The dispute today is over land ownership. Bedouin families around Arakib say they own about 4,600 acres of the desert, insisting that they paid taxes during the Ottoman period and British Empire. Gravestones in the cemetery show some families have inhabited the area for at least 140 years.
In 1951, Bedouin leaders say, they were forced by Israel's military into settlements along the West Bank border. "They told us we could come back in six months," said Nori Uqbi, a community activist who is suing the government to regain control of what he says is his family's land. "But it was all a lie."
Instead, he said, the villagers were never allowed to return and have been prevented from cultivating the land.
It doesn't matter that el-Arakiv was in the Negev before Israel was founded.
It doesn't matter that the state has moved the el-Arakiv bedouin from place to place over and over again.
What probably DID matter was what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said just the day before, when he publicly announced that the Bedouins are a threat to Israel. Netanyahu warned of a situation in which "various elements will demand nationality and rights within Israel, in the Negev for example, if a region is created without a Jewish majority. This occurred in the Balkans and this is a real threat."
"If a region is created without a Jewish majority"? So there is now a policy of forced internal migrations within Israel to prevent any single region having a demographic imbalance on racial terms? More background on the government's plan to populate Negev here.
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