit orchards and olive tree groves.
The villagers, mostly children and old people, were left stunned near the destroyed village, shelterless and waterless under the blazing sun
The destruction of the village was carried out despite dispute over ownership of the land still pending in the courts. Residents of al-Arakib are neither squatters nor invaders: their village has existed many years before the creation of Israel in 1948. Residents had been evicted by the state in 1951, but returned to the land on which they live and which they cultivate. Ownership of the land is now the subject of proceedings in the Be’er Sheva District Court, where academic researchers have already testified in confirmation of the residents’ ownership right in the land.
The destruction’s declared aim is to facilitate plans by the Jewish National Fund to plant a wood on the site. We regard this demolition as a criminal act. Bedouin citizens of Israel are not enemies, and forestation of the Negev is not a reasonable pretext for destroying a community which is more than 60 years old, dispossessing its residents, and violating the basic rights of hundreds of Israeli civilians, men, women and children.
This act by the state authorities is no "law enforcement" – it is a act of war, such as is undertaken against an enemy. This act cannot be dissociated from yesterday’s statement by Prime Minister Netanyahu, who at the cabinet meeting sounded a warning about "a situation in which a demand for national rights will be made from some quarters inside Israel, for example in the Negev, should the area be left without a Jewish majority. Such things happened in the Balkans, and it is a real threat." Presenting the Bedouin citizens of Israel as "a real threat" gives legitimacy to the expulsion of Israel’s Bedouin citizens from the Negev in order to "Judaize" it. We call on all who care for democracy to give their support to this threatened community.