Poets, artists, activists visit embattled Beduin village

There is a new subversive group called “Guerrilla Culture”. It’s a group of young poets* and artists who perform in various acts of performance in areas of social conflicts. They protested against the Gaza War (2009) and you can find them in different struggles between Israel and Palestine. Their main act is to read poetry. As we know already the media is political. Sometimes the media excludes important topics from its agenda. Guerrilla Culture uses the disruption between “Culture” and “News” in order to make new items for the media.  Their mutual collaboration with the different struggles re-writes the public and cultural sphere. They spread solidarity and on the culture level their impact is big. Young poets look up to be part of the political poetry who wins more prestige because of the subversive Guerrilla acts.

Their new act is the “The Poetry of the Bedouin”. The poet Daniel Oz is the initiator for this act of solidarity between Culture Guerrilla members and the up-rooted residents of the village of Al Arakib (located in the Negev – the south of Israel – Near Beer Sheva).

On the 27 of July the Jewish National Fund decided to plant a forest instead of the Al Arakib village. Elite Police squads accompanied by hundred Israeli policemen came and demolished all the area. At that night 400 of the Al Arakib resident became homeless. The activist and residents try to re-build the area but the police came and destroyed it and arrest few of its activists.

Oz is saying (Ynet, 16.8) that “Israel is a state of compromise between two poles. On one hand the Zionist idea symbolizes the making of the Jewish refuges sovereign in their country. On the other hand its Israeli-Palestinian citizens want to get equal right in the Israeli sovereignty. Over sixty years we never compromise and our democracy is paying the deadly price. The Bedouin is part of the land and they are also Israeli citizens. Israel didn’t earn anything from the annexation and expulsion of its Bedouin Citizens.” Oz concludes: “There must be other way to conduct rather than using force”.

Oz is part of a new generation of writers who feels that change is must come by joining struggles together. But these acts of solidarity are still in the margins of the culture and public sphere.  Nevertheless we should look on the hidden currents in the Israeli society and hear what on their mind because maybe deep inside of them we can hear a seed of hope.

*I’m part of this group and one of its founders.

Good article by Ben Hartman on “Jerusalem Post” (22/08/2010) about our Cultural Guerrilla solidarity with Al Arakib residents who have seen their community dismantled by the Israel Lands Administration four times over the past month.

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The Poetry of the Bedouins

Before sunrise on the 27th of July, the residents of the Bedouin village of Al-Araqeeb were shaken from their sleep. A could of bulldozers accompanied by no less than 1,300 policemen including horsemen and a helicopter hovered over them. The force threw all 400 residents, citizens of Israel and most of them children, out into the sands, demolished all 40 buildings and cut down hundreds of olive trees. After the event, the residents, with the help of volunteers from all over Israel, have attempted to rebuild a few sheds to protect them from the heat of the summer sun. Twice since the bulldozers returned to destroy the rebuilt houses.

Let us take you into the heart of darkness of the sunlit Negev. The events at Al-Araqeeb are part of a general war of attrition that Israel is leading against the Negev’s Bedouin population since its earliest days. When the residents of Al-Araqeeb were first evicted, in 1951, they were promised that they could return later. Their land was promptly seized and expropriated, without consideration for the residents’ land ownership and with no compensation.

In the midst of a long and still ongoing legal struggle, the residents resumed living on their land and working it, but the state responded by use of force: Repeated demolitions of houses, and even the dusting of their crops with poison, a crime that a high court ruling put a stop to. The latest escalation, the decision to destroy the whole village, is a preparation for the forestation of the area by the JNF.

Culture Guerrilla strongly opposes the uprooting of citizens and replacing them with trees, and hereby embarks on a campaign to preemptively chop down JNF’s forest and replant the song of the Bedouins in the Negev’s hills. The Be’er-Sheva area has been the rightful home of a population predating the Zionist Hityashvut. We remind the government that a democracy belongs to all its citizens and is supposed to serve them, not harm them. We call upon the state to legally recognize Al-Araqeeb and the Bedouins’ right to built on their historical lands.

On Saturday the 21st of August, 15:00, we poets and artists will arrive in Al-Araqeeb to stand in solidarity with its residents, read poetry and play music in protest. The operation is helped and joined by Zochrot and the Negev Coexistence Forum. Come support Al-Araqeeb, come listen to poetry and song, come oppose the destruction and help to plant the seeds of brotherhood that will sprout and become a reality of cooperative growth!

For more information contact Daniel Oz,