Israeli Bulldozers Demolish Bedouin Homes – As Khalida Jarrar Faces 12 Court Charges!

Israeli bulldozers at work demolishing the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the Negev
Israeli bulldozers at work demolishing the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the Negev

ISRAELI bulldozers demolished homes in the Bedouin village of al-Araqib village in the Negev for the 83rd time on Monday, in addition to a home in the Negev village of Atir, local activists said.

Israeli police reportedly imposed a blockade on al-Araqib before carrying out the demolitions.

Activist Aziz Siyah Abu Mdeighem said: ‘They smile to us after they demolish our homes and ask mockingly, “How are you?”

‘It is disrespectful to Palestinians,’ he said, ‘We will stay here even if they demolish al-Araqib 100 times.’

Meanwhile, in Atir in northeastern Hura in the Negev, bulldozers escorted by Israeli police demolished a home in which a family of 12 had been living.

Ibrahim al-Afinsh, who owned the house, said the people of Atir and of the Negev would never give up their rights to their lands.

The activist Abu Mdeighem called on Israel ‘to respect the law, as they claim their country is democratic.’

The activist said that demolitions in al-Araqib continue to take place, even after the Israeli Higher Court of Justice ruled that al-Araqib’s lands do not belong to the state.

He said that local Israeli authorities, who dispute the ruling, have filed a lawsuit demanding the court to order residents of al-Araqib to pay a daily fine of 5,000 shekels.

Abu Mdeighem added: ‘Israel is celebrating its independence by demolishing our homes,’ referring to Israeli ‘Independence Day’ which Israel celebrates on April 23 this year based on the Hebrew calendar.

Palestinians will commemorate the same creation of Israel in 1948 – known among Palestinians as al-Nakba, the catastrophe – on May 15, according to the Gregorian calendar, remembering the violent expulsion of approximately 750,000 Palestinians from the newly created state.

This includes 90 per cent of the Palestinian Bedouins who had until then lived in the Negev Desert. Israel confined the remainder to a closed reservation.

Demolitions, in addition to denial of basic services and access to infrastructure, are part of an ongoing campaign by Israeli planning committees against Bedouin villages in the Negev desert, where roughly 70-90,000 people live.

In May 2013, an Israeli government committee approved a draft bill setting a framework to implement the evacuation of ‘unrecognised’ Bedouin villages in the Negev, most of which existed before the state of Israel.

Both Al-Araqib and Atir are among some 40 Negev villages that Israeli authorities have deemed unrecognised, arguing that the 53,000 Palestinian Bedouins living in them cannot prove land ownership.

Some 100 homes in unrecognised villages have been demolished since the beginning of 2015, while Israeli authorities have issued demolition notices to hundreds of others.

Meanwhile, Israeli military forces opened fire at Palestinian fishermen and farmers in the Gaza Strip on Monday, locals said.

Witnesses said that naval forces opened fire at fishermen in the northern Gaza Strip near al-Sudaniyya, while soldiers stationed at the border fired at farmers east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

No injuries were reported.

Israeli authorities maintained a fishing limit of three nautical miles on all fishermen in the Gaza Strip until August, when Hamas negotiated a six-mile limit as part of the ceasefire that concluded Israel’s two-month summer assault that left 2,200 dead.

But Israeli authorities have frequently shot at Palestinian fishermen inside the limit, and three have been killed since then.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reports frequent incidents of shooting by Israeli forces to maintain a buffer zone around the borders of the Gaza Strip.

In March, the group noted 16 incidents of shooting on land and four incursions by Israeli military forces.

• Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Monday granted Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu an extension of 14 days to form a new government.

‘I am giving you another 14 days to put together a government,’ Rivlin told Netanyahu in remarks broadcast live on Israel’s main radio stations after the premier formally requested an extension.

After a surprise election victory, Netanyahu was on March 25 tasked by Rivlin with forming the next government and given 28 days to do so, a period which expires this week.

Ahead of the deadline, Netanyahu went early on Monday to Rivlin to formally request an extension of up to two weeks.

Despite nearly four weeks of intensive negotiations, Netanyahu has not yet managed to reach agreement on the government he was hoping to form, which would comprise six right-wing and religious parties and have a majority of 67 in the 120-seat parliament.

If he is unable to form a coalition in the next fortnight, Rivlin can assign another party leader to the task, again with a 28-day deadline.

If that fails, he can select a third person who has just 14 days to complete the task. Should that end in failure, Rivlin would call a new election.

• An Israeli military court has brought 12 charges against Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jarrar in connection to her membership of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an international rights group said.

Having been detained and interrogated since April 2, Jarrar was charged by the Israeli military prosecution last Wednesday, according to a report released last Friday by Amnesty International.

Charges included membership of an illegal organisation, participation in protests, and incitement to kidnap Israeli soldiers.

A review of the charges against her will take place on April 29, the report said.

Jarrar’s defence team argued there was no basis to the incitement charge and that it was vindictive, according to Amnesty’s report

The majority of Palestinian political organisations are considered illegal by Israel, including those that make up the PLO, and association with such parties is often used as grounds for imprisonment, according to prisoners’ rights group Addameer.

Jarrar was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006 as a member of PFLP.

Jarrar was detained on April 2 from her home in the Ramallah neighbourhood of al-Bireh, and was afterwards held and interrogated at the Ofer detention centre. She was later taken to Hasharon prison inside Israel.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said that Jarrar had been detained for being the leader of a ‘terrorist organisation,’ and had encouraged ‘terror activities’ in the previous few weeks.

The arrest also came after Jarrar refused a deportation order from Israeli authorities in August, demanding that she leave the Ramallah district for Jericho.

Jarrar has been targeted by Israeli authorities throughout her life, although last Wednesday was the first time the lawmaker had been officially charged by Israeli military courts.

Palestinian factions have decried the arrest, with one PLO committee saying it was ‘an outrageous violation of her parliamentary immunity’.

Legislative Council lawmaker Jamil al-Majdalawi said: ‘Israel does not lose a chance to attempt to break the resistance’s will, the people’s resistance and their leadership symbols, and Khalida Jarrar is one of those symbols of resistance.’

In February, Jarrar joined the Palestinian committee in charge of conducting an International Criminal Court investigation into Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity.

She is also vice-chair of prisoners’ rights group Addameer.

Until the charges against her last Wednesday, Jarrar had been held in Israeli prisons under administrative detention.

Palestinians held in administrative detention are often held without charge or trial for months and without access to the evidence that led to their detention, even though international law stipulates this tactic only be used in exceptional circumstances.

Israeli prisons currently hold 14 members of the PLC, eight of them in administrative detention.