Friday, September 17, 2010

Statement by Leading Israelis

This statement by leading Israeli writers, artists, intellectuals and activists was published in Israel’s major daily newspaper, Ha'aretz, on September 13th, 2010, the day the Bedouin village of Al-Arakib was demolished for the fifth time.

Click here to help the Jewish Alliance for Change publish this Israeli statement of conscience with the names of prominent Israeli and American Jewish signatories in American Jewish newspapers in major cities.

The video below, which precedes the statement, depicts events at a recent demolition of Al-Arakib.

A horror show as brutal as the one that took place in the Bedouin village of the Al-Touri family in Al-Arakib, in which no less than 1,500 police, special forces and mounted police entered the village armed to the teeth as though setting out to fight the bitterest of enemies, has not taken place since Land Day in 1976 and the events of October 2000.

All these forces and their bulldozers arrived at the village to uproot 300 residents, young and old, and raze their homes to the ground. Since then they have repeated the spectacle four times, each time with the same violence.

Even if it is true that they came with legally signed orders, it is no less true that the Bedouin residents and the state are locked in a dispute over ownership of the land. This is not the way to settle a dispute that is still under deliberation in the courts. The Bedouin residents have documents and proof of their traditional rights to the land and of their residence there for hundreds of years, from the time of the Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate, prior to the establishment of the state of Israel.

The state has enacted discriminatory laws against the Bedouin Arab population in Israel, and by way of those laws expelled them from their villages, relocated them, robbed them of their lands and transferred ownership of those lands to the state.

The arbitrary policy of demolishing homes is meant to sow fear in the residents so that they will leave their villages and give up their right to live on their land. This policy violates the basic rights to shelter, to life, and to well-being, rights which the state ensures for the Jewish population in Israel, but ignores with regard to the Arab population. The right to housing is anchored in international law, particularly in treaties on social, economic and cultural rights that Israel has signed and ratified.

Insistence on the laws that the state has enacted in opposition to these treaties is malevolent, foolish and short-sighted. Rather than coming to a mutually acceptable agreement with the Bedouin Arab community on ownership of the land and on the type of settlement it prefers, the state holds fast to its intention of concentrating all the Bedouin in yet another crowded township, plagued with unemployment and neglect in every area of life.

Nothing like this exists in any other Western country: that so great a number of tax-paying citizens are denied their basic rights to water, electricity, infrastructure, health services and education as are denied to the 90,000 Bedouin citizens of the state of Israel who live in 45 unrecognized villages in the Negev.

With a modicum of effort, fairness, goodwill, and an understanding of the needs of the Bedouin community, it is possible to arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement on the issues in dispute that will benefit all the residents and communities of the Negev. Prolonging or unilaterally forcing the situation holds genuine danger for all the residents of the Negev, Jews and Arabs alike.

It is unthinkable that the state of Israel encourages and invests in settlements of every kind for Jews in the Negev, including single-family farms rich in acreage and public resources, while ignoring the needs of the Bedouin community and its future development, in flagrant violation of the principle of equality.

Before the situation gets worse, before calamity strikes, we call on the Government of Israel to stop, to rethink its policy and to arrive at an agreed solution with the Bedouin Arabs in the Negev.


Ronit Matalon
Amos Oz, Israel Prize Laureate
Sami Michael
Avraham B. Yehoshua, Israel Prize Laureate
David Grossman
Yousef Abu-Zayd
Sheikh Sayah A-Touri
Atiyya Al-Assem
Shulamit Aloni, Israel Prize Laureate
Prof. Naomi Chazan
Nathan Zach, Israel Prize Laureate
Prof. Anat Biletzki
David Tartakover
Prof. Oren Yiftachel
Anat Matar
Gadi Algazi
Prof. Ilana Krausman
Adv. Dan Yakir
Rachel Michael
Yehoshua Sobol
Prof. Aryeh Arnon
Dr. Mordechai Bar-On
Prof. Moshe Shoked
Rabbi Arik Ascherman
Dr. Edna Lumski-Feder
Prof. Uri Ram
Adv. Rawiya Abu-Rabi’a
Haia Noach
Hasan al-Malhi
Yaakov Manor
Rim Chazan
Amos Gvirtz
Prof. Ruth Butler
Prof. Amiram Goldblum
Yair Yanov
Dr. Sarah Helmann
Dr. Alla Shainskaya
Prof. Itzhak Nevo
Prof. Iris Parush
Nouri al-Ukbi
Prof. Ruchama Marton
Miri Barak
Jonathan Pollack
Silan Dallal
Michal Rotem
Prof. Marwan Dweiri
Adv. Michael Sfard
Prof. Aeyal Gross
Prof. Daniel Bartal
Dr. Dan Filk
Prof. Neta Ziv
Prof. Avner Ben-Amos
Adv. Avigdor Feldman
Dr. Awad Abu-Freih
Khalil al-Amour
Mickey Fischer
Mahasen Rabus
Eilat Maoz
Noam Tirosh

