Now they are
evicting the dead
of Al Arakib
On 21 May 2014, 8 eviction orders were pasted on structures in the cemetery at Al-Arakib and one was handed out to Sayach Al-Turi, the Sheikh of the village (pictured in the cemetery). The expulsion is to be effected between 12 June and 12 July — a “flexible eviction”.
Some of the orders have been issued against persons who are no longer living and are buried in the cemetery, as well as against people no longer resident in the village.
Despite some 68 demolitions of the village since 2010, the cemetery, with several homes and other structures within its confines, including a small improvised mosque and minaret for calling people to prayer, has so far been left untouched by the authorities.
However, last March officials entered the perimeter and photographed the buildings for the first time. This latest order is a new and very disturbing development for a number of reasons.
♦ First and most striking, the barbarian disrespect and indecency of the proposed action, which even sinks below the previous moral low point, when Jewish Israeli high school teenagers were brought on a day-trip to the village to watch an eviction as spectacle, lounging on furniture that had been scattered from people’s homes and posing for pictures.
♦ Demolition of the cemetery has another purpose that’s well familiar to Palestinians: to obliterate their memory and history, so as to portray them as rootless nomads if not “infiltrators and invaders”.
♦ After all the demolitions, the cemetery had remained the one place of refuge and a base for re-building. A clear target, therefore, for the crass officials who run Israel’s ethnic cleansing regime.
♦ The cemetery is the evidence in stone of the villagers’ assertion that this is their land, simple, unarguable, more enduring and more powerful proof than the labyrinthine matter of disputed land documents.
♦ Land claims of the people of Arakib are in fact still going through the courts. The sixty-plus assaults on this village and now this “disastrous edict” to demolish its historic cemetery show that for “the only democracy in the Middle East” it’s quite OK to bulldoze first and talk later.
♦ The courageous and steadfast resistance of Al Arakib so far is believed to have slowed or deterred the clearances of other Bedouin villages. Demolition of the cemetery, perhaps avoided so far for fear of a backlash, may now be seen as a pivotal move towards more widespread actions against the rest of the threatened villages.
Al Arakib’s present troubles started with a massive demolition in July 2010, including destruction of its crops and water supply. But despite this traumatic event and many arrests and injuries since, the villagers have maintained a constant presence, rebuilding their structures each time. To add to the pressure, the police have sued them, claiming 1.8 million shekels (over $4 million) to pay for the demolitions. Sheikh Al-Turi has several times been arrested for trespass and he and his family given restraining orders forbidding return to the village.
Destruction of the cemetery could have far reaching consequences beyond the confines of this courageous little village of 350 people. A Jewish Israeli activist working with the Negev Coexistence Forum writes: “The situation is really dire. If the eviction is carried out by force (as it may well be, for the villagers will not leave of their own accord) it could lead to extreme violence throughout the Negev.”
And perhaps beyond.
In an inspirational message, Sheikh Sayach Al-Turi says: “To all the Jews who believe in equality and that it is possible for Arabs and Jews to live together — mobilise in support of truth and justice and stand up for every Bedouin home that this racist government intends to demolish. The State tells the Bedouin: You don’t have a place in the Negev, no place in Israel. This is a great loss for the Bedouin and a great loss for the Jews. As long as there is no recognition of Bedouin rights to their lands, there will be no peace in the region, no equality and no justice.”
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