Since 27 July 2010, when Israeli authorities demolished the village for the first time, the struggle for al-Araqib has risen to international prominence, becoming a focal point in the Palestine solidarity movement, both locally and internationally. On the occasion of Land Day (which this year sees a global BDS day of action), it seems apt to reflect on this village and its wider implications.
The case of al-Araqib represents a stark illustration of the spatial struggle in Israel-Palestine, and perhaps offers a microcosm through which to understand the possibilities for spatial resistance. It is one of over 100 ‘unrecognised villages’ inside Israel (mainly concentrated in the Negev and the Galilee), with a history dating back to the Ottoman period. Since last July it has been demolished more than 20 times by the Israeli authorities.
The indigenous Bedouin community of al-Araqib, numbering around 300, has come together to organise and sustain a resistance to this forced displacement, and has forged ties with activists who join in solidarity. Their resistance has evolved over this period, taking various forms from demonstrations and court petitions, to symbolic actions such as the planting of fruit trees (later uprooted, and re-planted). But, fundamentally, it is their resolute commitment to rebuild the village each time it is demolished that has drawn national and international attention.
Ameer Makhoul, a high-profile Palestinian-Israeli community leader (presently imprisoned by the state), recently reflected on the struggle for al-Araqib:
There is an intimate link between popular resistance in al-Araqib and in Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, Nilin, Bilin, in the Triangle and in al-Rawha, the fight against house demolition and Judaization in the Galilee, the fight for Umm Sahali and all the struggles of The Association of the Forty of Ein Hod and the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages in the Naqab, Nuri al-Uqbi’s fight for the defense of his land and his right to live on it, the Palestinian and international movement against the blockade of Gaza, the fight to preserve the Arab character of Jerusalem and its holy sites and other popular resistance movements.
The energy of these struggles, born of grassroots and local solidarity movements and taken up by international supporters, is growing every minute. This solidarity constitutes a powerful force of dissuasion against those invading al-Araqib and elsewhere and acts as a protection for the people of this country and its landowners whether living here at the moment or refugees from here.
Significantly, the resistance in al-Araqib has resonated with grassroots activist and direct-action groups on both sides of the Green Line. These groups – from those opposing house demolitions and land confiscation in East Jerusalem, to protesting against the Separation Wall, to discrimination in Israeli ‘mixed’ cities – have formed a collective synergy and momentum, opening up space for mutual learning. It is a development that breaks down the borders of the occupation and challenges the Israeli establishment’s ability to divide and suppress the struggle for Palestinian rights.
At an international level, the villagers of al-Araqib have garnered widespread support, notably from Amnesty International. At the Human Rights Action Centre in London, they hosted an event with representatives from al-Araqib along with an exhibition documenting life before and after the demolitions by photographer Silvia Boarini. The plight of the villagers has become impossible to ignore, and even the mainstream print media, including the New York Times and the Guardian, have reported on their story. The role of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in the demolition of al-Araqib has also raised the profile of resistance to this organisation within international civil society.
Perhaps more importantly, the villagers of al-Araqib have asserted the place of the Bedouin community (and re-asserted the wider Palestinian-Israeli community) within the shared Palestinian narrative. It is a population that had been denied real representation and discussion at both the national and international levels. With no substantive recourse to their state, the villagers of al-Araqib created their own resistance movement, and inspired global support, simply by refusing to be uprooted.
The activist communities’ enthusiasm to take up the campaign of al-Araqib suggests a hunger exists at a grassroots level for an inclusive strategy that focuses beyond the spatial parameters of the occupation, to the injustices within Israel itself. Such a connection is vital if we are to build a movement capable of challenging the ethnocratic framework of spatial dominance and segregation in Israel-Palestine. And, if the rapid emergence of al-Araqib is any indication, we are certainly on our way to reframing conventional understandings of Israel-Palestine and creating a new space for resistance.