NGO’s who contributed to the publication of this ad in Ha'aretz are: The Coalition against Racism in Israel, Shatil, Coalition of Women for Peace, Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, Recognition Forum.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bedouin Village Razed for the 5th time, Ilana Curiel, Ynet

Land Administration, police demolish village of al-Arakib in Negev a month after residents rebuild it. MK El-Sana: Solution is recognition, not displacement

Authorities are determined to demolish an unrecognized Bedouin village in The Negev – residents of the Bedouin village al-Arakib rebuilt their houses four times, after they were razed by The Israel Land Administration.

On Sunday night, a day after the conclusion of Eid al-Fitr, the village was razed once again. However, as soon as Land Administration members and police officers left the scene, the residents promptly began the reconstruction work.

The village was demolished for the fourth time at the beginning of the month of Ramadan, but as in previous instances, it was immediately rebuilt.

Member of Knesset Talab El-Sana (United Arab List-Ta'al) said "the demolition operations lead to unrest and disobedience in the Arab sector in general, and the Negev in particular..." El-Sana vowed the demolished village would be reconstructed, adding that "the only solution is recognition, not displacement; issuing building permits, not demolition."

Excerpted from Ynet, 9/13/10

Open Letter to a Policeman, by Amos Gvirtz

One of the ills of human society is crime. People experiencing theft, robbery, rape or assault hope that police would arrive on the scene of the crime to prevent it, apprehend the criminals and bring them to trial. Society cannot function without blocking the spread of crime. In a properly constituted state, it is the task of the police and of the policemen to give citizens a feeling of security in daily life.

In Israel, there is an entire community which lost most of its possessions and which lives under a constant threat of losing the few things remaining, losing the very roof overhead. Unlike most Israeli citizens, they have no one to whom they could turn to protect them from the criminal acts which blight their lives. It is not criminals nor lawbreakers who come to demolish their homes, destroy their crops and rob them of their last remaining lands. It is government representatives, accompanied by the police of the State of Israel, who are doing it! It is the government which sends its representatives to commit these acts, after having taken care to enact laws which would make them all legal. Crime authorized by law! It is no wonder that after nearly all their land was robbed from them, after their ability to earn a livelihood was so greatly diminished, there are so many criminals among them.

You are told that say the Bedouins in the unrecognized villages are violating the building laws. You are sent to enforce the law against these lawbreakers. Did you ever ask yourself how could an entire population, about 90,000 people, be lawbreakers? All of them lawbreakers? After all, it is well known that lawbreakers constitute a certain percentage in every society – they are never the whole, entire society. How is it possible that the entire Bedouin population of the unrecognized villages, in exercising the basic human right to shelter, is in violation of Israeli law? Can there be something problematic about the law itself?

The State of Israel evacuated entire Bedouin tribes from their land, while robbing these lands and taking them to itself. The Bedouins were settled in the area known as Sayag (the Reserve). Then, the government passed a law (The Planning and Construction Act of 1965) which defined the same Sayag Area as a `no-construction zone`. In this way, by means of a cynical, politically motivated law, the state made all the Bedouins into lawbreakers. Some of the Bedouin villages in the Sayag Area had existed there even before the State of Israel came into being. The state refuses to recognize these, either. By means of the political legislation, the state has made their inhabitants into criminals, too.

Many of the Jewish communities created in the Negev before the creation of Israel were established on land which the Zionist movement bought from Bedouins. But since the state came into being, it refuses to recognize the Bedouins` ownership of their lands. The state makes use of you – a police officer, a person entrusted with power to fight crime – in order to rob the Bedouin lands by brute force! Of course, the state has taken care to give it all a `legal` cover and pretext.

