Early morning on 27 July, Israeli bulldozers, flanked by helicopters and throngs of police, demolished the entire Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the northern Negev desert. Despite their land rights cases still pending in the court system, hundreds of al-Araqib villagers were instantly made homeless a month after Israeli police posted demolition orders.
Eyewitness reports say the police were accompanied by several busloads of right-wing Israeli civilians who cheered during the demolitions.
The Electronic Intifada spoke with Dr. Yeela Ranaan of the Regional Council for Unrecognized Villages (RCUV) in the Negev, who was in al-Araqib all day long during the demolitions.
“Approximately 1,500 Israeli police came at 5:30 in the morning and evacuated everyone from their beds,” Ranaan said. “They brought tear gas and water cannons, but didn’t use them. There was a handful of Israeli peace activists who had come the night before to stay with the villagers, and the police beat them up and detained them. Once they evacuated everyone in the village, they started to demolish it. It took three hours to flatten the village. For the people of al-Araqib, it was a nightmare to see their village destroyed.”
Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, al-Araqib villagers have been fighting for recognition in the courts. Ranaan told The Electronic Intifada that in the early 1950s, after they were forcefully expelled from their land by Israeli forces, villagers were fined for “trespassing” in their own homes by the Israeli government. Israel has refused to acknowledge al-Araqib villagers’ land deeds and receipts of land taxes paid to the Ottoman authorities well before Israel’s establishment.
“As we speak, the fate of al-Araqib hasn’t been decided in a court,” Ranaan said. “Despite this, Israel came and demolished the homes. Israel is not just changing the facts on the ground, it’s erasing them.”