Israeli bulldozers guarded by a large force of police started to demolish the mosque in Wadi Al-Niam in the Negev on Thursday amid residents’ fears that authorities could also demolish homes in the village. A demolition order had been nailed to the mosque wall a few days earlier.
The Negev Foundation for Land and Man denounced the demolition, describing the Israeli act as a blatant assault on the sanctity of the mosque and on Arab rights to live in the Negev. It also noted that the demolition violates the right to freedom of worship as well as international laws and conventions.
The foundation also condemned the police attacks on the residents of Wadi Al-Niam, the demolition of their homes, the confiscation of their property and the destruction of their crops. It stressed that the indigenous people of the Negev Desert are determined to stay in their homes in the face of Israeli scheming and force. It appealed to Arabs in Israel and the Arabs of the Negev in particular to stand by the people of Wadi Al-Niam.
The Islamic movement in the Negev said that the demolition of the Wadi Al-Niam mosque is a criminal act by the Israelis. It is, the movement said in a statement, part of the wider ethnic cleansing of the area by which Israel wants to displace 60,000 Palestinian Arabs from their traditional home in the desert so that Jewish settlers and the Israeli army can move in.
“The people in the Negev have the right to live on their own land,” said the Islamic movement. “They have the right to build on it and live on it and worship on it.” The demolitions, the statement added, will only increase the people’s resolve to stay put on their land.
The movement called on all human rights organisations and institutions in the Negev to stand side by side with the people of Wadi Al Niam, defend their legitimate rights and confront Israel’s ethnic cleansing.