Friday, December 31, 2010

Seeing the Unseen: The Forgotten Palestinian-Israeli Problem, by Devorah Brous - Jerusalem Report, Jan. 3, 2011

To view the article in PDF as it appears in the Jerusalem Report, please click here.

In late November, for the seventh time in the last five months, Israeli authorities razed the “unrecognized” Bedouin village of Al-Arakib in the Negev, evicting 300 Israeli citizens from their homes. And for the seventh time the residents began to rebuild in a Sisyphean struggle with the Jewish state.

Even before the desert dust had settled, two major Jewish National Fund (JNF) projects were almost completed in the immediate vicinity of the village. Funded by Evangelical Christian Zionists from the “Land of Promise” and “GOD-TV” “to invite the Second Coming of Christ,” half of a new one million tree "GOD-TV Forest" already extends in a vast swath near Al-Arakib. And the Israel Antiquities Authority auspiciously uncovered the ruins of a 6th century Byzantine church at the entrance to the brand new JNF settlement of Givot Bar next to Al-Arakib.

Both JNF projects highlight a familiar cycle: Arab land is expropriated, cleared and re-zoned for State use to prevent Arabs from returning. Despite national master plans designed to keep development accountable, there is no effective process in place that enables full democratic participation of all interested stakeholders in decisions on future building and planting schemes in the Negev.

For example, to the surprise and chagrin of watchdogs on the ground, Bedouin wheat and lentil fields were uprooted by the State over a five-year period to establish Givot Bar. Then the GOD-TV forest sprouted out of nowhere and now church excavations have begun without any public scrutiny. The Israel Lands Administration offered Al Arakib villagers a very low rate to rent ‘agricultural land’ from the State. Since development on such land is prohibited, Bedouin would be legally barred from building homes there, so they refused the offer. Beyond pragmatic concerns, it’s a matter of principle: Why should they rent what they have long tended, grazed and believe they already own?

Most people are largely unaware of the non-violent struggle waged by some 74,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel’s “unrecognized villages.” These villagers are resisting Israel's attempts to relocate them in government-built and Arab-only “recognized cities” where roughly 96,000 landless Bedouin have moved. Though these cities boast better government services than the unrecognized villages, they suffer from years of state underfunding and consistently report the country's highest rates of unemployment and crime. Furthermore, they have proven not only inhospitable but destructive to an ancient Bedouin culture of dry lands farming and animal husbandry.

Bedouin in the “unrecognized villages” argue their land tenure cases vociferously in court and resist pressure to sign statements barring them from their lands. They choose to remain in tin shanties or cement block homes without electricity, sewage systems or running water, with one clear aim: to hold onto their village grounds. They challenge the discriminatory institutional, zoning and legal mechanisms used to deny building permits and keep Arab villages outside the state's planning frameworks.

Appeals to have their land rights recognized are doomed from the outset. Since the Knesset has passed laws enabling Bedouin acreage to be declared "state land," land claims are systematically denied under jurisprudence with a built-in bias. Deemed "illegal squatters" lacking land title, Bedouin are seen as "serial invaders" who "infiltrate and seize state land." Most recently, Israel’s parliament approved on preliminary reading a bill proposed by Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu party that would require owners of “illegal construction” to pay for the demolition of their homes. Far from serving justice, the law has become the hand-maiden of Jewish ultra-nationalism.

Despite fierce criticism by environmentalists and civil rights advocates, the JNF is working to entice an additional 250,000 Jews to settle in newly built desert neighborhoods like Givot Bar. Their ambitious “Blueprint Negev” plan is bankrolled by private American charitable support, unleashing a “new Zionism” that heeds David Ben Gurion’s clarion call to settle the Negev.

Such development is sold as “progress.” Yet many donors remain unaware that planting Bar and Bat Mitzvah trees in the “barren desert” is not mere tzedekah (charity), but a political act that deepens the Jewish/Arab conflict over land and resources. What could have been a noble pursuit is, in actual fact, discriminatory development designed to corral Bedouin into ever more constricted tracts of land in order to reclaim Arab-held territory for Jewish or Evangelical Zionist use.

JNF claims that tree planting is a shared national symbol that benefits Jews and Arabs. But it is also an invisible agent of conquest. Within no time, trees will effectively conceal evidence of the former inhabitants of Al-Arakib and the Negev Arab land rights struggle will remain unseen.

