Benjamin L. Hartman
The Jerusalem Post
August 18, 2010 - 12:00am

For the fourth time in less than four weeks, illegally built structures in the unrecognized Beduin village of Kafr al-Arakib were demolished early on Tuesday morning by staffers from the Israel Lands Administration escorted by police.

Around 100 officers secured the operation, and around 25 tents were destroyed, the Southern Police District spokeswoman said. There were no injuries or arrests, although one man was taken in for questioning after he refused to leave a tent.

The villagers are from the al-Turi tribe When asked if police were taking into consideration the sensitive nature of carrying out demolitions in an Israeli Arab village during Ramadan, the spokeswoman said police were taking the issue seriously. She cited a meeting Southern District chief Cmdr. Yohanan Danino has planned for Thursday with local Beduin leaders, which she said he arranged “to show them that they cannot stop the demolitions from being carried out, but also as a means to try to encourage them to take part in and learn more about the state-policy decisions and legal aspects that stand behind the demolitions.”

During a ceremony last Tuesday to mark the changing of commanders of the Netivot district, Danino said police were preparing a civil suit against the village’s residents to recover the costs of the continued evacuations.

“Every shekel the state has to pay, we will sue for in the civil system.”

Danino accused Beduin community leaders of “hitching a ride” on the issue of the demolitions.

The fourth round of demolitions came a day after a protest was held at the Lehavim junction near the village, which lies outside the Beduin city of Rahat and 8 km. north of Beersheba.

Around 80 protesters recited prayers and chanted slogans during rush hour at the intersection, while just over a dozen police officers stood watch. The crowd carried signs reading “Hands off our land” and “Police: Determined against Beduin, sensitive toward settlers,” among others.

At the rally, al-Arakib resident and spokesman Dr. Awad Abu Farikh said protesters and residents “are calling on the ILA to stop these demolitions and for the police to stop helping them.”

Abu Farikh said the demolitions were difficult during Ramadan, when Muslims spend the daytime fasting and praying, but added that residents “will continue to rebuild their homes. They have no choice.”

In a statement released on Tuesday, spokesman for the ILA Ortal Tsabar said the authority "respects all holidays and observances of all religions, including of course, Ramadan."

Tsabar said that waiting until after Ramadan "would infringe upon the ability to carry out the evacuations and that the law allocates specific times for carrying out the process and does not allow delays because of this or any other holiday."

Tsabar continues that "since the "invaders" "did not take Ramadan into consideration and began to put up these buildings a few days before the holiday began, the decision was made to carry out the demolitions."

Speaking after the demonstration, MK Taleb a-Sanaa, a Beduin lawmaker from the United Arab List, told The Jerusalem Post that the fight against the demolitions in al-Arakib was “a civil struggle of the first order. It’s about the right to a roof over your head.”

Sanaa vowed that he and other Israeli Arab leaders would “continue to fight for the recognition of 45 Beduin villages in the Negev.” How the State of Israel deals with the matter “will be a test of whether or not Israel wants peace,” he said.

During the second demolition on August 4, Sanaa, 49, passed out while refusing to leave a house slated for demolition and was rushed to Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba, where he soon recovered.

When the bulldozers returned on Tuesday, Sanaa said the state had “crossed all the red lines” by carrying out demolitions during Ramadan. Even during Islam’s holiest month, “the policy of demolition shows no mercy to the Beduin citizens [of Israel],” he said.

The demolitions on Tuesday came hours before a group from Rabbis for Human Rights toured the village. Rabbi Arik Ascherman, executive director of the organization, said he found it “amazing how little sympathy there is [in Israel] for the Beduin in the unrecognized villages.”

Ascherman said a handful of representatives from his organization would tour the village and bring donated clothes and blankets. The demolitions “are very unjust; it’s not treating people in God’s image,” and that “is no way to treat fellow Israelis,” he said.


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