Negev: Israel razes Palestinian village for 113th time

Al-Araqib’s residents have continually rebuilt their village after demolitions [Ammar Awad/Reuters]

18 May 2017

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

Israeli police forces have
destroyed a Palestinian village in the Naqab 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: The Legal Centre
for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, 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 [arid] Naqab 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.

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.”

—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 Naqab 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
 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.

Nadim Nashif, director of
the Haifa-based Palestinian advocacy group Baladna, argued that the ongoing
efforts to demolish Bedouin homes in the Naqab 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.

* Original