3 August 2010
Adalah Demands Immediate Criminal Investigation into Police Officers Brutal Destruction of Arab Bedouin Unrecognized Village al-Arakib in the Naqab
(Beer el-Sabe, Israel) Residents of the Arab Bedouin unrecognized village al-Araqib in the Naqab (Negev) in the south of Israel were woken up at dawn on 27 July 2010 to find themselves surrounded by police officers, some of them on horseback. The police declared the village to be a "closed area", and warned residents that any attempt to resist their orders would lead to their forced evacuation. The police ordered the residents to leave their homes in two minutes. The residents tried to take their belongings from their houses, but the police did not wait and began to immediately demolish their homes. No less than 1,300 police officers, accompanied by the Green Patrol, a unit within the Nature Reserves and Parks Authority that often harass the Arab Bedouin, took part in the brutal destruction of the village. Throughout the demolition operation, a helicopter flew above the village. When the demolition ended, all 45 houses of the houses were razed to the ground and its 250 residents – men, women, elderly people and children, were left without a roof over their heads and all of their belongings confiscated.
In violation of law, most police officers who took part in the raid covered their faces and did not wear identity tags. They had weapons, tear gas, truncheons and other arms. Apparently in this way, the police officers sought to prevent the residents from identifying them. T-he residents did not respond violently to the destruction.
One of the most shocking aspects of the raid was that a bus filled with dozens of radical right-wing Jewish youth accompanied the police to the village. The youth began to tease the Arab Bedouin residents, who are citizens of Israel and who just lost their homes, and applauded when the police officers demolished the homes. This conduct amounts to vigilantism, a punishment outside of the law.
During the operation of destruction, the police confiscated all personal possessions of the residents from their homes including refrigerators, ovens, closets, bedroom and dining room furniture, textiles, carpets, crafts, etc. They also took other property from the area surrounding the houses such as electricity generators, plows, flour bags and the like.
Representatives of the Tax Authority also accompanied the police and seized property of residents in debt to the tax authorities. This confiscation was undertaken without prior warning or demand from the residents to pay their debt, and therefore, it too was illegal. Residents were required to pay NIS 22,500 (almost US $6,000) to retrieve their property.
Olive orchards and fruit trees planted by al-Araqib residents were uprooted. The police uprooted around 4,500 olive trees belonging to village residents.
Representatives of Adalah, Attorney Sawsan Zaher and Naqab Office Manager Salem Abu Medeghem, visited al-Araqib immediately following the destruction and spoke with residents. Following the visit, Attorney Zaher wrote a letter to the Director of Mahash (Police Investigation Unit), Mr. Herzl Shapiro, demanding the opening of a criminal investigation against the police involved in the demolition operation. In another letter to the Director of the Tax Authority, Mr. Yehuda Naserdishi, Attorney Zaher demanded an investigation into the presence of Tax Authority officials in al-Araqib and the illegal debt collection operation, which exploited the residents while their homes were being demolished.
In the letter, Adalah emphasized that the destruction of the village was undertaken brutally, and the police used illegal means to deter the residents. Most homeowners were not given prior warning about the intention to demolish their property. Police forces came to the village at dawn, while most residents were sleeping. "The village was razed in an intentional way to cause destruction and devastation of all of the property, not only of the residents' homes in order to instill fear in their hearts," the letter stated.
The police and the tax authorities acted in violation of the rule of law, as well as the police ordinance, disciplinary rules of the police and tax collection rules, and they also harmed the residents' constitutional rights. In addition to demanding the opening of a criminal investigation, Adalah is also seeking compensation for the residents' for the confiscation of their property; an order to return the residents' property; and an order to return money they were compelled to pay in order to release their property.
The UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of which Israel is a State Party, issued its concluding observations last week on 28 July 2010. Concerning the Arab Bedouin in the Naqab, the Committee stated its concern about the forced evictions of the Bedouin population and inadequate consideration of their traditional needs in the planning and development of the Negev (Naqab). Israel should respect the Bedouin population's right to their ancestral land and their traditional livelihood based on agriculture. It also noted its concern at difficulties of access to health structures, education, water and electricity for the Bedouin population in the unrecognized villages. Israel should guarantee the Bedouin population's access to health structures, education, water and electricity, irrespective of their whereabouts.