The Assault on al-Naqab; More of Jewish Land, Less Arabs
The Palestinian Jerusalem, the rest of the Arab West Bank, the Galilee region and al-Naqab (Negev) are all facing a political situation that lies at the center of the conflict over the land and existence, confronting an Israeli strategy of building colonial settlements based on an ethnic replacement movement, vigorously seeking to uproot the Palestinians from their land and settle aliens on it. Unfortunately, the Arab media (including the Palestinian) rarely focus on al-Naqab region with an area of 13 million dunums (a little more than half of the area of historical Palestine), despite its importance from an Israeli strategic perspective.
Nowadays, and under Israel’s extreme rightist government, al-Naqab faces the most dangerous Israeli colonialist scheme of transfer and uprooting of its native Arab Bedouin citizens through geographic and demographic changes disconnecting them from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In Israel’s view, the presence of al-Naqab Palestinian Arabs maintains geographic contiguity with Gaza which threatens the desired ‘pure’ Jewish character of the Zionist state! Such a ‘threat’ was manifested in statements by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following reports of a 5% increase in the area’s population when he said that “the rising number of al-Naqab Arab Bedouins poses a demographic danger”!!!
The Naqab Bedouins (those living in Palestinian Arab villages unrecognized by Israel and threatened with demolition) are engaged in a ferocious confrontation with the Israeli occupation authorities to protect and defend their lands and property. Israel has been cultivating lands in relatively new-built Jewish colonies/ “settlements” and also in private and public farms along a vast area surrounded by Bedouin communities. Moreover, other wide areas of land are being closed off for Israeli military training and maneuvers! The Zionist state, which claims that the Naqab Bedouins are ‘Israeli citizens with equal rights’ seeks to decrease their presence for more Judaization of their land. As an example, the two Arab villages of Om al-Heeran and Attir are both threatened with demolition and evacuation of their residents in order to construct the Jewish Heeran colony/ “settlement”. The village of Araqeeb was demolished for the 124 times consecutive; time after time “rebuilt” by its defiant Palestinian owners.
The Israeli authorities force the Arab citizens of the Naqab region to demolish their homes with their own hands, with 1952 demolitions recorded last year. A report by the Naqab Coexistence Forum, which has been active on such acts, shed light on the policy of house demolitions implemented by the Israeli government in general and the peculiar phenomenon of self-demolitions of houses by the residents under pressures and threat of fines. Such cases were verified by the group after six residents of the village of Al-Araqib were ordered by the court to pay 360 thousand shekels as fines for the cost of demolishing their village four times. This decision represented a governmental and judicial legislation to increase the government’s pressure on the Arab residents of the ‘unrecognized’ villages to force them to demolish their homes. It followed statements by Shurun Ilan, the Israeli director of the security forces in the south district region of the so-called Israel Land Authority which declared the success of the policy of fines and threats against the Arab citizens in the Naqab. He said the “policy of fines imposed by the authorities through which the invaders are fined for eviction and demolition of homes paid by the state treasury is producing very good results. The increase in the number of demolitions by their owners provides millions of shekels to the public treasury”. His statements were followed by the statement of the extremist Israeli Minister of Justice, Eilit Shakid, that “illegal construction in the Naqab will be faced with huge financial fines”.
Most recently, it was revealed that the Israeli authorities withdrew “Israel’s nationalities” from thousands of the Naqab Arabs over the past years citing different pretexts. Israeli media reports indicated that a large number of those Arabs had held the nationality for decades, and voted in Israeli parliament (Knesset) elections. But all of a sudden, they found themselves without a nationality, with the Israeli interior ministry claiming they were granted it by mistake, without providing any explanation or details! In this context, and according to Adalah (Justice) Center for Human Rights, this Israeli policy has been applied since 2010, saying that those Bedouins “used to hold the Israeli nationality for twenty, thirty or forty years, voted in elections, paid taxes and some of them served in the Israeli army, but suddenly, their (Israeli) nationality was withdrawn and they no longer held it”. Their status becomes one of a permanent resident, similar to that of the Palestinians in occupied Arab Jerusalem! But such a status can also be removed if they do not stay for a long period in the country! The Israeli journalist Jackie Khoury commented on such a situation in Haaretz saying: “It refers to a wide phenomenon in Bedouin circles in the Naqab; Hundreds of thousands of them are losing their nationality due to a registration error!!! This is the common explanation they all received without any details or explanation!”
In contrast, three years ago, the Israeli press reported that the security services were concerned about the sharp decline in military recruitment rates among Arab youths in the Naqab after the exposure of lies linking recruitment to improving living conditions, allowing Naqab Arabs to build and live in their land and connect them to basic services as Israeli citizens. In response to this sharp decline, suspicious projects have been introduced for about two years that are not based on direct military recruitment, but on forming what came to be known as “civil recruitment” paving the way for the Bedouin youth to join as “civil recruits” in the military and security institutions and consequently try to reduce the gap between the Arab society and the Israeli military establishment. These projects, which hide behind the terms of “character building and the academic future”, are aimed at recruitment of young Arabs into Israeli institutions such as the ministries of “defence” (army) and agriculture. In this context, the occupation authorities recently put in place a new plan targeting Arab Bedouin youth by reducing their military service from 32 months to 24 months.
The Arab Naqab is facing the continuation of the policy of apartheid and the siege of the Arab presence, ranging from the stealing of the land, demolition of homes, a policy of impoverishment, harassment, distortion of identity … to birth control. Nowadays, an increasing number of Israeli observers and writers are referring more and more to “fascist practices” and “racist laws” are in place to instate the ‘Jewishness’ of the state, maintain domination of the extreme right, prolong the occupation and legalize the Jewish colonies (settlements). It is, in essence, a policy of ethnic cleansing. The ongoing assault on the Naqab, such as assaults in the Galilee, Jerusalem and the West Bank, has one goal: “More Jewish land and Less Palestinian Arabs!!!