At a hearing in the presence of an expanded panel of judges the Supreme Court rejected the State’s request for a further hearing aimed at preventing the residents of al-ʿArāgīb from contesting the expropriation of their lands in the 1950s. While the State challenged the competence of the Regional Court to deliberate the validity of the expropriation under the Lands Acquisition Law, 1953, the Supreme Court rejected the State’s plea.
The significance of the decision lies in the fact that the residents of al-ʿArāgīb are now granted the right to contest the expropriation of their lands by the State during the 1950s and to attempt to prove their ownership at the Regional Court in Beersheva. The residents, represented by attorneys Michael Sfard and Adar Greievsky, face a long road to the registration of their lands in their name since the judgement recognizes merely the possibility of making a claim and does not address substance nor recognize the ownership rights of the plaintiffs.
Sheikh Sayyah al-Turi holds the Order of Eviction received by residents of al-ʿArāgīb in June 2014
During the 1970’s the State enabled Bedouin residents of the Negev to make ownership claims to their lands. However, the process was rapidly frozen and those claims that were submitted were never addressed. During the 2000s the prosecutor of the Southern Region began a process of “counter-claims”, claiming State ownership of the same lands that were claimed by Bedouin residents of the Negev who tried to prove their ownership through due process. However. the legal paradigm did not enable this and the lands were almost automatically registered in the name of the State. It is important to note that up till now the State has enjoyed 100% success in cases of counter claims.
Guests from overseas at the weekly vigil for al-ʿArāgīb at Lahavim Junction (Route 40) near Be’er Sheva
The Court has given a decision in principle regarding only the validity of challenging the expropriation but has in no way authorized the ownership claim to the lands around al-ʿArāgīb. Furthermore, in this verdict the judges warn that granting this authority to decide (to the Regional Court) has limited significance, since it is very difficult to challenge expropriations made under the 1953 law (Lands Acquisition Law).
The struggle of the residents of al-ʿArāgīb continues on the legal and civil fronts. A vigil is held near Be’er Sheva every Sunday at 16.30 demanding cessation of the demolition of the village and the right of residents to live on their lands in peace. For details and transportation to the vigil, call Kessem at: 050-939-1299 [email protected]