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Israeli court orders al-Araqib residents to pay costs of Israel demolishing their village

Aug. 24, 2017 10:56 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 24, 2017 3:59 P.M.)
Bedouin woman sits in front of the ruins of her family house in the Bedouin village of al-Arakib in the Negev Desert, north of Beersheva, 2010 (AFP Photo/David Buimovitch/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- An Israeli court last week ruled that several residents of the unrecognized village of al-Araqib in the Negev of southern Israel must pay the costs for demolitions carried out by Israeli forces, which have completely destroyed the village at least 116 times since 2010.

Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Tuesday that an Israeli court had ruled that six residents of the village must pay 262,000 shekels (more than $72,000) for the costs of demolishing the village, in addition to 100,000 shekels ($27,693) to cover the costs of the state’s lawyer.

The case began in Aug. 2011 against 34 village residents, as the Israeli state prosecution demanded reimbursement for costs of eight Israeli-ordered demolitions that destroyed the village between July and Dec. 2010, according to Haaretz.

Two of the village residents died during the legal proceedings, while 26 agreed on a compromise. However, six had continued until the end of the court proceedings.

Haaretz reported that the six would also have to pay for the state prosecution, “for recordings and minutes, which are likely to be a few thousand shekels more.”

The more than $100,000 that the residents have been ordered to pay is only the latest payment in which the village has had to compensate Israel for its routine demolitions in the village.

According to al-Araqib residents, before the latest court ruling, the village was ordered to pay more than two million shekels (approximately $541,000) for the cumulative cost of Israeli-enforced demolitions carried out against the village since 2010.

Al-Araqib is one of 35 Bedouin villages considered “unrecognized” by the Israeli state. According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), more than half of the approximately 160,000 Bedouins in the Negev reside in unrecognized villages.

The unrecognized Bedouin villages were established in the Negev soon after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war following the creation of the state of Israel.

Many of the Bedouins were forcibly transferred to the village sites during the 17-year period when Palestinians inside Israel were governed under Israeli military law, which ended shortly before Israel's military takeover of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967.

Now more than 60 years later, the villages have yet to be recognized by Israel and live under constant threats of demolition and forcible removal.

Haya Noah, director of the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, was quoted by Haaretz as saying that the decision was “another of the tricks used by the state to wear down and break up worthy civic struggles, like the struggle for the right to a respectable place to live.”

Noah also pointed out that since the demolitions are carried out by units having an annual state budget, “there’s no real reason to claim payment.”

“Instead of pushing the residents to the wall, the state must provide shelter for the villagers and stop the campaign of demolitions and harassment,” Noah said.

Meanwhile, Ayman Odeh, member of the Joint list -- a political bloc of parties in the Israeli Knesset led by Palestinian citizens of Israel -- reportedly said that the ruling “brings the state’s cruelty toward Arab citizens of the Negev to new heights,” according to Haaretz.

“The state, which is trying to plant trees in an effort to uproot people from their land, refuses to recognize the villages, most of which exist where they are from before the state’s founding. Now it is also choosing to financially ruin anyone who dares to raise his head and fight the decrees by civil and democratic means,” Odeh reportedly said in response to the court ruling.

Right groups say that the demolition of unrecognized Bedouin villages is a central Israeli policy aimed at removing the indigenous Palestinian population from the Negev and transferring them to government-zoned townships to make room for the expansion of Jewish Israeli communities.
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