As American Jews and others in Israel, the US and around the world who care deeply for Israel, we join with many Israelis, both Jewish and Arab, in raising our voices in protest at the repeated destruction of the Bedouin village of Al-Arakib in the Negev and the forcible removal by some 1,500 Israeli police of over 300 Bedouin Israeli citizens – mostly children – leaving them homeless, expelled...
As American Jews and others in Israel, the US and around the world who care deeply for Israel, we join with many Israelis, both Jewish and Arab, in raising our voices in protest at the repeated destruction of the Bedouin village of Al-Arakib in the Negev and the forcible removal by some 1,500 Israeli police of over 300 Bedouin Israeli citizens – mostly children – leaving them homeless, expelled from their land, and bereft of their possessions.
On July 27, 2010, bulldozers from the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) demolished their homes, sheep pens, fruit orchards and olive tree groves so that a JNF forest can be planted on their land near Beersheva. The residents have rebuilt their homes, but ILA bulldozers and the Israel Police have demolished the village and expelled the residents more than 25 times in the past year, with great brutality and violence.
Israel Lands Administration Development Director Shlomo Zeiser told YNET on 1/16/11 that the ILA and JNF are making an effort to find a final solution to what's happening in Al-Arakib, and "We are preparing the ground for planting," clearly implicating the JNF, whose bulldozers have been participating in demolishing Bedouin homes. JNF recently built a camp for its bulldozers and other equipment in Al-Arakib. We will not stand by as you try to wipe out an entire Arab village in Israel!
Over 3,000 Israelis have already signed a Hebrew petition calling for an end to the destruction of Bedouin villages in Israel and a just and comprehensive solution to the plight of Israel's Bedouin Palestinian Arab citizens in the Negev - Israel's poorest population. We join them in solidarity.
1. Al-Arakib is one of more than 40 unrecognized Israeli Bedouin villages that the government has refused to connect to Israel’s national water, sewage and electricity systems. The village has existed, and its lands cultivated by the Bedouin, since before the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. Israeli authorities razed the entire village, despite the fact that ownership of the land is now the subject of proceedings in the Beersheva District Court, where scholars have testified in support of the residents’ ownership rights.
"Nearly 90,000 Palestinian Arab Bedouins, the indigenous inhabitants of the Negev region of southern Israel, live in dozens of 'unrecognized' towns. Because the Israeli authorities refuse to recognize their towns and villages, the Bedouins risk the destruction of their homes at any time," reports Human Rights Watch.
The Bedouin citizens of Israel are not enemies of the State of Israel or the Jewish people. The forestation of the Negev does not justify the destruction of a community which is hundreds of years old, dispossessing its residents, and violating the civil and human rights of hundreds of Israeli citizens, men, women and children.
2. We are deeply concerned at reports which suggest that your government may be resuming a campaign of razing ‘unauthorized’ Bedouin villages and expelling their residents. (Los Angeles Times, July 28, 2010) “Mossawa, a leading activist organization in the Palestinian-Israeli community opposing [Israel’s] demolition policies, said that last year about 254 homes were demolished by the government; however, the Interior Ministry announced earlier this year that it would triple the rate in 2010,” reports the New Israel Fund.
In 2002, Israel’s then Minister of Infrastructure, Avigdor Lieberman, now Foreign Minister, ordered the fields of Al-Arakib - from which the residents barely make a living - sprayed with herbicides in an effort to destroy its crops and uproot the residents from the village.
3. Mr. Prime Minister, we are deeply concerned that two days before the wholesale destruction of Al-Arakib, you are reported to have said in a July 25 cabinet discussion on the “Loyalty Oath” amendment to the Citizenship Law proposed by Foreign Minister Lieberman that “various elements are liable to demand their own national rights and the rights of a state within the State of Israel – in the Negev, for example, if it becomes a region without a Jewish majority. This happened in the Balkans and constitutes a real threat.” (As reported in the Hebrew edition of Ha’aretz 7/26/2010, but not in the English edition.) These remarks suggest that you view the Bedouin minority as a threat to Israel’s Jewish character, and that the destruction of the Bedouin villages and the expulsion of their residents may be part of a plan to “Judaize” the Negev.
4. The government's August 1, 2010 decision to deport 400 children of foreign workers in Israel to save the country from what you called “a tangible threat to the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel” (New York Times, Aug. 3) is another act by your government which betrays the very Jewish and democratic values you claim to defend. As Israel’s Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer has said, “this is not the Jewish state that I know, that expels children."
We recognize the gamut of problems that arise out of Israel's dependence on foreign workers. But the idea that Israel's Jewish character depends on the expulsion of these 400 hapless children strikes us as preposterous. In fact, we believe the opposite is true: This tiny blow on behalf of the Jewish body is an assault on the Jewish soul. It gives the lie to the values for which Israel purports to stand – and its contribution to a comprehensive solution of the underlying problem is minuscule.
5. We call on you to end the ongoing dispossession of the Bedouin Arab citizens of Israel, and to recognize the majority of the Bedouin villages, as the government’s own Goldberg Commission urged. For those villages which do not gain formal recognition, the commission proposed a more just negotiation process, enabling these communities to be relocated by agreement to alternate lands.
