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The complex and often bitter legal proceedings went on for over six years, and discussed in detail the history of the Negev Bedouin and land laws dating back to the mid-19th century.
The Bedouin claim the land had belonged to their families since before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, and that it had come into their possession by means of purchase and inheritance over generations.
In a precedent-setting ruling on Sunday, the Beersheba District Court rejected six lawsuits brought by Bedouin regarding private ownership of some 1,000 dunam of land in the Negev.
Seventeen Bedouin, members of the al-Uqbi family, filed the six land claims.
We are as morally compromised as those we condemn, as incomprehensible to them as they are to us. The gray mass, punctuated by cylindrical guard towers with narrow window slits for Israeli soldiers, appears from her steps like the side of a docked ocean liner. The dwarfed shrubs, bushes and stunted fruit trees seem to huddle before it in supplication.
And until we become comprehensible to each other there will not be peace in the Middle East. I struggle to make sense of it, the way I struggled to make sense of the smoldering rubble that was the World Trade Center a few hours after the planes hit.
In court, the al-Uqbis argued that the state’s order to expropriate the land from them in 1951 was made on the erroneous assumption that under Ottoman law the land was classified as Mawat.It was, after all, the billion in loan guarantees by the United States that made this barrier possible. She implores it for answers, as if it is a Sphinx that will answer the riddle of her new existence. The wall, built by Israel a year before, blocked her from the neighboring Israeli town of Kfar Saba where she used to shop. It made it hard to reach the rest of the West Bank. Ending the loan guarantees, as long as they were used to build settlements and seize even more Palestinian land, would have done more to blunt the rage and violence of militants than all the iron fragmentation bombs Israel has dropped on the hapless civilians in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza. We react to the manifestation of rage rather than the cause of rage. The lone Israeli checkpoint with its guard towers, floodlights, concrete barriers, dust, stench, crowds, special pass cards, intrusive searches, rude remarks by border police were more than she could bare. Temporary shacks built by the Bedouin in al-Arakib were demolished by the state and rebuilt on more than 10 occasions, the last in 2010, and last year the state filed a NIS 1.8 million lawsuit against two Beduin families over the issue.During the al-Uqbi lawsuit, both the state and the Bedouin brought extensive expert testimonies, pitting the country’s most prominent experts in historical and political geography against each other. Oren Yiftachel, one of the country’s foremost geographers and social scientists, gave expert testimony. Ruth Kark, a leading expert on the historical geography of Palestine and Israel from the Hebrew University.