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Supreme Court gives al-Araqib the right to fight for its land

As far as the state was concerned, not only do the indigenous people of the Negev have no right to land, they didn’t even have the right to argue in court that they do. The Supreme Court rejects that position.

By Michal Rotem

Sheikh Sayah Aturi of al-Araqib leaves the Beer Sheva Court, December 10, 2013. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Sheikh Sayah Aturi of al-Araqib leaves the Beer Sheva Court, December 10, 2013. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

For years, the battleground of the Negev Bedouin in Israel has existed on multiple fronts. The legal front, which is mostly hidden from the public, is one of the more important but most difficult fronts. Due to a complex web of laws designed to declare Bedouin land as state land, there have been far more losses than victories on the legal front.

That is one reason why the Israeli Supreme Court’s decision on Sunday is so encouraging. The court rejected the state’s argument, instead permitting a hearing in which the residents of al-Araqib can challenge the expropriation of their land in the 1950s. Israel has demolished the unrecognized village over 70 times in recent years.

It is only a small victory because it does not rule on ownership of the land; the Supreme Court only allowed the residents of al-Araqib to argue against the expropriation in district court. That said, just allowing them to make a legal argument is an important precedent following long years of losses in court.

The land belonging to the unrecognized village of al-Araqib, like countless plots of land in the Negev, was expropriated under the Land Appropriation Law of 1953. The law allowed the state to easily expropriate land for purposes of “development, settlement and security,” with a few ludicrous stipulations: that the land was not in its owner’s possession on April 1, 1952, and that the state use the land for purposes of development, settlement or security, or at least that it needs the land for those purposes. In reality, the state dispossessed the village residents of their land, and has not once used their land, for any purpose.

As part of the legal process that has become more and more common in the Negev in recent years, when al-Araqib’s residents filed a land ownership claim in the 1970s, the southern district prosecutor filed a counter-claim on the same plot of land, claiming it was state land. While the courts verified ownership, the village’s residents, represented by Attorney Michael Sfard, attempted to challenge the expropriation itself.

A resident of al-Araqib approaches Israeli police during one of the dozens of times authorities demolished the unrecognized village. (Activestills.org)

A resident of al-Araqib approaches Israeli police during one of the dozens of times authorities demolished the unrecognized village. (Activestills.org)

 

The State of Israel, which invests massive resources in its effort to invalidate the very idea of Bedouin land ownership, did not even agree to hear the argument. As far as the state was concerned, not only do the indigenous people of the Negev have no right to land, they don’t even have the right to argue in court that they do.

On Sunday, rejecting the state’s position, the Supreme Court ruled that the Be’ersheva District Court has the jurisdiction to discuss the validity of the 1950s land expropriations. In their ruling, the Supreme Court justices cautioned that granting jurisdiction has limited significance, since it is very difficult to challenge land expropriation under the aforementioned 1953 law. The unrecognized village still has a long way before it can register its land in its own name.

Back in the 1970s Israel allowed Bedouin residents of the Negev to file land ownership claims, and at least on paper, offered them a fair process for adjudicating such claims. In the early 2000s, the state froze that process and began filing counter claims on plots of land claimed by Bedouin citizens of Israel, seeking to register them as state land. And there should be no doubt that the cards are stacked against the Bedouin — the State of Israel has a 100 percent success rate in all of the counter claims it has filed.

So even though it is a small victory, and even though the Supreme Court justices cautioned that the next part of the legal process will not be simple, it is still a huge step in the Negev Bedouin communities’ struggle to prove ownership over their land.

The State of Israel, which argued that its own citizens did not have the right to challenge racist and discriminatory legislation like the Land Appropriation Law, which authorized unprecedented land expropriations, was turned away by the Supreme Court on Sunday.

It’s hard to find cracks in such a well-oiled system like the one the state built to take over land. So when a crack does open up, we can only hope that a sliver of justice falls through.

Michal Rotem works for the Negev Forum for Coexistence and is based in Be’er Sheva. This story first appeared in Hebrew on Local Call, where she is a blogger.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Bruce Gould

      Can anyone out there help me with a math question? Let X = number of violent acts committed by Israeli Palestinians (who have some legal rights) against Jews, let Y = number of acts of violence committed by Palestinians in the West Bank (who have essentially no legal rights) against Jews. What is X/Y?

      Just to be clear on the question, I’m not interested in X by itself, I’m not interested in Y by itself, I want to know the ratio of X divided by Y.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Joel

      Michal.
      You toss around the term ‘indigenous Bedouin’, as if it’s a given. It’s not.
      http://www.meforum.org/3254/negev-bedouin-indigenous

      BTW. Didn’t Judge Dovrat reject the ‘indigenous rights’ claim proffered by the al Uqbi Bedouin in their lawsuit?

