Destruction of Bedouin Villages
photo credit Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages.
“Where will my children sleep tonight, in this terrible cold?” cried the mother of ten.
TWO reports from Israel on how the Zionist state is treating Negev Bedouin:
Large police forces deployed to destroy an entire Bedouin village north of Be’er Sheba 21 houses were demolished, leaving 500 people homeless.
“The mother was crying out and her throat got dry. I wanted to give her some water, but the police had spilled all the water in the village on the ground” says Nori al-Okbi, head of the Beduin Rights Defence Association. “At 11 a.m. I got an urgent call from the Talalka Tribe, they cried on the phone: ‘Help! Help! They are destroying the whole village!’ I ran to my car and got there in a quarter of an hour..
I arrived at the horrible scene, hundreds of police protesting the bulldozers which destroy house after house. I saw this mother of ten crying: ‘What will I do now? My children will come back from school and find they have no home. Where will they sleep in the cold night?” She ran crying after the bulldozers, but the police commander continued with chilling efficiency to deploy his man and defend the destroyers. I my view, the destruction of a whole village and making five hundred people homeless is like cold-blooded murder. This is a brutal act against helpless civilians, who suffer severe racial discrimination by the Government of Israel, just because they belong to a minority ” says Al Okbi.
Nuri al-Okbi says that he saw a group of young people in yellow vests, who were removing the villagers’ belongings from the destroyed houses. “They were Hebrew-speaking young men, apparently of the age to be conscripts, but wearing civilian clothes. Is the army now ‘lending ‘ the police some conscripts, for participation in a dirty war against the Beduin citizens of Israel in the Negev? And if they were not conscripts, who were these young men, and where did they come from? I asked some Knesset Members to take this up with the Ministry of Defence”.
The Talalka live on their immemorial land, where they lived for many generations, long before the state of Israel was created. They have lodged an official appeal to recognise their ownership over 10,000 dunums (2500 acres). The appeal is still far from being finally decided, but the state authorities do not wait but try to create facts on the ground - to expel the Talaka from their land and lock them in an overcrowded concentration township, where no sources of livelihood. They do not yield, though the destroyers come again and again to destroy their homes, and every time the devastation is more total” says al Okbi.
“In the name of the Talaka and of all the Negev Beduin, who are discriminated against and persecuted solely because of their origin, I call upon the Prime Minster and his ministers: stop this evil and cruel policy against us, stop the destruction of the Arab citizens’ homes. Start regarding us, too, as equal citizens of the state of Israel!
That was a few days ago, as reported in a despatch via the Israeli peace bloc Gush Shalom. Terrible as it is, it is not an isolated case. Here is a report from the pre-Christmas period from the Council of Unrecognised Villages:
The Government of Israel Demolished an Entire Bedouin Village Today in the Israeli Negev
Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages.December 6, 2006
At 5:00am hundreds of policepeople accompanied six bulldozers and demolished 17 homes and 3 animal shacks in the village of Twail Abu-Jarwal. The entire village is demolished. People are sitting by the piles of tin that were their modest dwellings and wondering what to do, where to go… even their family cannot host them, as no one has a house standing…
This is the fourth time this year that the government demolished this village. This time they got it `right` – no house is left standing… But the villagers have nowhere to go to. They lived on the outskirts of the Bedouin town of Laqia, the old folk paid for plots of land to build homes in the 1970s, they still hold on the receipt, hoping someday to receive the plots. For the last 30 years they have been living on land belonging to others, in shacks, the housing becoming ever more crowded, until there was no room left for another baby.
They turned to the government for a solution – the option for joining the rest of the residents of Laqia, in a regular house, on a regular plot of land. But the authorities had no options for them. The owners of the land on which they were living requested that they leave – 30 years is enough. So eventually they left back to their own ancestral land – only a couple of miles south of Laqia – by the old ruined school, by their old cemetery. The adult sons built their old mother a modest brick home. The rest built tin shacks. A year ago the government came and destroyed several houses – including the brick home.
Some of the people of Twail Abu Jarwal rebuilt, some moved into more crowded homes with their adult siblings. The government came nine months later and demolished 7 more homes. Again, some rebuilt their shacks, some moved in with family. The government came back last month and just to harass, uprooted fences, holding the sheep. And now they came in order to make sure the work is complete.
Israel`s Minister of Interior, Roni Bar-On, two days ago was invited to give answers to the Internal Affairs Committee in the Knesset, as to what solutions the government is advancing in order to solve the issue of the unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev, and why the government is demolishing homes while these people have no `legal` options for building homes. Bar-On claimed that everything is just fine, he is doing all he can to deal with this issue, but a criminal must be punished, and therefore all the `illegal` Bedouin homes in the Negev must be demolished.
He claimed that as far as he is concerned, there are not enough demolitions in the Negev. And now he has proved that he is a man of his word – 17 homes demolished in one foul swoop. Of the 150,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel living in the Negev, over 50% live in villages that the government as policy has left `unrecognized` , meaning that there are no options for building permits, as well as running water, electricity, roads, sewer systems and trash removal, additionally there are very minimal education and health facilities. This policy`s aim is to force the Bedouins off their ancestral lands and to concentrate the Bedouins in urban townships, regardless of their wishes or their culture.
However, there are also no options for living in the concentration towns the government has built, as there are no available plots of land for homes, as in the case of the families of the Twail abu-Jarwal village. Therefore the government can `legally` demolish the homes of 80,000 members of this community, while they cannot build one `legal` home.
In December, members of Al Okbi tribe invited supporters to join them in sowing crops. "On Saturday, December 16, 2006, Jews and Arabs joined together to undertake traditional Bedouin sowing of the lands that belong to the Al Okbi tribe in the Negev. During the sowing, three people were arrested and a confrontation developed with the police that tried to stop the activity.
Approximately 100 activists arrived in the morning to the Al Arakib region (located five kilometers south of Rahat) to help sow the fields of the Al Okbi tribe. The aim was to sow 200 dunam of wheat which would help financially support members of the tribe. As soon as the activity began, the police tried stopping the planters and three activists were forcibly arrested and brought for investigation to Rahat".
Israel's clearances of Bedouin are being spurred on by foreign capital and ambitions to develop minerals (particularly oil shale) and industry in the Negev, as well as expanding settlements and military bases.
See for instance, on American money:
and on oil shale:
REMEMBER the way our media treated the removal of Israeli settlers from the Gaza strip? Night by night the BBC brought us pictures of weeping settlers struggling with soldiers - and not a thought for those whose land they had settled, nor a mention that they were being provided with compensation and alternative homes and settlements. What a perfomance!
The other day I was remarking to someone how the BBC had failed to give the slightest coverage to events such as Bil'in, in the West Bank, where troops and border police attacked Palestinians and Israelis demonstrating against the Israeli 'Apartheid Wall'. My friend thought perhaps coverage was hindered by restrictions on the reporters and film crews. But see, for instance:
Newsmen and photographers have been casualties. But if the corporate media don't wish to expose their own staff, why not run some of material shot by brave local filmers and activists?
Campaigners did manage to get a BBC radio team in to look at what was happening in the Negev.
So who knows, maybe TV news coverage will catch up.
The mass evictions of Negev Bedouin are not taking place under military rule in occupied territory but within the Israeli state, where the Bedouin are supposedly citizens with equal rights! Yet the Israeli state refuses to recognise their villages and the Minister of the Interior can call them "criminals" simply for being where they are. A campaign called "Enough" is being launched this month in London to say that Israel's 40 year long occupation of territory seized in 1967 must be brought to an end. Quite right too. But even if the Zionists are finally persuaded to withdraw from the Occupied Territories -and it will take more than talk - the treatment of the Bedouin within the pre-1967 borders reminds us that withdrawal will not be enough. Not if we believe that human beings are entitled to be treated as such.
If you believe what you hear on the news, Condeleeza Rice has been out there helping Israel re-open efforts for "peace". US warships heading for the Gulf suggest a different interpretation. But if the Israeli government did want peace it could begin by making peace with some of its own citizens.
Some sources for more information:
Arab Human Rights Association, factsheet:
BUSTAN, a partnership of Jewish and Arab eco-builders, architects, academics, and farmers promoting social and environmental justice and fair allocation of resources in Israel/Palestine.
The Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages was created in 1997 as the representative body for the residents of the 45 Bedouin unrecognized villages in the Israeli Negev. Hussein al-Rafaia is the elected head of the RCUV. For more information, please contact Yeela Raanan, 054 7487005, or via email at email@example.com, Civil Society Activities Coordinator, Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages.