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Seminar Tells Tale of Al-Araqib Bedouin Village and Its 90 Demolitions

Thursday
November 5, 2015
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The graduate program for Israeli Studies in coordination with the department of Philosophy and Culture at Birzeit University presented a seminar on November 2, 2015 on the current crisis in the Negev, viewed through the lens of Al-Araqib village.

The seminar, “Unrecognized Villages in the Negev,” told the story of Al-Araqib village, which has been demolished 90 times, and rebuilt 91 times. The date of the seminar coincided with the 98th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration in 1917. The declaration was given by Lord Balfour to Zionist leader Walter Rothschild as a way of accepting and legitimizing the Zionist proposal for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

The village has endured intensive human rights violations by Israel since 2010. The panel that spoke on the issue included Sheikh Sayah Al-Turi, who is a member of the Bedouin community in Al-Araqib village, and economic expert Salim Al-Turi.

Sheikh Al-Turi opened the seminar by explaining that the ongoing demolitions by Israel are emblematic of the ongoing oppression and colonialism Palestinians have endured since 1948 until the present. Drawing on his personal experience, Al-Turi stated “that although Israel claims to be a state built on democracy and equality, it has proven through its actions that those are merely words.” Speaking of the experience of the Bedouin community of the Negev, he told attenders “despite all these crimes, we have not rescinded our rights to our land in Al-Araqib.”

Al-Turi stressed the idea of peace but highlighted the disparity between genuine peace and peace built at the expense of Palestinians. “We want peace, but not peace without justice,” he told attendees.

According to the speakers, Israel has confiscated electricity generators, water tanks and even clothes from the residents of Al-Araqib. In addition, during the demolition of the village on July 27, 2010, Israeli forces uprooted over 4,500 trees from the village.

Sheikh Al-Turi posed a question directed at Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, asking, “When you declare a war on people daily, where is the peace?”

Economic expert Salim Al-Turi spoke to the audience about the demography of the Bedouin people and the importance of the land to the local residents in Al-Araqib. “We are proud of our Bedouin culture, our tents, and our land that we live off of,” he said. He also spoke of the link between the identity of the Palestinian Bedouin community and the land – so closely are they tied that when Israel attacks the land, it is simultaneously attacking their very identity.

Both Sheikh Sayah and Salim al-Turi gave their thanks to Birzeit University for bringing the struggle of the Bedouin community to the Palestinian public and emphasized ongoing efforts to continue rebuilding as an assertion of Palestinian identity, which refuses to compromise at the expense of Palestinian land.

                                                                                                                        

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