The first step in truly transforming the Blueprint of the Negev is to stop the nearly 200 Bedouin home demolitions a year, which the Netanyahu government has promised to triple. The second step requires seeing the forest through the trees. The JNF and government bodies must work with local communities to develop Israel’s Negev in a way that is equitable, sustainable and culturally appropriate for the region’s diverse inhabitants, including the Negev Bedouin, Israel’s most disenfranchised minority.

Devorah Brous, the founder of "Bustan," a Jewish/Bedouin environmental justice NGO in the Negev, is now based in Los Angeles, where she serves as co-director of the Campaign for Bedouin-Jewish Justice in Israel, a project of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America and the Jewish Alliance for Change (

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Leading Bedouin rights activist imprisoned for 7 months - abuse of Israeli judicial system to persecute Bedouin

Nuri al-Okbi, head of the Association for Protection of the Rights Bedouins in Israel and also active for the rights of the Arab residents of Lod, many of whom were originally Negev Bedouins, was sentenced to seven months imprisonment on charges of "running a business without a license".

The business in question is a garage which al-Okbi has been maintaining since 1964 in Lod. Over the years, the Municipality of Lod's policy has undergone unpredictable changes, with the garage getting a permit in some years and being denied it in others.

Following the verdict, al-Okbi said: "I have become the target of politically-motivated discrimination and intimidation, with the intention of gagging me, putting an end to my speaking out against the municipality's policies - for example, the demolition of seven homes of Arab residents about a week ago. The Police, Fire Department, the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of the Environment all certified that my garage conformed to all regulations.

Nevertheless, the municipality had deprived me of a business license, while granting one to people in my neighborhood whose businesses were started after my garage. I am sure that if I had been ready to toe the line dictated by the municipality, I would have had no problem in obtaining a license. Their real problem is not my garage, but my public activity."

Following the harsh verdict, al-Okbi – who is 68 years old and suffers from a heart condition - felt ill and was hospitalized at the Assaf Harofeh Hospital, where he is hospitalized under police supervision and his hands and feet handcuffed to the bed. The police also prevented al-Okbi's son, who came to the hospital, from talking to him.

Originally, the court seemed inclined to let al-Okbi perform community service in lieu of imprisonment, and in fact he already made arrangements with a Ramla soup kitchen which was interested in having him. At the last moment, however, Judge Zachariya Yemini of the Ramla Magistrate's Court decided to act severely and imposed a seven months' term - rather than six months, the maximum term which under Israeli law can be commuted to community service.

In his verdict, the judge, referring to his human rights work specifically noted that "treating the defendant leniently would constitute a negative message to the public, and especially to the Bedouin" – i.e. his activism on behalf of the Bedouin community was the specific and explicit reason why he was treated severely.

Adv. Avi Dubin, al-Okbi's lawyer, asked the court to delay implementation so as to facilitate the lodging of an appeal, but the judge conditioned such a delay upon the immediate depositing of thirty thousand shekels at the court's treasury, a sum which al-Okbi could not raise – whereupon he was immediately taken off to imprisonment.

In addition to the prison term, the court imposed on al-Okbi a fine amounting to forty thousand shekels, failure to pay which would lead to his undergoing four hundred additional days in prison. Adv. Dubin filed an appeal against this verdict. "I hope that in the deliberations of a higher court, Israel's judicial system would show more consideration to Nuri al-Okbi. There is no justification for the severe treatment meted to him" says Adam Keller, spokesperson of Gush Shalom, who has long followed Nuri al-Okbi's struggle for the rights of the Negev Bedouin community.

Reprinted from

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bedouin tribes' land fears over God-TV's tree planting, by Jonathan Cook - The National

NAZARETH, ISRAEL - Half a million trees planted during the past 18 months on the ancestral lands of Bedouin tribes in Israel's Negev region were bought by a controversial Christian evangelical television channel that calls itself God-TV, US tax records show.

A sign posted a few kilometres north of Beersheba, the Negev's main city, announces plans to plant a total of a million trees over a large area of desert that has already been designated "God-TV Forest".

The Jewish National Fund, an international non-profit organisation in charge of forestation and developing Jewish settlements in Israel, received US$500,000 (Dh1.8m) from God-TV to plant some of the trees, according to the channel's filings to US tax authorities last year.

A coalition of Jewish and Bedouin human rights groups have denounced the project, accusing God-TV and the JNF of teaming up to force the Bedouin out of the area to make way for Jewish-only communities.

"The JNF, instead of promoting civic equality for all Israelis - the basis for trust and peaceful co-existence - is now supporting (and being supported by) an evangelical ministry that wishes to utilise Israel and the planting of trees to bring about the Second Coming of Christ," the coalition said in a statement.

"The Israel of the JNF, the Israel Land Administration and the Israeli Government is one where Bedouin Arabs are displaced and discriminated against so that forests funded by Jews and evangelical Christians and exclusively Jewish communities can be built, preventing Bedouin Israelis from ever returning to their land, forcing them to live in poverty and neglect."

No one from God-TV was available for comment, but in a video posted on its website, Rory Alec, the channel's co-founder, said he had begun fundraising for the forest after receiving "an instruction from God" a few years ago. He said God had told him: "Prepare the land for the return of my Son."

Standing next to the "God-TV Forest" sign, Mr Alec thanked thousands of viewers for making donations to "sow a seed for God", adding: "I tell you Jesus is coming back soon!"
Part of the forest has been planted on land claimed by the Aturi tribe, whose village, al-Araqib, is nearby.

Al-Araqib has been demolished seven times [sic: eight times] in recent months by the Israeli police as officials increase the pressure on the 350 inhabitants to move to Rahat, an under-funded, government-planned township nearby.

Earlier this year, Joe Stork, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division, criticised the repeated attempts by Israeli authorities to eradicate the village and displace its residents.

"Tearing down an entire village and leaving its inhabitants homeless without exhausting all other options for settling long-standing land claims is outrageous," he said.

Human Rights Watch and other international human rights groups have criticised Israel for harsh measures taken against the people of al-Araqib and the other 90,000 Bedouin who live in Negev villages that the Israel refuses to recognise. They accuse the government of trying to pre-empt a court case moving through Israeli courts aimed at settling the Bedouin ownership claims.
God-TV's involvement in the dispute has prompted fresh concern.

Neve Gordon, a politics professor at Ben Gurion University in Beersheba, said the JNF, which has semi-governmental status in Israel, had set a "dangerous precedent" in accepting money from God-TV.

"The Israeli authorities are playing with fire," he said. "This dispute between the Israeli government and the Bedouin is a long one that until now focused on the question of land rights. But the involvement of extremist Christian groups like God-TV is likely to turn this into a religious confrontation, and that will be much harder to resolve."

The JNF declined to respond to questions from The National about its involvement with God-TV or the Negev forest.

Mr Gordon said it was particularly worrying that Mr Alec was using the language of Biblical prophecy in justifying his decision to finance the forest.

The channel, which has become one of the most popular global evangelical stations since its founding in Britain 15 years ago, claims an audience of up to a half-billion viewers, including 20 million in the United States.

Stephen Sizer, a British vicar and critic of Christian Zionist groups, described God-TV as part of an evangelical movement that believes Israel's establishment and expansion are bringing nearer the "end times" - or the moment when, according to Christians, Jesus will return for the second time.

He said the funding of Jewish immigration to Israel and the planting of trees is far from innocuous. Rather, he said, it is a way for Christian Zionist groups to support the Israeli right's hard-line policies aimed at dispossessing Palestinians of their land and replacing them with Jews, thus expediting Jesus's return.

Mr Sizer said there was increasing co-operation between Israeli institutions and Christian evangelical groups, which have begun basing their operations in Israel.
God-TV has proclaimed itself the only television channel to broadcast globally from Jerusalem, following its relocation there from the UK in 2007.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the head of the Union of Reform Judaism in the US, has repeatedly called on Israel to sever contacts with Christian Zionist and evangelical groups, describing them as opposed to "territorial compromise under any and all circumstances".

However, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, has sought out support from Christian evangelical groups such as Christians United for Israel (Cufi), according to Shalom Goldman, a professor at Atlanta's Emory University, who recently published a book on the Christian Zionist movement.

Haia Noach, the director of the Negev Coexistence Forum, which campaigns for Bedouin rights, said her organisation feared more of God-TV's trees would be planted on Bedouin lands in the coming weeks. A depot has recently been established close to al-Araqib to store four bulldozers.

