Help Overturn the Unjust Court Ruling against the Negev Bedouin

After a legal struggle lasting three years, the Be’er Sheba District Court rejected the appeal of Nuri Al-Okbi, veteran activist for the rights of the Negev Bedouins. Al-Okbi’s plea for recognition of ownership over the Al-Araqib lands, from which he and his family were evicted in 1951, was rejected out of hand by Judge Sarah Dovrat. The ruling has wide implications for Negev Arab-Bedouins in general, implying an overall denial of their rights over ancestral lands.

After some deliberations, Nuri Al-Okbi decided to appeal to the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, asking it to overturn this unfair ruling. In order to be eligible to lodge such an appeal, however, Al-Okbi must pay no later than May 10 the punitive “court expenses” which had been imposed on him by the Be’er Sheba Court, as well as rendering various other legal fees – altogether amounting to the sum of 70,000 Shekels (about 20,000 US Dollars). This amount Al-Okbi and his family – who have already spent considerable funds on ongoing legal procedures ever since 1973 – are unable to pay from their own resources. Friends of Al-Okbi said “We therefore call upon you to provide an urgent donation and give Nuri  a chance to try redressing a blatant miscarriage of justice.”

Hadash demonstration in Tel Aviv in solidarity with Arab-Bedouin struggle

Hadash demonstration in Tel Aviv in solidarity with Arab-Bedouin struggle (Photo: Al Ittihad)

On the importance of making an appeal in the Al–Okbi Family land ownership case Professor Oren Yiftachel, Department of Geography, Ben – Gurion University, Be’er Sheba, said:  “Since its foundation, the State of Israel refuses to recognize Bedouin ownership over ancestral lands in the Negev. Most of the Bedouins did not register their lands in 1921, as was required by one of the British laws; but neither did most other residents of Mandatory Palestine, including Jewish ones, carry out such registration. Sixty years later, the State of Israel made cynical use of this lack of registration to order to register most Bedouin lands as ‘State Lands,’ thus making the Bedouins into ‘invaders’ or ‘squatters’ on their own ancestral land. Some of the Bedouins have tried to challenge the system of dispossession. Notable among them is Nuri Al-Okbi, long-time dedicated human rights activist. In recent years, Nuri and his brothers are conducting a series of law suits against the state, demanding restoration of the lands taken from them in the fifties.”

And more: “A few weeks ago, a ruling rejecting the claims of the Al-Okbis was made in an important case – one in which for the first time a professional support team was involved, including Att. Michael Sfard, geographer Yiftachel and other experts. The proceeding lasted three years, during which dozens of witnesses testified and hundreds of documents and expert reports submitted, attesting to the Al-Okbis’ ownership of the land. The judge, however, chose to render a harsh, confrontational ruling, sticking to earlier precedents and concluding that any land which had not been registered in 1921 is ipso facto the property of the state. The court relied mainly on legal precedents, hardly referring to the evidence presented. Therefore, it is very important to lodge an appeal to the Supreme Court – the only body which is empowered to overturn precedents and strike out in a new direction. At such a hearing, the judges would not be able to ignore the rich materials submitted by the Al-Okbi Tribe, and the new legal arguments presented. In addition, such an appeal would strengthen the struggle of tens of thousands of Bedouins, who at this very moment are struggling against government plans to evict them to existing townships. The government’s plan is based on the wrong assumption that Bedouins have no land ownership rights, and a Supreme Court appeal is now the only way to stop these draconian plans. Therefore, it is highly important to lodge an appeal on the Al-Okbi Land Case, and make it clear that the Bedouin community is determined to struggle for their basic human rights – specifically to change a legal ruling which causes severe and completely undeserved damage to a large section of Israel’s citizen body.”

Checks should be sent to POB 1335, Kfar-Sava, Israel 44113 – payable to Yoav Haas or Ya’akov Manor – both of them being veteran activists for human and civil rights in general and for the Negev Arab-Bedouins in particular.

When sending a check by post, please send an immediate email message, to let us know the money could be relied on, to:

Yoav Haas – +972-52-2673467,

Ya’akov Manor – +972-50-5733276