State destroys illegal Beduin outpost for 50th time

After bulldozers destroy the village, one Beduin man claims he now lives in the village cemetery, the only structure left standing.

Aziz Al-Toro 3710 (photo credit: Ariel Ben Solomon)
Aziz Al-Toro 3710
(photo credit: Ariel Ben Solomon)
Police demolished structures for the 50th time in two years at the former illegal Beduin village of al-Arakib in the Negev on Thursday, according to the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency.
A large police force and bulldozers came in to destroy homes, former resident Aziz al-Toro told the news agency.
The Jerusalem Post spoke with Toro last week in al-Arakib; he said he was born in the village and now lives in the cemetery, which was the only structure left standing. He expressed his determination to stay and rebuild the village.
Ma’an quoted Toro as expressing the same sentiment after the bulldozing of the village: “We confirmed that we will stay steadfast in our lands, despite the injustice and tyranny of the Israeli authority.... We will rebuild our houses, even if they demolish them [a] thousand times,” he said.
Ari Briggs – international director for Regavim, an NGO that seeks to ensure responsible, legal and accountable use of Israel’s national lands – told the Post in reaction to the report, “Regavim is happy to hear that the police are enforcing the law in this illegal village and would like to see the police apply the law equally throughout the region where there are thousands of illegal buildings.”
Judge Sarah Dovrat of the Beersheba District Court in March 2012 rejected the residents’ claim to own the property, and ruled in favor of the state.
The court rejected the argument that there were ownership rights going back to Ottoman times. Her decision was partly based on aerial photos of the area from the British Mandate period as well as evidence that the British military had used part of the area, which showed there was no cultivated land in the area during that period.
According to a document given to the Post by Regavim, the settlement at al-Arakib is relatively new, with some of the claimants living in houses in Rahat, also in the Negev, and in Kafr Kasim, near Rosh Ha’ayin. They base their claims to the area not on legal state documentation, but on Beduin purchase agreements from the Mandate period.
“The home demolitions are part of an aggressive tactic against the Beduin to put pressure on them to stop fighting for their land,” Rawia Aburabia, a lawyer for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, told the Post.
“[The] government should freeze home demolitions because they are a brutal tactic,” she said.
Haia Noach, CEO of the Negev Coexistence Forum, told the Post the dispute over al-Arakib reflected a democratic struggle by the Beduin to keep their land despite state aggression against them.
Asked about the court ruling from 2012, she said the legal situation was complicated and ongoing. She added that the Supreme Court was currently involved in a case regarding al-Arakib that began two years ago.
As for the claim that picture evidence proved Beduin were not living on the land during the Mandate period, she rejects this as “not true,” saying there were photographs from 1945 that showed Beduin living there.
Last Monday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved government support for a bill known as the Prawer-Begin plan for regulating Beduin settlement in the Negev.