"The villagers refuse to abandon al-Araqib, even though it has been destroyed seven times. But once a forest is planted there, there will be no chance to go back," she said.

She said she feared the goal was to build Jewish communities on Bedouin land. She cited the case of Givot Bar, which was secretly established by the government on part of al-Araqib's lands in 2003.

Repeated letters to the JNF for information about their forestation programme had gone unanswered, she said.

Awad Abu Freih, a community leader at al-Araqib, said the house demolitions and forest-planting were only the latest measures by the government to remove the villagers.

Repeated destruction of the al-Araqib's crops by spraying them with herbicides was ruled illegal by Israel's Supreme Court in 2004.

Efforts to move 90,000 Bedouin off their lands close to Beersheba have been intensifying since 2003, when the Israeli government announced plans to move them into a handful of townships.
The Bedouin have resisted, complaining that the official communities are little more than urban reservations that languish at the bottom of the country's social and economic tables.

Originally published in the National on Dec. 28, 2010

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Negev Bedouin, the IDF and Religion in Israel: News Analysis by Rachel Metz - Special to the Campaign for Bedouin-Jewish Justice in Israel

The Israel Defense Forces
Israel’s Defense Ministry has recently requested funds to move several military units to the Negev. In theory this is a good idea – the taxpayers save money and a peripheral area of the country gets an economic boost. The problem is that the Israeli government has a bad history of using such development projects to displace indigenous Bedouin from their lands without providing compensation that allows them to provide for themselves.

Many of the Bedouin displaced by Israel’s military forces were moved to the seven government-established Bedouin towns. Unfortunately, these towns, like the rest of Israel’s Arab areas, suffer disproportionately from low state investment in public infrastructure and services.

Other Bedouin have opted to stay on, or as close as possible to, their land, living in villages that are unrecognized by the state. Because these villages do not appear on maps, the health of their residents is not taken into account in planning decisions, and these villagers, particularly those living near the Ramat Hovav industrial site, suffer disproportionately from cancer, birth defects, asthma, and other problems. (It’s worth noting that the Bedouin are hardly the only indigenous people to suffer and die from health ailments that nobody else cared enough to prevent. In the U.S. context, perhaps the most glaring example is the Navajo, whose cancer rates among teenagers living near uranium mine tailings are seventeen times the national average.)

With the IDF being the biggest polluter in Israel, construction of a new base begs the question of what will happen to those currently living on the construction site.

The U.S. State Department has released its annual Religious Freedom Report for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This report notes that Israel’s budget covers the costs of construction and maintenance for [orthodox] Jewish places of worship but does not cover construction at all, and maintenance only minimally, for non-Jewish places of worship. To put it bluntly, this discriminatory state policy forces members of some religions and denominations (including Reform and Conservative Jews) to subsidize the worship of orthodox Jews.

Living in Beer Sheva, I certainly felt the effects of this policy. Though there were several orthodox synagogues within walking distance of my apartment and dozens if not hundreds in the city as a whole (which no doubt benefited from the city tax that I had to pay but that they don’t), there is only one non-orthodox synagogue in the city, and it is privately funded.

The city’s historic mosque, which dates from Ottoman times, has been used for non-religious purposes since 1948. Despite efforts by the city’s roughly 5,000 Muslim residents, the city will not allow it to be reopened as a mosque. The religious needs of Israel’s non-orthodox residents are clearly not being met the way anyone committed to equality would want.

In Rahat, the largest Bedouin city with its population of over 40,000, Islamic Movement activists sought to fill this void by building a mosque. A few months later, in early November, the Israel Lands Administration demolished it. Over 1,000 local residents protested the demolition and the city declared a one-day general strike of all city services, including education, in protest as well. Were Israel trying to increase support for political Islamic groups it could not have done a better job of it.

Rachel Metz lived in Beer Sheva, Israel from 2007 through 2009 while earning her master's degree in Middle East Studies from Ben Gurion University. Her experiences in the Negev included interning for BUSTAN, a Jewish/Bedouin environmental justice NGO.

That same passion for social justice motivated her to combat U.S. poverty through AVODAH, the Jewish Service Corps, work on the largest reservation in the U.S., and write articles, opinion pieces and letters to the editor for publications including In These Times, The Jerusalem Post, and The Washington Post. She currently lives in the Washington, DC area where she works in environmental protection.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Background Analysis: Eight times Al-Arakib has fallen, and it will arise eight times, by Rabbi Arik Ascherman

From our partners at the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, who were on the ground at Al-Arakib:

The Negev Bedouin village of Al- Arakib was demolished this morning for the eighth time since the assault began on July 27.

