The Justices of the Supreme Court have rejected all of the claims of the Bedouin to ownership of the lands of Al Arakib in the Negev.
A significant judicial loss for the extreme leftist NGOs in the battle of the Bedouin for Negev lands.
The Supreme Court has rejected the appeal of the residents of the Bedouin village of Al Arakib in the Negev, and ruled that there was no evidence, which established their ownership of the lands. In the decision, there was sharp criticism of the opinion of Prof. Yiftachel, the expert presented by the Bedouins. “His opinion is not supported by objective evidence”.
The justices of the Supreme Court recently rejected the appeal of the residents of the village of Al Arakib in the Negev, who wanted the State to recognize their ownership of the lands in the northern Negev. Residents of the village, members of the Akoubi tribe claim that the Ottoman Authority and the British Mandate recognized their jurisdictional autonomy over those lands, and therefore Israel is obligated to recognize it.
The unanimous decision, by Justices Hayut, Rubinstein and Joubran, found that there was no evidence that the Bedouin owned these lands, neither during the Ottoman period nor during the British Mandate. And thus, these justices affirmed the opinion of Judge Sara Dovrat of the Beer Sheva District Court.
It is clear from the judgment that the Supreme Court accepted the position of the State, and rejected all of the claims of the Bedouins, who were represented by Adv. Michael Sfard. The Justices relied on, inter alia, the opinion of Prof. Ruth Kark, and completely negated the opposing opinion of Prof. Oren Yiftachel,
Justice Hayut, who wrote the decision, did not withhold criticism on Yiftachel. For example, regarding the evidence which he presented, she stated: “The documents and historical certificates upon which Prof. Yiftachel wants to rely in his opinion regarding the existence of an ancient Bedouin settlement in the area of these lands, are illegible photographs of maps whose source is not clear, and where, if at all, appear the parcels in the claim.”
In order to establish the claim that there was an established community in that area, Yiftachel claimed that within that village a school was built for the children of the village. However, testimony from the village elders was quite different. “We should also point out” says the judgment “that contrary to the claim of Prof Yiftachel that there was a school where the children of the tribe learned, the testimony of the village elders establishes that there was no school on those parcels of land.”
“From a detailed analysis of the evidence,” summarizes Justices Hayut, “Prof. Yiftachel does not base his option on any objective evidence which would demonstrate that these parcels were cultivated by the family of the appellants before the year 1945.”
Not by coincidence, the village of Al Arakib has become a symbol of the battle of the Bedouin against the State of Israel on the subject of resolving the illegal settlements on the ground. Many times, the State has destroyed the structures, and the Bedouin, accompanied by international organizations, rebuilds them.
One could clearly discern that during the course of this litigation, there was a great investment in it, accompanied by a significant media campaign with high expectations. A series of investigators and experts provided professional opinions, which were supposedly based on academic articles and aerial photographs. During the campaign, the New Israel Fund stated publically that it was “proud to support the residents of the village in their battle for their rights.”
“The key here is that this is not a battle between Right and Left, but between those who speak the truth and those who spread lies and fantasies,” Ari Briggs. “All of the judges who presided over the Al Arakib case, both in the District Court and in the Supreme Court, were convinced that the Bedouin do not have and did not have ownership of that land. The expert opinions on which the appellant relied, and in particular that of Oren Yiftachel, were proven to be untruthful and were the product of political interests.”
“At present, the State must implement this decision, and establish a new policy to resolve the issue of Bedouin settlement in the Negev. The policy must separate the question of the rights of the Bedouin to the land, which have many times been proven to be baseless, and the resolution of the settlement issue. This policy should lead to a situation in which the residents of this area will be entitled to suitable living arrangements within recognized communities.”