Israel’s ongoing “sociocide” in the Naqab

Israeli forces are destroying Bedouin villages both in the Naqab/Negev desert and the West Bank.

Issam Rimawi APA images

This week on The Electronic Intifada podcast:

Transcript: Nasser Rego on Prawer Plan and history of ethnic cleansing in al-Araqib

The Electronic Intifada: Let’s talk about the last week in the Naqab. Can you tell us about some of the latest demolitions there and how this fits into the context of the Prawer Plan? Describe what that is, for our listeners who might not be familiar.

Nasser Rego: Well, the Prawer Plan is essentially marketed by the government as being for the social and economic benefit of the Naqab Bedouin. And so, you can read through the Prawer Plan and see how they talk about the well-being of the Bedouin children, 100,000 of whom will be denied the right to adequate healthcare, the right to a proper education, the right to a future, really, if people try to derail the plan. Because the plan is for the benefit of the Bedouin.

So there’s all this talk about how the plan is for the benefit of the population, while in reality what the government is trying to do is something it’s been trying to do for many years now, which is basically trying to put a rubber stamp on the expropriation of Palestinian Bedouin land, historical land which until now has not been — legally, there is no final say in terms of who owns the land or not. It’s still under contention. And the government is trying to put an end to that, and expropriate it to its name. And we’re talking up to — there is some 600,000 dunams of claims outstanding, but historically the community used up to 2,000,000 dunams [one dunam is equal to 1,000 square meters].

So this is the Prawer Plan. It will mean the destruction of communities, a sociocide of sorts. It will mean severing their relationship to their historical lands, it will mean all kinds of distress in terms of possibilities they have — in terms of socio-economic development. It’s a really frightening culmination of a policy that has been ongoing for the last 65 years.

EI: What does it look like when these Israeli bulldozers come into these Bedouin villages? What happens to the people who live there?

NR: Well, they’re pretty much at the mercy of the security forces that are present. We say in Bir Hadaj not that long ago how rubber bullets were fired at unarmed women and children, and tear gas fired in the vicinity of the school, leaving many kids having to be hospitalized. And similar stuff happened in al-Araqib not that long ago.

And obviously at the first demolition, there was a huge, many hundreds of security and police present, and besides that, their livestock were killed, they had their belongings stolen by the authorities, just absolutely no legal basis to be doing that stuff but they’re doing that anyway. So they’re absolutely at the mercy of the police and no effective protection.

EI: In your op-ed, you recounted some of the stories of people who had gone through these initial ethnic cleansing attacks during the late 1940s, during the Nakba. Can you talk a little about some of the research you’ve done, and some of the accounts you’ve collected?

NR: Coming across the al-Araqib massacre happened when I first began my doctoral research, or at least a few months into it. And I was spending 2 days a week in the Naqab, meeting with various people, particularly with a well-known rights activist, Nuri al-Oqbi. And he mentioned it to me at least a couple of times, that there were 14 Palestinian Bedouin men, they were young middle-aged, they were working their fields, they were rounded up on this army truck or van, and driven to the house of someone named Odeh al-Qawasemeh, and there they were summarily executed.

Now I heard it a couple of times, and my research is not historical research — it’s legal research, and I’m focusing on the treatment of Palestinians within the Israeli legal system, looking at developments over the past 10 years. So this seemed sort of a tangential possibility to explore, and I wasn’t too sure I had time for it.

And when the demolitions happened in 2010, for the first time, when the entire village was demolished on 27 July 2010, I met the spokesperson for the village, Dr. Awad Abu Freih, and he actually presented a plaque of all the people, all the martyrs that had fallen in al-Araqib during the Nakba, between ‘47 and ‘49. And a lot of people within the Palestinian community were surprised to see that plaque. They were surprised to know that al-Araqib also had massacres; they hadn’t read about it.

In fact, when he first presented it, I believe it was on Land Day, following the first demolition of al-Araqib, and the current mayor of Nazareth, he was very surprised. He was like, “al-Araqib has martyrs as well?” And in putting all the pieces together, I realized, wow. There’s something here. It’s definitely worth looking at how what is happening today in al-Araqib is linked to what happened in the past, and what is happening today — and really what the community is feeling.

To be displaced once more, to be threatened with eviction, and not even having had, I suppose, the opportunity to adequately even deal with the pain of what happened in ‘48. Not getting the recognition, or the space to even talk about it, or to even make that link between then and now. And to even rally some support. And so that’s how it started. I met with Abu Shahd from Rahat, and he was 83 at the time, this was in 2011. I met with Ibrahim Abu Tayef, also in Rahat, and of course I spoke with Nuri who was a little boy, about 5 at the time.

And so putting the pieces together, there’s been research written about it in Arabic, as far as I know, in the local press, and also in a book published by Dr. Ibrahim Abu Jaber from Umm al-Fahem who was originally from the Naqab. And Salman abu Sitta also records the massacre in his atlas and other publications from Palestinian society. So that’s how it came together.




Thanks for this good journalism, for speaking up for the voiceless..

Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).