Police forces on their way to the fifth demolition, 13 September

So you ask yourselves: if you send 1300 troops, regular policemen and Special Patrol Unit to demolish Al-Arakib for the first time; if so much is invested in thorough demolition of the homes (how many water tanks could be brought in for the same money, how many saplings could be planted, and what fun it would be to build a real school in Al-Arakib!) at the order of the "Green Patrol"; if you then destroy Al-Arakib four more times – during Ramadan as well, and at the height of the scorching summer heat, and for the fifth time – immediately after the Muslim feast day, ‘Id al-Fitr, because there's no time to waste: Who is behind all this? What are the politics behind these actions?

These are not the decisions of a junior clerk or the local police. There are larger forces being called in to action by someone, to crush and destroy. And who is it that is trying to "teach a lesson" to the courageous and determined people of Al-Arakib who are holding on to the land that has been theirs for generations?

It’s a lesson to all the Bedouin of the Negev: Do not dare to object when armed forces are used against you, state citizens; do not to object when one offers you some piddling compensation for abandoning your land and moving into one of the townships the authorities have prepared for you...

And a lesson for every citizen of this country as well: Do not object, do not raise your head, because the authorities in Israel have not forgotten how to forcibly overcome citizens who stand up for their rights.

So what are the politics behind all this? One factor – a very central one – is the "development program" for the Negev. The program in which the Bedouins are tossed a bone, a measly afterthought in a budget – but whose main point is the Judaization of the Negev. The Jewish National Fund in the United States has promised to bring in new immigrants – well-established, good, strong; the Jewish National Fund in Israel is planting trees in order to uproot people; The Israel Land Authority in conjunction with the police, under the instructions of the Minister of Internal Security - Avigdor Lieberman's man, Itzhak Aharonovich – are trying with all their strength to complete an exemplary campaign of eviction and dispossession.

Al-Arakib is like a bone in the throat of those who are keen to redesign the whole northern Negev. Fine, alright, we've got no choice, so we'll give recognition to a few Bedouin villages – but almost always on very difficult, if not impossible, terms. Recognition – on the condition that they move elsewhere, that they leave their land and blend in with another Bedouin community. We plan for you: We engineer the landscape, we put together and tear apart people and communities, we - the , architects of settlement and internal colonization. The other "unrecognized villages" are to disappear, be disposed of on the way to a New Negev. Al-Arakib is first on the list.

"A clean slate" for the new pioneers

And how is the New Negev being marketed? Read here one article among many that sell the promise of becoming pioneers to the Jewish community in the US. Not pioneers in the Wild West, but here, in Israel, in the Negev.

Articles like these describing the new pioneers – young couples from North America – usually begin with stories of the prefabricated caravan homes and the water brought in by tractor, and end with the interior decoration of the houses of the new pioneers. "The Negev", explains the article on the B'nai B'rith website, "is the closest thing to the clean slate many of Israel’s pre-state pioneers found when they first came to the Holy Land". Did you hear that, all you people of Al-Arakib, Tweil Abu-Jarwal, Wadi Na‘am, A-Sirra, all you residents of the unrecognized villages and all the Bedouins of the Negev? You don’t really exist.

'Make the desert bloom', the Bedouin way: Al-Arakib, October 2009

Here the pioneers will cause the desert to bloom; here, where there are too many Arabs with too many babies – just as in the Galilee. Here they will also meet the people of "Or – National Missions", which seeks to Judaize the Negev and the Galilee, and are waiting for the new pioneers with open arms. The article reassures the new pioneers that here they can find a place free from the political controversies surrounding the settlements in the West Bank. Naturally – after all, the Bedouin are transparent. They just forget to tell their readers that Sansana, founded by "Or – National Missions" and its home-base, is actually a settlement in the West Bank, on the South Hebron Hills, and was founded and expanded with the aid of the usual tricks and practices.

The article also speaks clearly regarding the Judaization of the Negev: it is a basic tenet of the way the Israeli leadership sees the Jewish State – "Not only must Israel as a whole be mostly Jewish, but every major region within it should be majority Jewish, too".1

Operation "30-Days-Limit"

These are the politics of expulsion and disinheritance. Its violent arm is the operation that was signed into effect by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Minister of Internal Security, Itzhak Aharonovich – Lieberman's man – as a plan for a "war on encroachers". The encroachers are not the Jewish National Fund's trees, the those who steal the Bedouins’ land, the encroachers are the Negev's people themselves, the Bedouins. The same Bedouins who are fighting to hold on to the remnants of their land, the little that is left to them (between 5%-7% of the Negev's territory). Netanyahu and Aharonovich have given a name to their operation: "30-Days-Limit".

The daily paper Israel Today reports on June 23, 2010, that "the state has begun a war against encroachment on its land".

"Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Minister of Internal Security Itzhak Aharonovich have decided to eradicate the phenomenon of Bedouins' encroachment of lands in Beer Sheba area. This is the first stage of a program designed to prevent usurpation of state lands throughout the country by minorities and criminals.

Israel Today has been informed that a pilot of an operation called "30-Days-Limit", is ready to be launched. The plans for this operation include "taking Israel’s south apart" by dividing it into sectors and intelligence surveillance of those encroaching. In addition, within the framework of the operation there will be "attack-and-liquidate the encroachment" operations, which means that within 30 days, those who have encroached will be evicted. There will also be carried out a "choking" of fresh construction works for the same purpose [of encroachment], and the whole of today’s law enforcement bodies will be united – among them the Ministry of the Interior and the civil and local authorities.

It has also been decided that a commando force will be set up to deal with such matters. The Treasury has allocated for this purpose a budget for recruiting 25-30 inspectors who will be employed as demolition inspectors. That is in addition to the inspectors that are employed thus already today."

This is unmistakably a war terminology: A "commando force" will be set up that will fight the threat attributed to "minorities and criminals" (!); construction will be "choked", and of course –"attack and liquidate" operations will be carried out. We have all seen actions like these in Al-Arakib.

Encroacher at Al-Arakib, October 2009

In an interview on the radio program "Good Morning South" (June 27, 2010), the Minister for Internal Security, Aharonovich, confirmed this and mentioned plans for another, farther-reaching plan, called "Eastern Wind" (Ruah Qadim) for the southern district, which will be soon submitted for discussion in the government. A plan of action against "encroachments" bearing such a name was already put into effect at the end of 2007 in the southern district of the police force.

But while Aharonovich refused to give details and tried to obscure the extent to which the operation is aimed at the Bedouin citizens, Israel Today and the right-wing Channel 7 radio station made things clear: "In the Ministry of Internal Security and in the government it is understood that the encroachment of various bodies on lands of the nation is endangering Israel’s territorial contiguity". The connection between Netanyahu’s words on July 25, 2010 in which he warned of the Negev becoming "an area without a Jewish majority", defining hence Bedouin presence and growth as "a real threat" – and this battle plan is very clear.

Yes, war has been declared, and the battle may be long and prolonged. Netanyahu and Aharonovich, together with the Jewish National Fund and the Israel Land Authority are those who stand behind the campaign of demolition, eviction and dispossession in the Negev. To stand up to those forces we must have determination and patience; to continue to demonstrate, to protest, to persist. All of us – Jews and Arabs – working for a life of equality in this country, can learn from our Bedouin brothers and sisters.

[1]There are some minor but telling differences between the versions of Uriel Heilman’s article; on his website, credited with the B'nai B'rith logo, it reads: "The government has several reasons for developing the Negev. It wants to bring jobs to rural Israel, more evenly distribute the country’s population and tip the Arab-Jewish demographic balance in the Negev and Galilee regions -- where there are heavy concentrations of Israeli Arabs -- more solidly in favor of Jews. This is part and parcel with how Israel’s leadership envisions the Jewish state: Not only must Israel as a whole be mostly Jewish, but every major region within it should be majority Jewish, too." On the B'nai B'rith website, the part of the explanation we emphasized has been removed. The logic remains the same.

Photos: Yotam Ronen & Oren Ziv (ActiveStills)