The residents' resolve, however, has not been weakened to remain on their land and rebuild again.

There was also a second demolition for a family living in the orchard south of Al Arakib.

From Rabbi Arik Ascherman of Rabbis for Human Rights

Rabbis for Human Rights protests the insensitivity and violence of Israeli authorities in demolishing the homes of the residents of the “unrecognized” Bedouin Negev village of Al Arakib again and again, while not making the effort to work with the residents to find a compromise solution. We are terribly saddened that the State of Israel ignores hundreds of building violations in the Occupied Territories and inside the Green Line, but has adopted a hard line policy towards peaceful Israeli Bedouin citizens.

This latest demolition was carried out with tens of troops and bulldozers, just a day before the beginning of a two week vacation for now homeless schoolchildren.

RHR calls for all those desiring peace and good neighborliness with our country to support our Bedouin citizens and demand an immediate moratorium of all demolitions and evictions until the Beersheva District Court rules on the petitions by the Bedouin to reclaim their lands.
We pray that the Land of Israel will be good and gracious to all of her citizens.

Just last Friday, RHR organized an interfaith service in Al Arakib with over 300 participants and Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders.

In these difficult moments, the rabbis of RHR extend our sympathy and prayers to the residents of Al Arakib, and again call on people of faith in Israel and around the world to continue reciting RHR’s prayer prayer for Al Arakib this weekend in synagogues, mosques, in Christmas worship and in other places of worship.

General Background

In 1948, the Bedouin population in Israel’s Negev numbered approximately one hundred thousand persons. Following the War of Independence in 1948-1949, most of these individuals were expelled/fled to Gaza, Jordan, or the Sinai Peninsula, even though they took no part in hostilities against Israel. The Jahalin tribe were intimidated into leaving for the West Bank in the early 50′s, well after the war. Throughout the Negev, only about 11,000 Bedouin remained. Following international diplomatic pressure, relatively small numbers of expelled Bedouin were allowed to return to Israel.

Before the war, Bedouin lived in all parts of the Negev (an area of approximately 13 million dunams, or 3.25 million acres) and earned their livelihood by raising sheep and goats throughout the region, as well as by agriculture, growing wheat and other grains, on an area of approximately 2 million dunams (about half a million acres).

At the beginning of the 1950’s, the State of Israel decided to evict from their lands most of the Bedouin then residing in the central and western Negev, both fertile and well-watered areas, and resettle them in the eastern Negev, a barren area with very little rainfall.

Bedouin were either moved by force, or persuaded to “move temporarily” for the sake of military exercises, etc. However, even after being transferred from their lands and villages to the area of the eastern Negev, the Bedouin communities in their new locations were not recognized either. Governmental officials did not allocate other lands to them as compensation, nor did they see to it that these persons were provided with basic services and employment as was done for millions of Jewish immigrants who arrived in Israel during the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Today, this sad and disgraceful situation still remains the lot of half of the Bedouin residents of the Negev, who reside in 45 unrecognized villages. Because these villages do not exist as far as the state is concerned, they are entirely lacking infrastructure for water, electricity, roads, education, and health care. An additional 95,000 Bedouin reside in seven towns that Israel set up for their settlement, but in which everyday living conditions are extremely difficult, with high rates of unemployment and inferior municipal services in comparison with the Jewish settlements in the Negev. These seven Bedouin towns are located statistically at the bottom of the socio-economic scale of all settlements in Israel.

Despite the Bedouin appeals to allow them to choose for themselves the type of settlements in which they will live — whether urban, rural, or community-based — the State of Israel insists on settling the Bedouin in newly established towns clearly inappropriate for the Bedouin way of life. Israelis are concerned about Bedouin taking over the Negev and feel that the land is needed for the Jewish population. However, the lands claimed by the Bedouin are only 3% of the entire Negev. When Bedouin attempt to return to their ancestral lands, they are portrayed as trespassers, squatting and taking over land that belongs to the State.

