Billy Briggs and I were witness to the brutally callous, forced eviction of 20 Negev Bedouin families by Israeli police in the south of the country in the desert near Be’er Sheva. The Negev Arabs, from the Atarash tribe, were given a demolition order two days before the raid, and at dawn around around 100 armed police officers arrived to carry out the eviction. The Negev, who have nowhere to go, were given a few hours to take what they could, then at 11am the security forces moved in with three bulldozers and demolished every home in the village of Dudaim.
Dudaim, like 44 other Bedouin villages in the area, is ‘unrecognised’ by the Israeli government which refuses to accept the land claims of around 80,000 indigenous people. The Negev, says the government, is not the ancestral land of the Bedouin and belongs to the Israeli state. The Bedouin are Israeli citizens and claim they were granted land rights by the British before 1948. They are eligible to vote, and must pay taxes, and many of them also opt to do national service in the Israeli army.
Campaigners for the Negev claim this is ethnic cleansing as Israel wants to move the Bedouin out and populate the south with Jewish settlers. Single home demolitions take place regularly but evictions of this size are rare. The Negev claim these forced removals are about to start happening on a much larger scale.