The razing of a Bedouin village by Israeli police shows how far the state will go to achieve its aim of Judaising the Negev region.
A menacing convoy of bulldozers was heading back to Be'er Sheva as I drove towards al-Arakib, a Bedouin village located not more than 10 minutes from the city. Once I entered the dirt road leading to the village I saw scores of vans with heavily armed policemen getting ready to leave. Their mission, it seems, had been accomplished.
The signs of destruction were immediately evident. I first noticed the chickens and geese running loose near a bulldozed house, and then saw another house and then another one, all of them in rubble. A few children were trying to find a shaded spot to hide from the scorching desert sun, while behind them a stream of black smoke rose from the burning hay. The sheep, goats and the cattle were nowhere to be seen - perhaps because the police had confiscated them.
Scores of Bedouin men were standing on a yellow hill, sharing their experiences from the early morning hours, while all around them uprooted olive trees lay on the ground. A whole village comprising between 40 and 45 houses had been completely razed in less than three hours.
I suddenly experienced déjà vu: an image of myself walking in the rubbles of a destroyed village somewhere on the outskirts of the Lebanese city of Sidon emerged. It was over 25 years ago, during my service in the Israeli paratroopers. But in Lebanon the residents had all fled long before my platoon came, and we simply walked in the debris. There was something surreal about the experience, which prevented me from fully understanding its significance for several years. At the time, it felt like I was walking on the moon.
This time the impact of the destruction sank in immediately. Perhaps because the 300 people who resided in al-Arakib, including their children, were sitting in the rubble when I arrived, and their anguish was evident; or perhaps because the village is located only 10 minutes from my home in Be'er Sheva and I drive past it every time I go to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem; or perhaps because the Bedouins are Israeli citizens, and I suddenly understood how far the state is ready to go to accomplish its objective of Judaising the Negev region; what I witnessed was, after all, an act of ethnic cleansing.
They say the next intifada will be the Bedouin intifada. There are 155,000 Bedouins in the Negev, and more than half of them live in unrecognised villages without electricity or running water. I do not know what they might do, but by making 300 people homeless, 200 of them children, Israel is surely sowing dragon's teeth for the future.
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