Try to imagine a situation – an utterly impossible one, I hope – that the Knesset would enact a law making robbery legal. I`m sure you would refuse to go on serving in a police force which is not committed to oppose banditry. But by means of its Planning and Construction Laws, the state has created a situation which makes it possible to rob with impunity the lands of the Bedouins! In the early 1950`s many Bedouin tribes were removed from their land – being promised that that this was temporary, and that they would be allowed to return after the army has used the land for a limited period of training. Instead, the state enacted the 1953 Acquisition of Land Act, by which the lands reverted to its ownership. Robbery, pure and simple! And after decades in which the state made no use of these lands, the Jewish National Fund is sent to plants woods on them, so as to prove that they are being used – and most importantly, keep their owners from returning to them. A Bedouin demanding to get back his land, who tries to cultivate them or return to live on them, is being punished. Destruction of crops, destruction of houses, destruction of villages – all are part of safeguarding the robbery! And you are being sent to enforce such laws!

I have heard that many of the police officers sent to destroy homes and villages do not carry the name tags on their uniforms. I`m sure they are ashamed of their acts, as they have a good reason to be! After all, they joined the police in order to fight crime, not in order to perpetrate it!

At the end of your work day you come home and proudly tell your family of apprehending criminals and wrongdoers! But what can you tell your parents on a day which you spent evicting other elderly people? What can you tell your wife and children when your day`s work had been to drive women and children from their homes and leave them homeless? Can you not perceive the horrible gap between a worthy job of protecting society from destructive criminals and destroying the fabric of daily life of living human beings, people whose only crime is being born Bedouin in the State of the Jews?

The Open Letter was written this week by Amos Gvirtz, member of Kibbutz Shefayim and a decades-long tireless activist for peace and justice.

Originally published at


The hut dwellers

Earlier this week, the police came back to the Bedouin village of Al-Arakib, northeast of Beersheva, to destroy it for the fifth consecutive time in the past two months. Later this week the police forces roamed all over the Negev, accompanied by heavy bulldozers and visited dozens villages many miles apart, destroying a house here and a house there. There was no obvious reason why the one house was destroyed and its neighbor spared - unless the goal was to intimidate as many people as possible, in all of the 'unrecognized' villages.

The Bedouin residents do not give up. They began immediately to rebuild their homes once again. Volunteers from all over the country arrived at Al-Arakib to help reconstruct it - for the sixth time. But the village is being built of wooden huts, which could easily be reconstructed after the next devastation , too.

There is no point in spending money and effort on real, solid houses, which would only fall victim to the bulldozers within a week or a month. Such homes are a luxury meant for the residents of Tel Aviv or Be`er Sheva, not for the Bedouin third- of fourth-class citizens scattered throughout the Negev.

So why is the Government of Israel so intent on erasing the village of Al-Arakib?, by Dr. Yeela Raanan, Shatil (Israel)

The village of El Araqib was demolished - erased today for the fifth time in as many weeks. Aiman Uda, the General Secretary of the Hadash party was arrested – just because he was there.

The village of El-Araqib has been in this location for hundreds of years. Travel logs from a hundred years ago describe it. Aerial photos from 70 years ago show it. Land taxes were paid to the British, and the official paperwork exists. The grandchildren of those paying the taxes still live in the village.

And still it is so important for the Government of Israel to erase this village that this morning at 4:00 am scores of police and several bulldozers came to once more demolish anything standing, attempt at breaking the spirits of the villagers, and erase this village from the map of Israel.

So - WHY???

Governmental plans for these lands – a forest. Since this is desert land the forest will never really be a great forest, but at least there will be some (preferably prickly) trees, so that there will be no ARABS.

Indeed – this is the reason. In Israel ... the Arab citizens are seen at best as a hindrance. While their existence is somewhat tolerated, allowing them to use (and own!) land – is seen as an abomination. So – A-Tori tribe, the governmental plans for you are that you move to the Bedouin city of Rahat, you will receive half a dunam (1/8 of an acre) to build a house, we will not bother to provide income generating options, we will not worry about your unique culture, nor care for a reasonable education system. All that is important is that we will not need to see you, that you will not use "our" land, and we will happily allow you to be our blue collar workers. That is – if there is work.

This is the continuation of the policies of 1948, when hundreds of Arab villages were erased. The government believes that we are still in a fight for the existence of the country, and erasing El-Araqib will help the state survive.

Israel is indeed in a battle for its existence, but not the battle the government is fighting – we are now in a battle for the character of our country....

