AL-ARAKIB, ISRAEL-PALESTINE, July 27 — Hundreds of workers, both Bedouin-Arabs and Jews, marched against the Jewish National Fund’s (JNF) attempt to evict the Bedouin village of al-Arakib from its ancestral lands. In the last two years, this village has been demolished no less than 40 times. Yet the villagers, impoverished workers and peasants, still cling to their land and rebuild again and again, bravely defying the will of the racist Israeli regime.
Workers from all parts of Israel-Palestine stand in solidarity with this struggle, encouraging the villagers of al-Arakib in their fight for a piece of land to call their home. But what is this struggle really about? For this, we must look at the history of the Bedouins in Palestine.
Before the 1948 war, 90,000 Bedouins lived in the Negev (southern Israel-Palestine), mostly settling down as pastoral peasants in the early 20th century. When the Zionist movement took power and established the State of Israel, 59,000 of them were deported, mostly to the Sinai peninsula and the Gaza Strip. The rest were kept under martial law in the “Siag” region, essentially a tiny native reservation (or ghetto) until 1966. Then they were allowed more freedom, but were still confined to a small part of the land. Currently, the Bedouins, some of whom were living in the Negev for centuries if not millennia, make up only 25% of the Negev’s population; the remaining 75% are Jews brought by the Israeli government after 1948.
How Israeli Rulers Cheat Bedoiuns
The Israeli government claims almost all of the Negev as its own state land. Bedouins who live on state land — even if it was their family’s ancestral land for centuries — are considered to be “squatters.” Since the 1970’s, the Israeli government “generously” allowed the Bedouins to “sell” parts of their claimed lands to the state for ridiculously low prices, usually around 25-30% of the land’s market value.
Understandably, most Bedouin workers and peasants were very reluctant to give up their lands, especially for such an unfair price. So most remaining Bedouin settlements are technically illegal — that is, the government and the Zionist JNF can demolish their homes and evict them legally. These “unrecognized” villages, such as al-Arakib, are not allowed to receive electricity or running water from the state infrastructure, and have to improvise amenities. Sometimes their children have to walk for many kilometers to get to school.
Since the late 1960’s, Israel has built “planned” settlement towns, essentially ghettos, for the Bedouins. In these towns, the largest of which is Rahat (population 50,000), there are almost no jobs, and the residents have to make do with minimal infrastructure and under-funded health and education services. Unemployment in Rahat, for example, is upwards of 50% for men and 85% for women with 60% of households below the poverty line. This poverty breeds crime and drug use.
This is the main reason why half the Bedouin population chooses to stay in “unrecognized” villages with no modern amenities and engage in subsistence farming (usually herding sheep) rather than move to the poverty-stricken “planned” towns where no jobs can be found.
Real Estate Bosses Profit from Racism
The policy of the Zionist movement (and its creation, the State of Israel) places more Jews on more land and less Arabs on less land.
This racist policy is heaven for real-estate capitalists all over the Western world, particularly the U.S. It is hell for the Arab working class, as well as the Jewish working class which was settled in underfunded “development towns” providing cheap labor for local capitalist factories heavily subsidized by the government from the 1950’s to the 1980’s. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, most of these factories were shut down or moved to the Far East, leaving the entire towns stricken with mass unemployment.
Meanwhile, the Israeli government and the JNF keep planning and building gated communities for wealthy Jews in the Negev, all while claiming that the Bedouins — who were already there long before the state was founded — are “stealing land” from the state.
Al-Arakib, an unrecognized Bedouin village near Rahat and Beersheba, is home to several working-class families. In the past, they engaged in subsistence agriculture to supplement their meager income. In the summer of 2010, however, their village was demolished. The government uprooted their olive trees and destroyed their homes. Since then, the regime has demolished this village 40 times. The locals still fight back, with the help of working-class activists. This struggle is not only for the village of al-Arakib, but for the fate of 100,000 Bedouin workers and peasants who live in “unrecognized” villages. If al-Arakib falls, the racist Israeli regime will move on to demolish many more villages to make room for real-estate development for the profits of U.S. and Israeli bosses.
The only answer to this racist attack on workers and peasants is to fight back, and the villagers at al-Arakib are fighting courageously. However, the only way to ensure a better life for all parts of the working class is to get rid of the root of all evil — capitalism and its creation, nationalism — and replace them by a multi-ethnic communist world ruled by the working class as a whole. Such a communist society will provide real infrastructure and livelihood to all workers. The Progressive Labor Party fights for a communist Israel-Palestine and a borderless communist world. Join us!