JNF violates agreement on Al Araqib land 30 May12 May 30, 2012

Palestine Monitor   -   18 May 2012

International, local Palestinian and Jewish activists met in Al Araqib on May 13 where the Jewish National Fund has been attempting to plant trees on a plot of land over the ownership of which the Beersheva District Court has yet to rule. The JNF had previously agreed to refrain working on the plot in question, number 24.

A press release by the Beersheva based NGO Negev Coexistence Forum (NCF) explains the that:

“In spite of a promise made one month ago by JNF directorate chairman Efi Shtentzler that the JNF would not work on four plots of land belonging to the village of Al-Araqib, residents reported that the JNF worked in one such plot earlier this week.”

Last week, Israeli police in the city of Rahat informed Sheikh Sayakh Al-Turi, leader of Al-Araqib, that they intended to secure JNF works in the village. The warning became a reality, as JNF bulldozers, accompanied by police forces and special police units, worked in the village.

The work carried out May 7 also came despite the recommendation of District Court judge Nechama Netzer to avoid transforming the land until ongoing legal proceedings are settled.”

In the same press release, NCF Director Haia Noach also points to the unequal nature of the struggle for Al Araqib, where the state can rely on a vast security apparatus while villagers can only count on their will and the solidarity of Israelis and internationals who choose coexistence over violent confrontation.

“The mechanism of dispossession has used all the governmental units available: green patrol cars, police and special units accompanied by bulldozers are standing in front of dozens of village residents and activists, who are trying to save what little slice of land that remains for the village,” she said. “Instead of finding an agreed-upon solution and waiting for the court’s decision, JNF-KKL comes to the village under massive police protection and takes the last lands of the village. The residents of the Negev don’t need more forests. We need sustainable equality and the application of the right to an adequate standard of living for all the residents of the Negev.”

Following the JNF’s U-turn, Rabbis For Human Rights and NCF have stepped up their campaign against the agency asking supporters to write letters to the JNF USA director asking that he exerts his influence “to see that JNF does not plant on disputed land in Al Araqib before a final decision has been delivered in the Israeli courts.” The Court’s decision is due in December 2012. Since July 2010, Al Araqib has already been demolished 34 times. NCF has established a clear link between the ongoing demolitions and the forestation activities of the JNF.

Despite the agency’s broken promise and the aggression of a state of which he is a citizen of, the charismatic leader of the village, Sheikh Saiah Al Turi, remains steadfast. “No matter how many times they will demolish our village, we will remain here,” he assured the activists.

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