If Israel will choose the democratic way – it includes equality for all its citizens. If Israel will continue to insist on the erasure of El-Araqib – we are going the other way…

Demonstration, today, at 5:00pm at the Lehavim-Rahat juct. Demonstrate for the village of El-Araqib – and the future of our country!

What else can you do?

· Support financially: re-building is the only way to resist the erasure of the village, but even tents cost. (you can donate via the Negev Coexistence Forum online at: Make sure to indicate that the funds are for rebuilding El-Araqib at: )

· Send protest letters to Yehuda Bahar, the director of the Authority for the Settlement of the Bedouins. Fax: +972 8 6263719. Tell him of your indignation of these bully tactics. Tell him that it violates human rights, and that it will bring about only more violence and resentment to all communities in the Negev.

· Write to your representatives! Tell them that the treatment of the indigenous Bedouin minority violates human rights, and it is their duty to protest it.

· Write to the Israeli Ambassador in your country. Ask them to explain the actions of the Israeli Government and its officials.

· Write to your embassy in Israel. Tell them of the treatment of the Bedouin minority by the Government. Suggest strongly that they become knowledgeable in this issue and ask Israel difficult questions.

· Spread the word! Tell anyone and everyone who is willing to listen.

For more information: Dr. Yeela Raanan, Shatil. +972 54 7487005

Excerpted from original post by Rabbis for Human Rights-Israel

Monday, September 13, 2010

An appeal to the Jewish people from Sheikh Siakh a-Turi

Sheikh Siakh a-Turi has been staying for the past 10 days at the cemetery of his village, el-Arakib with his son Aziz and his uncle Ismail. The unrecognized village of el-Arakib had already been demolished three times in the past two weeks - and more is expected to come. A restraining order prohibits him from being in the village with his family, who along with the rest of the villagers and with volunteers, are busy rebuilding the village. His following statement was recorded a few days ago.

I would like to say a few words to the entire Jewish people and to all the citizens of the State of Israel, Arabs and Jews. Take a good look at the acts which the state is committing against innocent citizens, and think of the future, about our life here, in good neighborly relations, one alongside another, a good life.

I ask you and all conscientious people in the State of Israel to get up and go out into the street and say "Let us all come together to tell the government: Enough! Stop abusing innocent citizens!" Demand that the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Lieberman end the discrimination and shut down the activities of the "Green Unit", set up to fight the Bedouins, to expel us from our land. End the expropriation, so that we can tell our children to live here in peace and in brotherhood with the rest of the citizens.

The Bedouins are citizens of Israel. We want to live in dignity, we are not invaders.

These lands are not state lands. These lands are the lands of the tribes in el-Arakib, and those calling us "invaders" should answer the following question: Did the State of Israel bring along all these lands with it, when it was established, or were these lands here before its establishment?

I used to trust the courts, but I no longer do. I have been struggling through the court system for 12 years, and they are all against us: A man resides on his land - and he is an invader; if he presents a document to prove his ownership - it is a forged document.

They say: your documents, your [legal] traditions are worthless. But our documents are not just a piece of paper: our cemetery has been here since the Ottoman times; we have existent stone houses and water wells from the pre-1948 period, there are aerial photos from 1946... but all this is not enough. They only offer us one thing: agree to pay rent for residing on this land. How can I do so? If I do, I will be acknowledging that the land is not mine, that it belongs to the state!

And if I really am an invader - why are they offering me money as compensation for the land I am supposed to give up? They are offering an offending, meager sum of money, but the offer itself is due to the rights I have for this land. They are not offering me compensation because I am a nice Bedouin.

My second message goes out to governments of other states, to the Arab states too, and especially to states with ambassadors in Israel: The State of Israel is expropriating the lands of the Bedouins and planting trees on them, like the "Ambassador Forest". The state steals Bedouin lands, as if this is not being done for itself but in order to honor other states. Will you be part of this action?

There is also a third message, which I wish to deliver to older Jews, those who live in Israel:
Stand by the Bedouins. Stand by us, for we are suffering under this government, just like older Jewish citizens suffered in other states. We too have almost no one to stand by us and sympathize with us and say "Enough!" to all the government's wrongdoings. Only if Jews stand with us, hand in hand, can we stop these wrongs.

I sit here at the cemetery. A restraining order prevents me from joining the members of my household, my family, my friends, in my own village.

Thank You

Sheikh Siakh a-Turi

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