JNF Ignored Your Pleas and Continues to Plow Disputed Bedouin Land
Thank you for asking the leadership of the Jewish National Fund to stop planting on legally disputed Bedouin land.
Despite pleas from you and hundreds of others, the Jewish National Fund in Israel (KKL-JNF) resumed plowing disputed land in Al-Arakib on Monday.
We need to keep the pressure up. We are asking you to do two things:
You may have received a response from the JNF calling the residents of Al-Arakib "squatters" who instigated the "invasion and illegal settling of the land...in flagrant violation of the law and clear legal rulings." In these responses, JNF claimed that "Negev land was state land from the time of Ottoman rule and Bedouins had no right of possession to this land."
However, residents of Al-Arakib have documents and other evidence of their traditional rights to their land dating to the times of the Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate, and their cemetery have graves dating back to 1913. The Israeli government has never recognized the Bedouin traditional system of communal and individual land ownership and refuses to recognize Al-Arakib's land claims.
This dispute dates back to the early years of the State of Israel when the government used martial law to force the Negev Bedouin population to live within an arid area between Be'er Sheva, Arad, Dimona and Yeruham known as the Siyag (Hebrew for “Fence”). The population of Al-Arakib was forced off of their land during this time. Once the government declared martial law, it laid claim to most Bedouin land outside of the Siyag as state land, including Al-Arakib.
In the decades following the end of martial law, Al-Arakib's community returned to their land. The government remains embroiled in protracted legal disputes with the residents about their ownership of the land and has demolished the village dozens of times in the last year and a half, leveling homes, livestock pens, and hundreds of fruit and olive trees, all to make way for Jewish National Fund forests.
Earlier this year, the leadership of KKL-JNF promised our colleagues at Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel that they would not plant on four plots of land in Al-Arakib that are involved in ongoing legal disputes. KKL-JNF also issued a public statement saying that it "does not plant even a single tree on land that is in legal dispute in court." In a phone conversation last week, Russell Robinson, CEO of JNF-USA, reiterated this position to Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America. He told her several times, "We do not plant on disputed land."
Just over a week ago, KKL-JNF equipment arrived in Al-Arakib and began preparing one of the disputed plots of land for planting. On Monday, KKL-JNF returned again and plowed more land for planting in this disputed plot. KKL-JNF has spent the last month working on other plots of land in Al-Arakib that are due to be adjudicated in Israel's High Court in December 2012.
Ask a friend to write to the Jewish National Fund. And, send a follow up note of your own.
Director of Israel Programs