Court rejects appeal by illegal Bedouin settlement

Torn down by State and rebuilt more than 100 times; court upholds lower court's ten-month prison sentence for primary figure in Negev case.

Mordechai Sones,

Al Arakib - The evolution of a lie
Al Arakib - The evolution of a lie
Regavim

The Beer Sheva District Court today rejected the appeal of Sheikh Sayyach Abu Amdiam (Sayyakh al Turi), the primary figure in the illegal settlement at “Al Arakib,” a Bedouin encampment situated on State-owned land near the Lehavim Junction in the Negev.

Today's District Court ruling upholds the Beer Sheva Magistrate Court's decision (December 24, 2017) and lays the al Arakib tale to rest, once and for all.

In addition to ten months in jail, Abu Amdiam, who was found guilty of 19 counts of trespassing, 19 counts of illegal encroachment on public property, and one count of violation of a legal directive, was sentenced to an additional 5-month suspended prison sentence and a fine of NIS 36,000.

Al Arakib is an illegal Bedouin settlement that sprang up sometime around 1999, on state land some 10 kilometers north of Beer Sheva. Members of the Al Ukabi family of Rahat have seized state-owned land in this area over 100 times, each time putting up different structures and claiming the land in question has been owned by their family for generations. Among claims rejected by the court is the contention they were evacuated from the area by the IDF after the War of Independence, with the promise that the evacuation would be temporary.

In a widely publicized vocal and often violent campaign, leftist organizations have sold the Al Arakib fiction to the international media, framing it as a symbol of the Bedouin community’s stubborn and “heroic” fight to cling to their “ancestral lands” at all costs.

In 2015, Israel’s Supreme Court concluded the decade-long legal saga when the Bedouin sought to establish ownership of the property, basing their claims on “expert” testimony of leftist Prof. Oren Yiftachel. Justices Elyakim Rubinstein, Salim Jubran, and Esther Hayut who rejected the appeal had harsh words about the quality and reliability of the “proof” brought by Yiftachel in support of the Bedouin claims, and exposed the speciousness of his “expert testimony”.

Regavim movement for protecting Israeli resources has been monitoring the Al Arakib case for many years. "We welcome the court's rejection of this latest appeal and congratulate the Israel Police and the State's Attorney for the determination they have shown throughout the long years it has taken to see this matter through," said Regavim Southern Region Director Amichai Yogev. “Al Arakib has become a symbol of the legal war of attrition that leftist NGOs and a small clutch of Israel’s Bedouin community have been waging against the State of Israel – a war that has blocked progress of national development planning for the Negev that would benefit all of the region’s residents. All Negev residents have suffered from this ongoing battle, but none have suffered more than the underprivileged majority of Bedouin residents of the area, who are not parties to this conflict.

“Today's decision is an unequivocal statement by the court regarding the Al Arakib case, but it must not remain an isolated, localized victory,” Yogev adds. “This decision must serve as a catalyst for progress in other cases that will clarify the status of land in the Negev and lead to registration of land ownership in accordance with the laws of the State of Israel and not according to Bedouin narratives. This judgement should facilitate the resolution of the ongoing saga of land ownership in the Negev, which will clear the way for progress in regulating Bedouin settlement in the Negev, for the benefit of all residents of the Negev and the State of Israel.”




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