Nine Bedouin and Jewish activists arrested for trying to prevent JNF bulldozers from turning Al-Araqib’s land into a forest.
Text and photos by Oren Ziv / Activestills.org
Israeli authorities arrested nine Bedouin and Jewish activists in the unrecognized village of Al-Araqib Sunday morning as they attempted to block bulldozers from working to turn village land into a Jewish National Fund (JNF) forest.
Like every other morning over the past week, JNF tractors began working the land, which has been destroyed by Israeli authorities 100 times over 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 tractors, which were guarded by approximately 30 police officers.
After marching, the women took a break for lunch before marching once again toward the tractors, this time attempting to block them with their bodies. The police violently arrested two of the women, one of whom fainted. Three Jewish activists who attempted to assist her were detained and taken to a local police station.
Two teenagers and two men from the village were also arrested.
Last week the police arrested Sayekh, Al-Araqib’s sheikh, and his son Aziz, but was resigned to release them without any conditions after they were kept for hours at the police station in the Bedouin township of Rahat.
One of the village women, whose 20-year-old daughter was arrested, told +972: “The goal of the arrest was to pressure people to agree to restraining orders keeping them away from Al-Araqib. I hope the fact that the police chose to arrest women will cause people in Rahat and other places to wake up and come support us.” Over the past week the police refrained from arresting women, and focused on men in the hopes of quashing the protests.
The land in question is currently in the process of ownership registration and has yet to be legally resolved. In 2012 an Israeli court ruled that no irreversible changes should be made on these plots of land, which the Bedouin families claim as their own. Despite promises made by JNF chairman Efi Stenzler to halt any work until the issue is cleared legally, tractors began plowing this week.
It is one of 35 “unrecognized” Bedouin villages in the Negev desert in southern Israel, which means Israel refuses to provide residents with connections to the national water and electricity grids, provide them with health and educational services, or any basic infrastructure.