On Tuesday 10 August 2010 at 6:00am sixty Israeli Police accompanied by Israel Lands Administration (ILA) representatives commenced the third demolition within 2 weeks of Al-Araqib, a Bedouin village in the Negev Desert. The village is located between the cities of Rahat and Beersheba, and is home to some 300 Bedouin citizens of Israel.
Demolition forces arrived with two bulldozers, a dump truck, tow-truck, and 40 police cars to aid in the one and half hour operation that razed at least 10 make-shift homes, all rebuilt following the previous demolitions suffered by the community. Other agricultural structures were demolished and property was confiscated, including building materials and a large water tank. The only paved road into the village was also destroyed. Government officials insist that the demolitions are in conformity with Israeli law, however court cases are currently underway regarding ownership of the village lands.
During the course of the demolitions, an Israeli activist and a Bedouin from the community were arrested. The Israeli activist refused a conditional two weeks ban from the village and will be arraigned in court today. Approximately 40 Israeli and international activists were present during the demolition in support of the community.
Today’s demolition followed yesterday’s 400-strong demonstration on Road 40 in protest of land appropriation and forced displacement in the Negev, and focused on the recent demolitions in al-Araqib. Three arrests were made, including one Israeli activist and two Bedouins from al-Araqib.
Al-Araqib was demolished for a second time on August 4th, when 10 structures re-built after the initial July 27th demolition were razed to deter the community from remaining on their lands. During that incident, ILA representatives heading the operation were accompanied by dozens of policemen, six people were arrested and refused to sign release conditions restricting their entry to the village.
The Negev Co-existence Forum indicates that around half of the 155,000 Bedouins in the Negev, all of whom are Israeli citizens, live in approximately 45 villages that are unrecognized by the Israeli government. As unrecognized villages, the Bedouins have no right to build on their land or access basic infrastructure such as water. This lack of recognition continues in spite of the fact that the Goldberg Committee, created in late 2007 to “solve the problem of the Bedouin in the Negev”, recommended to the Government of Israel that it should formally recognize most of the villages and legalize construction of homes.
According to Dr. Yeela Ranaan of the Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages in the Negev, destruction of the villages in al-Araqib has been occurring since the 1950s. She notes that the Jewish National Fund plans to plant a forest on the village lands, and that the current actions are part of a larger government policy to displace the indigenous Bedouin from the land.