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Following is the text of a letter sent today to U.S. President Obama, calling upon him to intervene for ending the violation of the Bedouins' most basic rights. Following the repeated brutal demolition of the village of al-Arakib - four times in one month - the Negev Bedouin community feels itself with its back to the wall. All requests to the government of Israel to resolve the problems of residence, land ownership and ongoing discrimination encounter a wall - or outright hostility.On the eve of Prime Minister Netanyahu's trip to the U.S., for the purpose of launching direct talks with the Palestinians, we found it necessary to make public this letter to the US President. This is in order to make clear to the PM that he is setting fire in his own home territory, and call upon him to make a real effort to solve the problem of the Bedouins in Israel.
Sheikh Saieh Ai-Turi - 050-7257951
Yossef Abu-Zaied 050-8213082
Dr. Awad Abu-Frieh 052-2714020
Ya'akov Manor 050-5733276
September 1, 2010
Mr Barak Hussein Obama
President of the United States
The White House
Dear Mr. President,
Re: A request for the protection of Arab-Bedouin citizens of Israel - to stop the demolitions of our homes and the destruction of our villages.
On behalf of Bedouin citizens of the unrecognized Arab Bedouin villages in Israel and the residents of Al Araqib village in particular, we respectfully turn to you with this desperate appeal.
It may surprise you to receive this letter since it is not usual for citizens of a democratic state to approach the head of another state in order to receive help and protection. Unfortunately, Israel which claims to be a democracy constantly discriminates against its Arab citizens on ethnic-racial grounds. In this case, our government is using all possible resources to destroy our homes and confiscate our lands.
In the "Negev-Naqab" region in southern Israel, there is a considerable long-standing community of Arab Bedouin who are the indigenous inhabitants of the area and who today number some 190,000. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, its policies have consistently aimed at confiscating the traditional lands of the Bedouin people. Such is the policy of "non-recognition", leaving the Bedouin villages for the past 60 years without infrastructure, services and building permits, hoping to 'convince' the residents of these villages to forgo their lands. Today only 3% of the traditional lands are still available to the Bedouin people, and the government is attempting at reducing this even further.
Accordingly, the Government of Israel has recently increased its measures against its Bedouin citizens: over the past few months entire villages have been demolished to the ground over and over again. In the past month (August, 2010) the historic village of Al Araqib was totally demolished four times. The homes were wiped off the face of the earth, olive and carob trees were uprooted, dovecots and sheep folds were destroyed and personal property confiscated. The government intends to continue the demolitions, to arrest the residents and to charge this poor and deprived community for the costs of the demolitions and for the conduct of financially and emotionally draining law suits, in its attempt at convincing the people to leave their lands.
During the war of 1948 and into the 1950's, the majority of the Bedouin community living in the northern and western Negev was banished to the Sinai peninsula in Egypt and to Jordan, leaving only some 10% of the original Bedouin inhabitants within Israel. From 1951-1959 most of the remaining Bedouin were driven into a confined area known as the 'restricted zone' in the eastern Negev. All the lands that the Bedouin were forced to abandon were declared to be ownerless and were registered as State lands.
During the 1970s and 1980s approximately half of the Bedouin population were moved into townships which since have become rife with unemployment and with neglect in all facets of life. The other half of the community live in some 45 unrecognized villages to which the state refuses to grant the most basic services such as health, running water, electricity and roads. It should be noted that some of these villages existed hundreds of years before the establishment of the state of Israel, while others were created in response to the transfer of the Bedouin from their ancestral lands by the Israeli army after the establishment of the State.
The Bedouin villages were not granted any land or municipal rights. A function of the fact that they are unrecognized and are not subject to any master-plan means that any building carried out there is considered illegal. The state demolishes some 250 homes each year, and most of the buildings in these unrecognized villages are threatened by standing demolition orders. Now the government is threatening to increase the demolitions to 700 homes a year. And what are the residents to do? Where will they house their children and grandchildren? The only solution offered by the State is to concentrate the community in more crowded townships, the model for which has been notoriously unsuccessful. The villagers are unwilling to accept this solution, particularly since they are in possession of proofs of land ownership dating back to the Ottoman Empire and the period of the British Mandate.
The restrictions on the community do not end with the withholding of services and demolitions of property but include the prohibition of working the land, destruction of some 2,000 acres of crops per year and the restriction of grazing areas, an important branch of agriculture for the community.
We cry out for your help. We turn to you as a world leader to call on the Israeli government to honour the most basic of human rights, to grant the Arab Bedouin the rights accorded to indigenous peoples under international conventions: to recognize the villages, to end the destruction of crops, and to allow the Bedouin to live the life of their choice; but most of all - to recognize the traditional land ownership of the Bedouin and to end the demolition of homes - which is a basic right of all human beings.
Sheikh Saieh Ai-Turi - Chair, Al-Arakib Council:
Yossef Abu-Zaied - Chair, Al-Arakib Popular Committee
Dr. Awad Abu-Frieh- Spokesperson, Al-Arakib Popular Committee
Ya'acov Manor- Spokesperson, Recognition Forum
Source : Alternative Information Center
2 Septembre 2010