Head of the unrecognised Bedouin village Al-Araqeeb Sayah Al-Turi has said that Israel is trying to impose military rule in the Negev in a bid to eliminate the issues surrounding his village.
Since 69-year-old Al-Turi was released from Ramla prison two weeks ago, the Israeli authorities have been continuously carrying out house demolitions, political prosecutions, arrests and summons for interrogation by the so-called "Negev Development Authority," the Yoav Police Unit and the Israel Land Administration.
Al-Araqeeb was demolished by the Israeli authorities for the 149th time last Monday. Al-Turi has for days been protesting in front of the police station in the Bedouin city of Rahat, setting up a tent outside the office to highlight Israel Police practices in Al-Araqeeb, the daily pursuit of his sons and the decision to expel him from his land for 15 days.
"Everybody knows that the decision to imprison me and then the decision to alienate me from our village Al-Araqeeb is illegal," Al-Turi told Arab 48. "The decision was imposed by an Israeli judge whose role in the hearing session revolved around directing the Israeli prosecution and helping it to alienate me from my village."
He continued: "This judge provided everything she could in response to the requests of the racist Yoav Police Unit and even directed police representatives to items in Israeli law to use them as justification for the demand to alienate me from Al-Araqeeb."
"The law serves fascism and what has happened is a crime," the village leader stressed.
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Officers of Israel's secretive Yoav Police Unit have been continuously pursuing the people of Al-Araqeeb. In its recent campaigns, the unit specialised in demolishing houses without the use of bulldozers and dispersing demonstrations against demolitions. The officers of the Yoav Police Unit have destroyed the tents of Al-Araqeeb's inhabitants with 4×4 cars, tearing them up with knives and pulling them out of the village.
Al-Turi told Arab 48 that recently "the Yoav Police Unit officers surprised us with new methods. They drag our tents and tear them up with their hands without using bulldozers".
"They have been breaking into Al-Araqeeb village on a daily basis. During these incursions, they stole my family's belongings, assaulted and threatened children, and even destroyed the memorial to the martyrs of Al-Araqeeb massacre in 1948."
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Al-Araqeeb has also been targeted by Israel's courts. This week the Beersheba central court imposed a fine of 1.6 million shekels ($0.46 million) on the villagers to cover the cost of the village's 149 demolitions.
Commenting on this decision, Al-Turi told Arab 48: "It seems that the Israeli government is suffering from a shortage in its budget as it prepares for the upcoming parliamentary elections and tries to save money by penalising us, making us pay fines, and carrying out armed robbery against us."
"All fines and crimes against the residents of Al-Araqeeb are part of a political, and not legal, prosecution, and this racist practice is one of the methods being used against all the Arab people of Negev to uproot them from their land. Al-Araqeeb is not the only targeted village," Al-Turi added.
Al-Turi concluded by saying: "I appeal to Arab leaders and all those who believe in justice in the country to step up the battle against the authorities' plans and stand against Israel in its crimes against the village of Al-Araqeeb and the villages".
"We have our right and we will not give it up, but we need the support and presence of all conscious people. The demolition institutions and Israel are trying to restore military rule and end the issue of Al-Araqeeb, which we will not accept."
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This interview first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 9 August 2019