Police arrested nine Arab-Bedouin and Jewish activists in the unrecognized village of Al-Araqib in the Negev on Sunday, July 24, as they attempted to block bulldozers from performing earthworks as part of plans to turn village lands into a Jewish National Fund (JNF) forest. According to Al-Ittihad, the daily Arabic-language newspaper of the Communist Party of Israel, like every other morning during the past week, JNF heavy equipment began tearing up the land of the village that has been destroyed by Israeli authorities 100 times during the past six years, in order to plant a forest in its place.
The women of Al-Araqib, joined by a number of teenagers and local activists, marched toward the bulldozers being secured by approximately 30 police officers. Last week the police arrested Sayekh al-Touri, Al-Araqib’s sheikh, and his son Aziz, but released them without any stipulations after having detained them for a number of hours at the police station in the Arab-Bedouin township of Rahat.
The lands in question are currently subject to a process ownership registration which has yet to be legally resolved. In 2012, an Israeli court ruled that no irreversible changes should be made to any plots which Bedouin families claim as their own. Despite promises made by JNF Chairman Efi Stenzler to halt any work until the issue is cleared legally, bulldozers began their work this week. The activists contend that demolitions in Al-Araqib continue to take place, even after Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the village’s lands do not belong to the state.
Demolitions, in addition to denial of basic services and access to infrastructure, are part of an ongoing campaign by Israeli planning committees against Arab-Bedouin villages in the Negev desert, home to between 70 and 90 thousand people. In May 2013, an Israeli government committee approved the draft of a bill which sets a framework for implementing the evacuation of “unrecognized” Bedouin villages in the Negev, most of which existed before the State of Israel came into being.
Related: Posts on the struggle for Al-Araqib