      Reply to Comment
      • Baladi Akka 1948

        Haha, you think anyone except your buddies Pedro Ltd. take anything coming out of Middle East Forum founded by Daniel Pipes seriously ? Of course, the Bedouins in al-Naqab aren’t indigenous, they’re not Jews so no matter how long they’ve lived there, they’ll always be newcomers whereas a Jew who came from Brooklyn two years ago IS indigenous, it comes with being the Chosen …

        Reply to Comment
        • Joel

          @Baladi

          Don’t bring your little boy games here.

          I didn’t say that the Bedouins in al-Naqab weren’t indigenous, I said that the Court rejected the claim that the al Uqbi Bedouin were ‘indigenous’.

          Reply to Comment
          • Baladi Akka 1948

            My little boy games ?
            You didn’t say the Bedouins in al-Naqab aren’t indigenous, but your link is asking the question “Are the Negev Bedouins an Indigenous People”, maybe you didn’t even read the title. The article is pure hasbara, the authors are claiming that the Jews are the real indigenous people of the Negev. So I guess that’s why Bronstein from Brooklyn and Something-vitch from Ukraine have a priority to the land: they are the real indigenous people of the Negev. Isn’t it fabulous how Zionism distorts reality, one has to be an idiot to believe the crap, well, most Zionists actually are, not to say all ….

            Reply to Comment
          • Joel

            Ottoman-era documentary evidence was introduced during the al Uqbi trial.

            When the Ottomans invaded the region in the 15th century, they took a census which listed the names of the Bedouin tribes that inhabited the region. The al Uqbis weren’t on the list. In fact, the al Uqbi’s oral tradition holds that they were late migrants to the region.

            To wit; the al Uqbis were not indigenous BECAUSE IT COULD BE PROVEN THAT THERE HAD BEEN SOMEBODY THERE BEFORE THEM.

            Reply to Comment
          • Baladi Akka 1948

            Writing with caps lock doesn’t change anything: that I was referring to the title and the content in the article by MEF, and that no matter how late in history some of the Bedouin tribes came to al-Naqab, they were still there way before the Jewish settlers who are waiting to take over their land.

            Reply to Comment
          • Joel

            You can say ‘their land’ over and over but it doesn’t change anything.
            Because their ‘indigenous rights’ claim was rejected, ‘their land’ is what the plaintiff’s has to prove, in Court, using land records. The al Uqbi plaintiff’s failed to prove that all of the land they claimed, was theirs. The plaintiffs had very able counsel, and an expert witness, but Judge Dovrot chose to believe the State’s expert witness, Dr. Ruth A. Kark, author of the ME forum article that you disparage.

            Here are some reasons that Judge Dovrot preferred the State’s expert witness.

            http://israel-academia-monitor.com/index.php?type=large_advic&advice_id=8415&page_data%5Bid%5D=171&cookie_lang=en

            “You didn’t say the Bedouins in al-Naqab aren’t indigenous..”.
            Right. Some tribes may be indigenous, but I doubt it because the tribes who now inhabit the Negev do not appear on the old Ottoman census list.

            Reply to Comment
          • Baladi Akka 1948

            Haha, a link to Israel Academia Monitor. Tell me, Joel, are you a fascist too ? And are you the Joel who told us that you made aliyah two or three years ago from the States ?

            Reply to Comment
          • Joel

            You give short shrift to ME Forum and IA Monitor without addressing a single fact they’ve reported. Likewise, you won’t address Judge Dovrat’s legal protocol.

            You will ask me if I’m a fascist(and a wife beater?)and you will go off topic and ask about my pedigree.

            But since you’ve thrown in the towel I will admit that I made aliyah 3 years ago, but, for your information, my family first settled in Jerusalem in 1811.

            Where did your family from before coming they came to Palestine?

            Reply to Comment
          • Baladi Akka 1948

            I don’t give a damn about an Israeli judge’s legal protocol.
            Yeah, that exactly what what I thought: you made aliyah recently but you could settle down in al-Naqab once the Bedouins have been expelled. Isn’t Zionism just wonderful …. And of course, you family settled in Palestine in 1811, isn’t it amazing how every Zio-bot has ancestry in the Old Yishouv ….
            As far as my family is concerned, when God created the Universe, he put my ancestors in the Galilee … And we will return there one day.
            ‘Discussion’ over.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            No you won’t. Discussion over.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ricky Rocket

            “…isn’t it amazing how every Zio-bot has ancestry in the Old Yishouv ….”

            Yes! Just like every Palistinean runs around town with a giant metal key.
            Get out of here you fraud
            And clean your hijab, it is filthy.

            Reply to Comment
          • Joel

            Biladi,

            “..he put my ancestors in the Galilee … And we will return there one day.”

            The only thing that I’m certain of is that there are two 6′ holes waiting for us.

            Reply to Comment
          • Joel

            “..when God created the Universe, he put my ancestors in the Galilee..”

            Are you sure your ancestors weren’t Algerian tribes who emigrated to the Galilee via Damascus?

            Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            “my family first settled in Jerusalem in 1811” You are very fortunate to have such historic connections to the land. In 1806 Jews were a small minority in the city (2000 out of 8774 according to Sharkansky. In 1832 Jews were still a small minority in the city (4000 out of 20,560 according to Kark and Oren-Nordheim).

            The Husayni family comprising hundreds migrated to Jerusalem in the 12th century after Saladin drove out the Crusaders from the city. The equally influential Nashashibi clan migrated to Jerusalem in 1469 and served as custodians of the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. The Touqan family settled in Nablus in the 12th century. The Ridwan family dominated Gaza, which at times ruled both Jerusalem and Hebron, from the 16th century. These, and many other historic lineages, provided merchants, governors, judges, intellectuals and civil servants and played a far greater role in the history of Palestine than the Jews who often lived on charity and many of whom arrived in the land in order to die there.

            Reply to Comment
          • Joel

            @Bryan

            “In 1832 Jews were still a small minority in the city…”

            Living in squalor and fear….because they were dhimmis.

            That is, they were treated like shit because, and only because,they were Jews.

            Reply to Comment
          • Joel

            @Bryan

            “These, and many other historic lineages, provided merchants, governors, judges, intellectuals and civil servants..”

            These feudal Arab landowning families exploited their peasantry to no end. This would go on if the land wasn’t being pillaged by Bedouin tribes.

            Ahh…that idyllic Golden Age, before the Jews came back.

            Reply to Comment
    3. Bruce Gould

      I think the key point of the article is the Byzantine (or maybe Kafkaesque is a better word) legal system which governs land management in Israel. The very idea of privately owned land, at least for non-Jews, is weak in the Jewish State.

      The land belonging to the unrecognized village of al-Araqib, like countless plots of land in the Negev, was expropriated under the Land Appropriation Law of 1953. The law allowed the state to easily expropriate land for purposes of “development, settlement and security,” with a few ludicrous stipulations: that the land was not in its owner’s possession on April 1, 1952, and that the state use the land for purposes of development, settlement or security, or at least that it needs the land for those purposes. In reality, the state dispossessed the village residents of their land, and has not once used their land, for any purpose.

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        Where are the Jews who used to live in Arab lands, Bruce? What happened to THEIR lands and assets? Yes, we know your answer. You just don’t give a toss. You don’t give a toss about 1 million Jews who were kicked out of Arab lands and everything they had was confiscated. Because they are Jews not Arabs. Right Bruce?

        Reply to Comment
        • Felix Reichert

          I see, so if others do it, it’s alright if Israel does it. That’s what you’re arguing, right?

          And the Israeli Bedouin are to be personally held accountable for the wrongs governments of foreign states commited. That’s also what you’re arguing, right?

          Reply to Comment
        • Mike Panzone

          So gustav, what is your point? Because arabs Kicked jews out of their homes in arab countries, then isrealis should kick bedoins out of their homes in israel?

          I am certain that bruce and everyone who contributes to this magazine would agree that it was a trajedy when jews of arab lands lost everything…but this is not an article about that…it is an article about the bedoins of israel who are losing everything.

          Your attempt to distract the reader in this manner is similar to the way children defend their bad behavior in elementary schools…”yes i stole the teacher’s pen but that guy stole her scissors!”

          Grow up.

          Reply to Comment
        • Mike Panzone

          …and gustav, it seems that jews who had been treated so poorly in arab lands would have more sympathy for the bedoin who are being treated in a similar way.

          Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            No. My point is that since there has been a defacto population swap, since Jews who were kicked out of Arab countries found refuge in Israel, and since Palestinian Arabs who fled the Arab initiated war in Palestine,now live in Arab lands from which Jews were expelled, there is an obvious practical and just solution….

            The Arab countries should be made to integrate the Palestinian Arab refugees into their societies instead of keeping them deliberately isolated and discriminated against in refugee camps. After all, they speak the same language, they have the same Sunni Muslim religion and they have the same culture and values.

            I am advocating solutions. You people carp on old history and in a biased and vindictive way. Grow up and push for solutions not for wrongful vengeance.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            So…no sympathy for the bedoin who are being treated in a similar way? Answer Mike.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            I will answer mike Benny when you take the trouble to answer my suggestion about how the refugee problem could be resolved.

            The fact that you are still running from it at 100mph, tells me that you are not interested in solutions. You are only interested in Israel bashing. So why exactly should you be taken seriously?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I’m running from nothing. You made that up. You won’t answer Mike nor did you really answer Felix. You apparently do think the Bedouin should be kicked out by Israelis because they are Arab. Nice. As in ”yes i stole the teacher’s pen but that guy stole her scissors!”

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            I made that up Benny?

            Then show me where you answered my question. Can’t? Then I haven’t made it up. You are running from my question…

            Reply to Comment
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