Ethnic Cleansing in the Israeli Negev

The razing of a Bedouin village by Israeli police shows how far the state will go to achieve its aim of Judaising the Negev region

A menacing convoy of bulldozers was heading back to Be'er Sheva as I
drove towards al-Arakib, a Bedouin village located not more than 10
minutes from the city. Once I entered the dirt road leading to the
village I saw scores of vans with heavily armed policemen getting ready
to leave. Their mission, it seems, had been accomplished.

signs of destruction were immediately evident. I first noticed the
chickens and geese running loose near a bulldozed house, and then saw
another house and then another one, all of them in rubble. A few
children were trying to find a shaded spot to hide from the scorching
desert sun, while behind them a stream of black smoke rose from the
burning hay. The sheep, goats and the cattle were nowhere to be seen -
perhaps because the police had confiscated them.

Scores of
Bedouin men were standing on a yellow hill, sharing their experiences
from the early morning hours, while all around them uprooted olive trees
lay on the ground. A whole village comprising between 40 and 45 houses
had been completely razed in less than three hours.

suddenly experienced deja vu: an image of myself walking in the rubbles
of a destroyed village somewhere on the outskirts of the Lebanese city
of Sidon emerged. It was over 25 years ago, during my service in the
Israeli paratroopers. But in Lebanon the residents had all fled long
before my platoon came, and we simply walked in the debris. There was
something surreal about the experience, which prevented me from fully
understanding its significance for several years. At the time, it felt
like I was walking on the moon.

This time the impact of the
destruction sank in immediately. Perhaps because the 300 people who
resided in al-Arakib, including their children, were sitting in the
rubble when I arrived, and their anguish was evident; or perhaps because
the village is located only 10 minutes from my home in Be'er Sheva and I
drive past it every time I go to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem; or perhaps
because the Bedouins are Israeli citizens, and I suddenly understood how
far the state is ready to go to accomplish its objective of Judaising
the Negev region; what I witnessed was, after all, an act of ethnic cleansing.

say the next intifada will be the Bedouin intifada. There are 155,000
Bedouins in the Negev, and more than half of them live in unrecognised villages
without electricity or running water. I do not know what they might do,
but by making 300 people homeless, 200 of them children, Israel is
surely sowing dragon's teeth for the future.

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