Saturday, December 5, 2009

Is there justice for Bedouins?

Day after tomorrow, on Monday December 7 at 10 a.m., there will take place before judge Sarah Dovrat at the Beer-Sheva District Court the testimony of the Bedouin human and civil rights activist Nuri al Okbi, a decisive point in his prolonged legal and public struggle to prove his ownership over family land in the Al_Arakib area northwest Beer-Sheva.

"In 1951, while still a child, the army deported my family and my entire tribe from the land. They told us that it was only for half a year, but we were never allowed to go back" says al Okbi. Nearly forty years ago, Sheikh Sliman Muhammad al Okbi ', father of Nuri, presented a claim over the land to government's Land Arrangement Clerk (Pkid Hahesder). However, the hearing dragged on interminably, like most ownership suits filed by Bedouin residents in the Negev. For the past two years, the case is heard by judge Sarah Dovrat.

"On December 7 will come the moment I waited for a long time – the moment when I will have the opportunity to address the court and present documents, some of them a hundred years old, making abundantly clear that the land had belonged to - and was inhabited and worked by our tribe - generations ago, long before the State of Israel was established. Contrary to the lie often heard in the media, about 'Bedouins invading state lands', we are not invaders or squatters – we are on our own ancestral lands."

For the past three years, Nuri al Okbi is living in a tent erected on the lands of Al-Arakib, close to the site of the house where he was born and spent his early childhood. He was many times evicted – sometimes with considerable violence – by the police and "Green Patrol" – but always came back.

Nuri al Okbi issued a call for all seekers for peace and justice in Israel to come to the court on Monday, be present during the testimony and express support for his struggle.

Contact: Nuri al Okbi 054-5465556