Israel: court rejects Al-Araqeeb claim to ownership of land

Middle East Monitor  /  June 20, 2023

The District Court in Beersheba has seized the land ownership rights of the residents of Al-Araqeeb, a so-called “unrecognized” village in the Negev/Naqab. The court came to the decision after legal procedures and deliberations that have lasted for decades, during which Al-Araqeeb was demolished hundreds of times by the Israeli occupation authorities, its residents were displaced, and large areas of its land were seized.

The land ownership claims of the people of Al-Araqeeb and their heirs have been rejected by the court. The residents of the town have thus been forcibly displaced.

Judge Jula Levin rejected the claim by the landowners in Al-Araqeeb that there were flaws in the settlement process that required the confiscation of land in 1954 with the signature of then Finance Minister Levi Eshkol.

The court deliberated over eight cases regarding property rights to land, amounting to around 1,950 dunums (482 acres), filed by the Abu Madighem and Abu Freih families. The ownership and land claims for both families date back to the 1970s and 1980s, since when the Israeli authorities have responded with counterclaims.

The core of the dispute between the people of Al-Araqeeb and the Israeli authorities revolves around the 1953 Land Acquisition Law, which was passed with the aim of granting retrospective legitimacy to the confiscation of Arab land that took place after the Nakba between 1948 and 1952. The confiscation operations were carried out without any legal authority.

However, based on the court ruling, the passing of the aforementioned law allowed the Minister of Finance to sign off on the confiscation of the lands if three conditions were met: the land was not in the possession of its owners on 1 April, 1952; it was used for purposes essential for growth and development of settlements or security; and there was still a need for it during the settlement process of land confiscation.

According to the decision issued by Judge Levin, the landowners claimed that, “The residents of the town were expelled from it in November 1951, through deception, violence, intimidation and bribery by the authorities of the military government, and they were transferred by force and coercion to the Hura region.”

According to the opinion of Professor Gadi Alghazi of the History Department at Tel Aviv University, who was involved in the lawsuit, the process to evict the Bedouins began in November 1951. Alghazi found a letter from September 1951, written by Moshe Dayan, who was then head of the Central Command in the Israeli army, in which he explained that, “The transfer of the Bedouins to new areas will cancel their right as owners of the land, and they will be tenants of government lands.”

The professor also found documents stating that dozens of members of the Abu Madighem family actually returned to their land in December 1951.