During the 1970’s, when given the opportunity to do so, 3,200 Bedouin landowners filed claims of ownership for lands covering approximately 900,000 dunam in area (today the outstanding claims pertain to 650,000 dunams) out of a total of 13 million dunams over which the Negev extends. (There are four dunam to an acre) Today, after decades, most of the claims for ownership have still not been brought to court, most of the witnesses to the ownership of the lands have died, the lands have not been returned to their owners, and the injustice has been left uncorrected.

If this were not enough, recently the State of Israel has used the Jewish National Fund (JNF) to further the eviction of Bedouin in the Negev by planting trees on lands to which the latter claim ownership. As the battle over these lands intensifies, Israeli authorities have stepped up the demolition of homes, destruction of crops, preventing of grazing, etc. There is no possibility of building legally in an unrecognized village, because there is no building plan. All use of the land for agricultural purposes or grazing is deemed to be an illegal intrusion.

In recent years, the Bedouin have been trying to use the Israeli legal system to regain their lands. The Bedouin have brought evidence regarding continuous Bedouin occupation and cultivation of the lands around Beersheba. They have brought documentation of the fact that Bedouin lands were governed for generations by a well functioning traditional land ownership system, sanctioned by the Ottoman and British authorities. Unfortunately, the Bedouin did not register their land in the British land title books.

Another reality is possible. Some one dozen villages have been recognized in recent years. These villages were previously in the exact same situation as Al-Arakib, slated for evacuation. A committee set up by the government has called the situation of the unrecognized villages untenable and recommended recognizing many more, but the government does not wish to do so.

The Family Farms Law legalized the status of 60 Jewish (and one Arab) family ranches and farms set up without planning approval in the Negev. This is another precedent which could be used to grant a legal status to Bedouin communities.

Al-Arakib is a community of some 300 men, women and children approximately 10 kilometers north of Beersheva. The cemetery with the graves of generations of the El-Turi tribe testifies to the fact that this community existed long before the establishment of the State of Israel. The tribe says that it has lived there since the 19th century, and they have Turkish and British documents showing that they worked, the land and paid taxes. There are also bills of sale and purchase between tribes. In 1907 and in 1929 the El-Turis purchased land from the El-Ukbi tribe totaling some 1,600 dunams.

At the beginning of the 1950’s, Israel evacuated by force the Bedouin living in Al-Arakib, north of Beersheva. The evacuees were told that their lands were needed for military exercises, and promised that within six months they would be allowed to return to their village. This promise that was not kept. Instead, by means of the Land Purchase Legislation of 1953, various government agencies used the forced absence of the Bedouin from the area to transfer ownership of their lands to the State.

Many of the members of the El-Turi tribe had been moved to the nearby town of Rahat. They maintained some grazing rights, and would return to Al-Arakib to try and farm the land, or to be buried in the cemetery. However, the lands largely remained fallow for some 50 years.

The Israel Land Administration (ILA) transferred by lease the lands of Al-Arakib to the Jewish National Fund (JNF) for the purpose of forestation. Following approval authorized by the ILA, the JNF began land works of unprecedented proportions on the lands of Al-Arakib resulting in massive changes in the region’s topography and the forestation of these lands. The JNF last week established a large new bulldozer camp just one kilometer from Al Arakib, and is now planting one million trees in Israel, including many near the village of Al Arakib, as part of the “God-TV Forest.” JNF has accepted substantial donations from an evangelical Christian ministry called God-TV, who claim to have received “instructions from God…to prepare the land for the return of my Son…[to] plant a million trees.”

Approximately ten years ago, understanding that the plan was to erase their village by means of forestation, they returned and built homes, and began pressing their claims in court. Their case is currently in front of the Beersheva District Court, but these cases can take years to adjudicate. There have been constant attempts to demolish these homes, and every year agricultural crops are sprayed and killed.

The struggle has reached new heights since the summer of 2010. The ILA has demolished Al- Arakib seven times between July and November. While they have not tried to rebuild their more permanent structures, they have time after time attempted to rebuild simple tents, shacks and other forms of shelter with makeshift materials. Each time massive numbers of police, helicopters and bulldozers come to demolish the village, the families to take refuge in the cemetery, the one area where they are left alone. From the cemetery and the temporary shelters that are built anew after every demolition, one can see the forests approaching from several directions, even as helicopters whip up dust in the nearby military training zone.

“We are not invaders, nor squatters,” said Sheikh Sayyah. “It is the state that has invaded us.”