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Jewish National Fund resumes forestation project in al-Arakib

After having their homes destroyed by the State over 30 times in the last two years, the residents of al-Arakib can do little else but watch as a forest is built on the ruins of their homes. 

Children of al-Arakib watch as border police enter village (photo: Mairav Zonszein)

The Jewish National Fund resumed cultivating land Monday morning in al-Arakib, an unrecognized Bedouin village in southern Israel which the quasi-governmental agency has earmarked for a large forestation project. A week ago, the families in the village got word that the JNF would return and asked for activists to come and support them.

JNF equipment, escorted by heavy police presence, showed up Monday morning and sealed off the entrance to the village.  Families and activists watched from the village cemetery, the only spot that has been deemed untouchable due to its historic and emotional significance. Residents told +972 that JNF representatives gave their word in private conversations a couple of months ago that they would not plant on a specific plot of land – known as plot 24 – since it is the subject of an ongoing court case. However this morning they prepared this precise piece of land for cultivation.

Since July 17, 2010, the village has been demolished by the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) more times than anyone can count, and each time the families have returned and built it up again to confirm their claim on the land. Despite remaining steadfast in their claims to the land, most families have relocated to neighboring towns like Rahat to avoid the anguish of constant destruction, such that only a handful of residents still live inside al-Arakib.

Here is footage of the 25th demolition of the village:

The ILA claims the Bedouin are trespassing on state land, but the issue is still being fought in court proceedings over land ownership. While the residents do not have official land deeds, they do have documents from the Ottoman era showing their ancestors purchased the land in 1906. The state insists the land was appropriated in 1954 such that court findings regarding ownership before then are irrelevant anyway.

The issue of Al-Arakib is part of a larger story concerning 35 unrecognized villages inside Israel. According to a 2011 report by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, approximately half the Bedouin population in the Negev, about 90,000 people—live in quasi-recognized or unrecognized villages similar to al-Arakib. The government adoption of the Prawer Plan last September calls for the uprooting of 30,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel and their relocation to established Bedouin towns (with financial compensation), thereby denying the community’s connection to the land and way of life.

Critics of the plan have called it a “declaration of war” on the Bedouin community, since they are being treated like a security threat, and not as citizens with equal rights.

Rabbis for Human Rights activist Moriel Rothman contributed to this report. 

For more on Israeli policies regarding the Bedouin population, click here.

Read also:
Bedouin village of al-Arakib destroyed again
Where is the inevitable Bedouin intifada Israel guaranteed?
Jerusalem protest at JNF calls to halt Bedouin displacement
Police fire sponge bullets at Israeli citizens in al-Arakib

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    1. Shlomi

      Blatant lie! The court has already spoken. Nothing is disputed. The Bedouins couldn’t prove their ownership, and the court ruled that they lied in court.

      JNF have legal advisers, and they didn’t start planting trees until the court made it’s ruling.

      Reply to Comment
    2. sh

      The JNF we innocently collected money for as children because they planted trees to make the Israel beautiful for its citizens has demolished Al-Araqib about forty times over past couple of years in order to be able to plant a forest for American Evangelical God-TV. To this end, it needs to throw Israeli citizens off their land. But that’s ok, they’re not Jewish. But hey, neither is God-TV and they’re not even citizens.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Rodrigo

      The rule of law applies to everyone in Israel, not just the Jews. The Bedouin have for years exploited the lack of involvement by the Israeli government to take over land and then claim them retroactively as their own. 15 years ago they built homes here without permission and with no deeds to the land, now they claim that the land is in their souls. This is nonsense regardless of how much noble savages imagery the left tries to dress this up in.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Palestinian

      Rodrigo , law ? take over ? I am not sure who came from Russia and Poland to steal and kill ,those bedouins are the indigenous population ,Israelis are thieves with “laws” that discriminate against them ,Israelis steal land from the Palestinians and give it to illegal immigrants from moon riding their Alyiah black horses .

      Reply to Comment
    5. Moriel Rothman

      Rodrigo, your use of the words “exploiting” and “take over” indicate that you’ve been reading your governmentally approved Hasbara, but be careful about throwing those terms around. Any idea how much of the land in the Negev the Bedouins (30% of the Negev’s population) have succeeded in “taking over?” Last figure I heard was somewhere between 5 and 6%. To be fair, though, those poor saplings that the JNF is planting over what used to be a village are just trying to right the historical injustice of years past wherein governments had the chutzpah to think that non-Jewish citizens of Israel might be more important than trees.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Weindeb

      And so Israel once again commits its almost daily Et cetera in fulfilling its status as a racist, land-grabbing, apartheidt society, in which legal manipulations serve as cosmetics disguising the rot, but not quite.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Rodrigo

      Moriel, the Bedouin have taken over quite a bit of land in the northern Negev. The roads running south and east of Beer Sheva are full of Bedouin camps that grow every year on land that was empty 30 years ago.

      Palestinian, the Bedouin are not indigenous to Israel. Each tribe has a history of migration from somewhere else within the past 200 years.

      Reply to Comment