One man’s futile quest to prove ownership of land in the Al Araqib area of the Negev desert shows how Israeli law is weighted against the Bedouin as the cabinet approves a plan to move 30,000 clan members into urban townships.
“HURA, ISRAEL // Nuri Al Okbi’s home is an archive of his futile campaign to prove to Israel that he owns land he says has been in his family for centuries.
Tucked away in boxes and stacked on bookshelves are maps and land deeds dating back to the Ottoman Empire.
The collection, he says, is evidence of the Okbi clan’s ownership of land in the Al Araqib area of Israel’s Negev desert.
Shortly after its founding in 1948, Israel seized huge swathes of Bedouin land in the Negev, including Al Araqib. Thousands of Bedouin, such as the Okbis, were expelled or confined to urban slums. They became squatters on their ancestral land.
Mr Al Okbi, 69, says he has spent decades trying to convince Israeli courts that he owns a piece of the Al Araqib land.
So when he heard last year of Israel’s plan to uproot thousands of its Bedouin citizens from an area called Sigagh, Mr Al Okbi’s suspicions were confirmed. Israel, he concluded, would never recognise his people’s nomadic way of life and historic ties to the land.
“We have tried the law for so long to get our rights but there is no law in Israel – at least not for the Bedouin,” he says. […]”
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