On Tuesday, October 4, Israeli police demolished the Negev village of al-Araqib for the 119th time since 2010. The village is home to around 220 Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel and is formally unrecognized by the state of Israel. The residents of al-Araqib have been ordered to pay for the demolitions, at a cumulative cost of more than $600,000.
Al-Araqib’s dubious unrecognized status is shared by thirty-five Bedouin villages, most of which were founded after their current inhabitants were displaced during the Nakba. Altogether, these villages are home to around half of the 160,000 Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel and do not have basic services, like water and electricity.
The government claims the area on which the villages are located is owned by the Israeli state and was merely loaned to the Bedouins in the 1950s. In 2013, the government approved a plan to forcibly move these residents into planned towns. The plan was shelved, partly due to Bedouin protests but mostly because of opposition from right-wing parliamentarians who believe the plan was too generous. This has not stopped Israel from demolishing other Bedouin villages, like Umm al-Hiran, which it plans to replace with a Jewish-only town.
Unlike many of the other Bedouin villages, al-Araqib predates the Nakba, as evidenced by its cemetery which dates to 1914. During demolitions, villages residents and their livestock take shelter inside this cemetery, which Israeli forces have refrained from destroying, so far. In addition to tearing down houses, Israel has prevented villagers in al-Araqib from accessing their six wells and uprooted thousands of citrus, fig and olive trees to make way for a Jewish National Fund-sponsored eucalyptus forest.
I visited al-Araqib in 2011, which is when I took the photos featured here. At that point, it had “only” been demolished a few dozen times. I arrived not long after one of those demolitions. Then, as now, there is no chance villagers will leave their land, no matter how many times bulldozers tear their homes to the ground.