The Jewish National Fund aims to plant a forest over the lands of al-Araqib. Co-sponsored by evangelical Christian organization God-TV, this forest would involve forcibly displacing the 300 Bedouin residents of the village, who are all Israeli citizens, from their homes. A non-profit organization in charge of forestation and Jewish settlement throughout Israel, the JNF controls approximately 13 percent of the land in Israel today. This land falls under the management of the Israeli Lands Administration (ILA), and can only be leased to Jews, or for Jewish settlement purposes.Hat tip to OpenDemocracy and Jillian Kestler-D'Amours,filmmaker, for this important news. Residents were evicted by more than 1,000 riot police officers, who destroyed homes and animal pens, uprooted thousands of olive and other trees and confiscated personal property.
According to Israeli activist Haia Noach, while the JNF initially denied any involvement in the destruction of al-Araqib, residents and local activists saw JNF bulldozers destroying property in the village during a demolition in early February:
“We connect them with this; they are directly responsible for what is going on there, for the fact that people lost their houses, lost their herds, their orchards,” said Noach, the Director of the Negev Co-Existence Forum, a joint Jewish-Arab organization working for Bedouin land rights in the Negev.
The destruction of al-Araqib is part of a larger Jewish National Fund project called ‘Blueprint Negev.’ Launched in 2005 at the cost of $600 million, the project aims to increase the population in the Negev area by 250,000 Jewish residents by 2013.
“Since the foundation of Israel, JNF was actually planting forests on Arab villages’ remains. And you see it all over Israel, in the North and even in the South. There will be more and more Arab villages in the Negev that are threatened by the forestation of the JNF,” Noach predicted.