State sues Beduin of al-Arakib village for NIS 1.8m

Residents accused of "illegal invasions" of state lands; ILA says state has incurred large expenses from evictions of families from Negev village.

311_AlArakib border police (photo credit: Courtesy)
311_AlArakib border police
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The state filed a lawsuit Tuesday in the Beersheba District Court against 34 Beduins from the Abu Mediam and Abu Jabber families, whom they accuse of “permanent illegal invasions” of state lands.
The state is suing the 34 Beduins for a total of NIS 1.8 million, which it maintains is the total amount of material damages accrued during multiple state actions to evict the Beduin from the illegal village of al-Arakib, seven kilometers north of Beersheba.
The Beduin host on the Mount of Olives
‘We refuse to be victims’
The state’s petition to the court says that in order to avoid risk to human life during the evacuation of al- Arakib, the ILA, the Green Patrol and the police had to spend considerable sums on cars, a helicopter and heavy machinery.
The gulf between the state’s version of events regarding al-Arakib and that of the Beduin is vast.
The Abu Mediam and Abu Jabber families claim that the plot of land at al-Arakib has belonged to them since the Ottoman era.
They say they were evicted from the land in 1951 by the IDF, and despite promises, were never allowed to return. They also maintain that they returned to the area in order to claim land that was rightfully theirs, and built homes there.
The state said that the land is state-owned to which the Beduin have no rights, and for which the Beduin have failed to produce any title deeds proving ownership.
According to Ortal Tzabar, the spokeswoman for the Israel Land Authority, the Abu Mediam and Abu Jabber families first claimed the land in 1998, after evicting other Beduin who were leasing it as grazing land from the state. The ILA showed The Jerusalem Post aerial photographs of the area which it says proves this statement.
Temporary shacks built by the Beduin in al-Arakib were demolished by the state and rebuilt on more than 10 occasions, the last in 2010.
The al-Arakib Beduin claim that they were made homeless when the state demolished the village in 2010. However, the state maintains that when the al- Araqib demolitions took place, the Beduin involved had homes in other parts of the Negev – in many cases built for them by the state.
“The land [in al-Arakib] is not the actual home of the appellants; in fact some of them have plots and houses in Rahat,” the state said in its petition to the court.
Tzabar added that despite this, “the families continue to invade the Al Araqib area, ignoring court orders and without any documents proving their ownership on the Al Araqib territories.”
According to the state attorneys, members of the Abu Mediam and Abu Jabber families were assisted in their campaign to claim the land by “various public relations organizations,” who presented the situation as a “depressor and usurper” situation, while in reality the situation was very different.”
The state also accuse the 34 Beduin named in the suit of recruiting other individuals and organizations to join them in the al-Arakib campaign, and of publishing misleading information about the status of the land.
“[The appellants] published that the state is destroying a ‘village’ that had been in existence for decades – when in reality we are dealing with empty land, and an illegal construction that began less than a decade ago,” wrote the state’s attorneys. “They did not make it known that the courts had in fact ordered them to vacate the land.”
The ILA previously told The Jerusalem Post that it was upset over the international- media furor that had erupted during last October’s evacuation of al-Arakib.
Headlines in foreign newspapers at the time had even slammed the evacuation as “ethnic cleansing” of Israel’s Arab population.
Momtaz Khateeb, of the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, which has led the campaign on behalf of the al-Arakib villagers, slammed the state’s decision to sue.
“It’s simply absurd that the state is suing people whose houses it has destroyed several times,” Khateeb told the Post. “The state demolished these people’s homes, and now it demands that they pay compensation? We don’t think that this is a very wise act on behalf of the state.”
Khateeb added that the al- Arakib villagers are now considering whether to bring their own suit against the state.
“They are considering whether to sue over the fact that the state destroyed their homes and caused them distress and economic hardship,” he said.
The al-Arakib case is one of many where Negev Beduin have attempted to claim ownership of land based on pre-state documents.
Around half of the Negev’s Beduin population live in 45 “unrecognized villages,” considered illegal by the state.
However, the ILA said the state has invested considerable sums in providing housing and infrastructure for the Negev’s Beduin. Starting in the late 1960s, seven new towns were created in the Negev – Rahat, Tel Sheva, Kuseifa, Arara Banegev, Segev Shalom, Hura and Lakiya – to provide the Negev Beduin with permanent housing with modern infrastructure.
The recently established Authority for the Regulation of Beduin Settlements, part of the Ministry of Construction and Housing, is currently enacting plans to recognize as many of the villages as possible; or to compensate and re-house Beduin whose villages are deemed impossible to recognize.