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 centre of the conflict over the land and its existence. Confronted with an Israeli strategy of building colonies based on an ethnic replacement movement, the Arab media (including the Palestinian) fails to focus on Al Naqab. With an area of 13 million dunums (a little more than half of the area of historical Palestine), Al Naqab faces the most dangerous Israeli colonialist scheme of transferring and uprooting its native Arab Bedouin citizens. 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 manifest in statements by the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, following reports of a 5 per cent increase in the area’s population when he said that “the rising number of Al Naqab Arab Bedouins poses a demographic danger”!
Bedouins (those living in Palestinian Arab villages unrecognised by Israel and threatened with demolition) of Al Naqab 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 newly-built Jewish colonies 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 manoeuvres! The Zionist state, which claims that the Naqab Bedouins are ‘Israeli citizens with equal rights’ seeks to decrease their presence for more Judaisation of their land. As an example, the two Arab villages of Om Al Heeran and Attar are both threatened with demolition and evacuation in order to construct the Jewish Heeran colony there. The village of Araqeeb was demolished 124 times and repeatedly “rebuilt” by its defiant Palestinian owners.
The Israeli authorities force the Arab citizens of Al Naqab region to demolish their homes, with 1,952 demolitions recorded last year. A report by the Naqab Coexistence Forum, which has been active on such acts, sheds 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 pressure 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 360,000 shekels as fine 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 ‘unrecognised’ villages in order 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 Al Naqab. His statements were followed by the statement of the extremist Israeli Minister of Justice, Eilit Shakid, that “illegal construction in Al Naqab will be faced with huge financial fines”.
Most recently, it was revealed that the Israeli authorities withdrew “Israel’s nationalities” from thousands of Al 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! Their status becomes one of a permanent resident, similar to that of the Palestinians in occupied 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 Israeli daily Haaretz saying: “It refers to a wide phenomenon in Bedouin circles in Al Naqab. Hundreds of thousands of them are losing their nationality due to a registration error. This is the common explanation they all receive 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 Al Naqab after the exposure of lies linking recruitment to improving living conditions, allowing Al Naqab Arabs to build and live in their land and connect them to basic services as Israeli citizens.
Arab Al Naqab is facing a continuation of the policy of apartheid and the siege of the Arab presence, ranging from the stealing of 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 reinstate the ‘Jewishness’ of the state, maintain domination of the extreme right, prolong the occupation and legalise the Jewish colonies. It is, in essence, a policy of ethnic cleansing. The ongoing assault on Al Naqab, such as assaults in the Galilee, occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank, has one goal: More Jewish land and Less Palestinian Arabs.