Negev: Israel razes Palestinian village for 113th time

An estimated 80,000 Bedouins live in unrecognised villages in the Negev region without basic infrastructure or services.

Women, residents of the Umm Al-Hiran, a Bedouin village which is not recognised by the Israeli government, hold banners during a protest in Israel''s southern Negev desert
Al-Araqib's residents have continually rebuilt their village after demolitions [Ammar Awad/Reuters]

Israeli police forces have destroyed a Palestinian village in the Negev region of the country’s south for the 113th time since 2010, displacing its residents and flattening its few still-standing structures. 

Heavily armed officers as well as riot police forces raided the village on Wednesday morning, and bulldozers destroyed the makeshift homes locals had been living in, local Palestinian media outlets reported.

The Adalah Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights, a Haifa-based advocacy group, estimates that 22 families made up of 110 people live in Araqib. The villagers return and rebuild after each demolition.

Al-Araqib is one of more than 35 “unrecognised” villages across the desertous Negev region, considered illegal by the government owing to their lack of building permits.  

An estimated 80,000 Bedouin Palestinians who carry Israeli citizenship live in the unrecognised communities, which are often denied state services including water, electricity, rubbish pick-up and education facilities, according to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

Contacted by Al Jazeera, Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said he was “not familiar” with the incident. The local police department did not reply to requests for a comment. 

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Israel plans to move residents of unrecognised villages to planned townships. In villages such as Umm al-Hiran, the government plans to move Jewish-Israeli citizens on to the lands and change the communities’ names. 

“The Israeli government is incapable of dealing correctly with the Arab Bedouin population and the Arab population at large,” Sana Ibn Bari, a lawyer for ACRI, told Al Jazeera. 

“Our living spaces are being reduced ever since the establishment of Israel and the policy has been to concentrate most of the population into the small settlements.”

Our living spaces are being reduced ever since the establishment of Israel and the policy has been to concentrate most of the population into the small settlements.

by Sana Ibn Bari, lawyer, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel

Recently, Israel’s Agricultural Minister Uri Ariel introduced a five-year socioeconomic development plan for the Negev to the tune of three billion Israeli shekels ($787m). Unrecognised villages will be ineligible for funding and infrastructure. 

The minister has also spoken of plans to revive the Prawer Plan, a legislation that was shelved in 2013 owing to large-scale protests across the country. That bill was designed to forcibly relocate residents of unrecognised villages to planned townships.

Earlier this year, parts of a revision draft version, dubbed ‘Prawer II’, were leaked in local media.

Although considered unrecognised, many of these villages predate the establishment of the state of Israel, while others entail Bedouins living on land they were moved to by the Israeli military after being displaced during and after the Nakba in 1948

In a recent position paper, Adalah called on the European Union and its member states to intervene and pressure Israel to abandon efforts to demolish unrecognised villages. 

The legal centre argues that Israeli policies such as those previewed in Prawer II will entail mass evacuations and destruction of villages, deny Bedouin citizens land ownership rights and violate their constitutional protections. 

A diverse community of Muslims, Christians, and Druze, an estimated 1.7 million Palestinians carry Israeli citizenship and live in communities across the country. Adalah has documented more than 50 discriminatory laws that target Palestinian citizens of Israel by stifling their political expression and limiting their access to state resources, notably land.

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Nadim Nashif, director of the Haifa-based Palestinian advocacy group Baladna, argued that the ongoing efforts to demolish Bedouin homes in the Negev are part of a broader plan to “displace as many Palestinians as possible” on to the smallest amount of land. 

Palestinian citizens of Israel, who constitute roughly 20 percent of the population, live on around three percent of the country’s land, Nashif told Al Jazeera. 

“Even though we’re the indigenous population, there’s no land and our villages don’t have master plans,” he said. “It’s a conflict over land in the end.” 

Follow Patrick Strickland on Twitter: @P_Strickland_

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Source: Al Jazeera