Arab squatters ordered to pay for costs forced on Israeli taxpayers

Beer Sheva District Court required leaders of a squatters camp to reimburse the State of Israel 1.6 million shekels.

By World Israel News Staff

An Israeli court ordered leaders of the Bedouin squatters camp Al Arakib to reimburse the state for expenses it incurred by demolishing it more than 150 times, costing Israeli taxpayers NIS 1.6 million.

On Monday, the Beersheba District Court announced its decision on a petition submitted by six anarchist activists, members of the Abu Madiam Bedouin tribe, who were the leaders of a protracted battle against the State of Israel at “Al Arakib.”

Regavim, an Israeli NGO focused on land issues, which has been involved in the Al Arakib case for years, welcomed the decision and called on the authorities to fast-track the legal process of clarifying the status of land in the Negev.

Members of the Madiam and Al-Ukbi families from the Bedouin town of Rahat trespassed on state land, building and re-building an illegal “village” over 150 times.

They claimed that the land they had seized has been owned by their families for generations. However, Regavim has shown that the illegal camp only began to take shape in 1999.

“Under the stewardship of leftist organizations, Al Arakib became a symbol of the ‘heroic steadfastness’ of the Bedouin’s battle for the lands on which they claim to have lived for hundreds of years – claims that Israel’s High Court of Justice rejected in a detailed and in-depth decision handed down in 2015,” Regavim said in a release.

In 2011, the Israeli government charged 34 key “activists” in a civil suit, demanding that they be required to bear financial responsibility for eight enforcement sweeps carried out in 2010 to remove squatters from the site – costing the Israeli taxpayer some NIS 1.6 million.

The costs included removal of illegal structures, security arrangements, subcontractors, helicopter reconnaissance, aerial surveillance balloons, transportation of enforcement personnel, and refuse removal to a licensed dump.

As the lawsuit proceeded, 28 of the activists reached compromise agreements with the State, and reimbursed some NIS 300,000. In 2017, the Magistrates Court determined that the remaining 6 defendants, 20% of the original number charged, would pay NIS 360,000 – some 20% of the damages incurred by the state.

The State appealed against the low compensation awarded by the Magistrates Court, and sought compensation for the full sum of NIS 1.6 million.

The Beersheba District Court sided with the state, saying “It is not reasonable to expect the State of bear the heavy burden of expenses caused by the repeated, unlawful actions of individuals.”

Regavim, which has been involved in the case for many years, said of the District Court decision:

“This judgement, like the decisions in the earlier cases regarding Al Arakib, decimates the fake Al Arakib narrative, and it must serve as a catalyst for progress toward clarification of the legal status of the lands of the Negev, including full registration of ownership of privately-owned land, in accordance with Israeli law and not according to Bedouin folklore.

“This is the only way to resolve, at long last, the issue of land ownership in the Negev, which will clear the way for regulation of Bedouin settlement, for the benefit of the Negev and the State of Israel as a whole,” the NGO said.