We lend our voices to the many Israelis who are appealing to you:
"Why has the government ignored these recommendations and instead chosen brute force, a path that has continually failed year after year?
Where will these villagers - dispossessed citizens of Israel - go?
What does the State of Israel propose for these dispossessed citizens?
What is the State's long term gain from embittered citizens and homeless children?
Mr. Prime Minister, you have a real opportunity to relieve the distress of the residents of the unrecognized villages of the Negev through a process of fair negotiation. Justice, reason and fairness demand no less.
Is this not in Israel’s best interest?"
Is this not the way to protect Israel’s character as a Jewish and democratic state where all citizens are guaranteed full equality, as promised in Israel’s Declaration of Independence?
Is this not the right way to fulfill Israel’s founding commitment to “foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants…based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel…ensur[ing] complete equality of social and political rights to all…”?
We call upon you to end to the destruction of Bedouin villages in Israel and to bring a just and comprehensive solution to the plight of Israel's Bedouin Palestinian Arab citizens in the Negev.
LEAD ENDORSERS (LIST IN FORMATION) AFFILIATIONS FOR IDENTIFICATION PURPOSES ONLY
Rabbi Rebecca Alpert, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Prof. Peter Beinart, City University of New York; Senior Fellow, New America Foundation
Jeremy Ben-Ami, President, J Street, Washington, DC
Theodore Bikel, Actor & Musical Artist, Los Angeles, CA
Charney Bromberg, former Executive Director, Meretz USA, N.Y.
Devorah Brous, Los Angeles, CA, founder of the Jewish/Bedouin environmental justice organization BUSTAN in Israel
Rabbi Sharon Brous, IKAR, Los Angeles, CA
Gerald Bubis, Founding Director, School of Jewish Communal Service and Alfred Gottschalk Professor Emeritus of Jewish Communal Studies, Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles, CA
Dr. Anne Marie Codur, Co-Founder, University of the Middle East Project, Brookline, MA
Prof. Steven M. Cohen, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, N.Y., N.Y.
Rabbi Michael M. Cohen, Rabbi Emeritus, Israel Congregation, Manchester Center, Vermont
Debra DeLee, CEO, Americans for Peace Now, Washington, D.C.
Rabbi Ellen W. Dreyfus, President, Central Conference of American Rabbis, B'nai Yehuda Beth Sholom, Homewood, IL
Peter Edelman, Professor, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, D.C
Dr. Leonard Fein, Author, Boston, MA
Rabbi Charles Feinberg, Adas Israel Congregation, Washington, DC, Co-Chair, Rabbis for Human Rights-North America
Samuel Fleischacker, Professor of Philosophy and Director of Jewish Studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Chicago, IL
Roger Friedland, Professor of Religious Studies and Sociology, UC Santa Barbara
Rabbi Laura Geller, Los Angeles, CA
Steven Gerber, Executive Director, Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, N.Y., N.Y.
Rabbi Marc Gopin, Director, Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
Todd Gitlin, Professor of Journalism and Sociology, Columbia University, NY, NY
Rabbi Arthur Green, Rector, Hebrew College Rabbinical School, Newton, MA
Vegvayzer/Madrikh Hershl Hartman, Secular Jewish Leader, Ed. Dir., The Sholem
Community, Los Angeles, CA
Rabbi Jill Jacobs, N.Y., N.Y.
Carole Joffe, Professor Emerita of Sociology, U.C. Davis
Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, Director, Social Justice Organizing Program, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Wyncote, PA
Rabbi Ellen Lippman, Co-Chair, Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, N.Y., N.Y.
Rabbi Andrea London, Beth Emet – The Free Synagogue, Evanston, IL
Shaul Magid, The Jay and Jeannie Schottenstein Chair, Jewish Studies in Modern Judaism and Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
Dr. Ana Marjanovic-Shane, Assistant Professor, Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia, PA
Deborah Dash Moore, Director of the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies and Frederick G.L. Huetwell Professor of History at the University of Michigan
Martha Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Mandy Patinkin, Tony & Emmy Award-winning actor and singer
Dr. Shems Prinzivalli, President, Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP), N.Y., N.Y
Rabbi Brant Rosen, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, Evanston, IL
MJ Rosenberg, Media Matters for America, Washington, DC
Mark Rosenblum, Associate Professor of History, Director, Jewish Studies Program and Center, Queens College, Queens, N.Y.
Dr. Moises Salinas, President, Meretz USA
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, designated in Newsweek’s 2009 list as the most influential rabbi in the United States
Rabbi Judith Seid, Pleasanton, CA
Rabbi David Seidenberg, www.savethenegev.org
Dr. Paul G Shane, Associate Professor, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ
Gershon Shafir, Professor of Sociology, University of California, San Diego
Daniel Sieradski, former publisher, Jewschool, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam, Seattle,WA
Ron Skolnik, Executive Director, Meretz USA
Daniel Sokatch, CEO, New Israel Fund, San Francisco, CA
Rabbi Toba Spitzer, Past President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Congregation Dorshei Tzedek, West Newton, MA
Rabbi Brian Walt, Taanit Tzedek-Jewish Fast for Gaza
Michael Walzer, Professor (emeritus), Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Director, The Shalom Center, Philadelphia, P.A
Jeff Weintraub, University of Pennsylvania
Edward Witten, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey