How desolate sits the city that was full of people,
How she has become as a widow that was great among the nations
This is the month of Av, the saddest of the Jewish year because the 9th of the month commemorates the destruction of the Holy Temple. On this fast day, we read Jeremiah who provides a powerful keening narrative of the destruction.
So it seems only fitting in a perverse sort of way that today, the Israelis government crossed a new threshold of horror and despoilation. The Bedouin village of Al-Araqeeb, consisting of 40 families and 300 people, and which has existed in this place for hundreds of years, was erased by Israeli bulldozers. 1,500 soldiers armed with tear gas and water cannon, along with helicopters mounted their assault on the defenseless place. How desolate sits the village that was full of people.
They rounded up these indigenous Israeli citizens, among the poorest of all in Israel, and placed them in collection points much like Jews were herded from their own shtetls into ghettos during the Holocaust. The only difference is that Israel isn’t going to send them to the gas. Instead, it will merely leave them to their own devices in the midst of the barren desert. This won’t be a death sentence for them though since these are the people of the desert.
They will merely wait for the bulldozers and soldiers to leave and then rebuild what has been wrenched from their grasp. Much like the Hilltop Youth who rebuild illegal outposts after they are demolished, with the major difference that the Bedouin have inhabited this place for centuries and predating the State’s founding. And with the further difference that so far the Bedouin have not stoned anyone or burned anything or beat up anyone or killed anyone. But if this dreadful policy isn’t stopped that all could change in a heartbeat.
Inexplicably and even more horrifically, CNN is reporting that eyewitnesses say the police brought busloads of Israeli Jews who cheered the destruction. Is this really possible? Or is this a sick joke? Is this what Israel is coming to when the State buses in cheerleaders for its policies of Bedouin ethnic cleansing.
The village had appealed the government eviction order and won a stay from the Israeli Supreme Court. So I’m not sure how this happened, except to say that court rulings in Israel are different than here. They’re more advisory than compulsory. And it appears that yet again the State was able to evade the rule of law.
What gives Israel the right to do this? What gives Israel the right to determine that these native people who’ve lived in this precise spot since before the existence of the State, must leave simply because the State determines that this area much be Arab-rein? Yes, the government has decreed that only Jews can live in this part of the Negev. In fact, the JNF plans to aid and abet this ethnic cleansing by planting one of its famous forests where the village stood. It must hope that it can eradicate all traces of the place, just as it has done with hundreds of similar Arab villages which were emptied and destroyed during the Nakba.
But such an attempt at erasure of history will not work this time. The world has seen and taken notice. The story has been on CNN already. Jewish Voice for Peace’s blog features a heartbreaking interview with an eyewitness activist which you can hear here. I’m also working on translating from Hebrew another powerful eyewitness account featured on Facebook.
I am sorry to say that this is not a one-off event as Israel eradicated a West Bank village a few days ago in a similar fashion. In this case, it simply declared the village a military zone and–poof–it was gone. 30 other Bedouin villages have the same status as Al-Araqeeb and face the same potential fate unless the numbskull bureacrats who devised this policy are shown the error of their blockhead ways.