The “Summer Camp Of Destruction:” Israeli High Schoolers Assist The Razing Of A Bedouin Town

AL-ARAKIB, ISRAEL — On July 26, Israeli police demolished 45 buildings in the unrecognized Bedouin village of al-Arakib, razing the entire village to the ground to make way for a Jewish National Fund forest. The destruction was part of a larger project to force the Bedouin community of the Negev away from their ancestral lands and into seven Indian reservation-style communities the Israeli government has constructed for them. The land will then be open for Jewish settlers, including young couples in the army and those who may someday be evacuated from the West Bank after a peace treaty is signed. For now, the Israeli government intends to uproot as many villages as possible and erase them from the map by establishing “facts on the ground” in the form of JNF forests. (See video of of al-Arakib’s demolition here).

“]Israeli high school age police volunteers lounge on furniture taken from an al-Arakib family's home. All photos by Ata Abu Madyam of Arab Negev News.

Moments before the destruction of the Bedouin village of al-Arakib, Israeli high school age police volunteers lounge on furniture taken from a family's home. [The following four photos are by Ata Abu Madyam of Arab Negev News.

One of the most troubling aspects of the destruction of al-Arakib was a report by CNN that the hundreds of Israeli riot police who stormed the village were accompanied by “busloads of cheering civilians.” Who were these civilians and why didn’t CNN or any outlet investigate further?

I traveled to al-Arakib yesterday with a delegation from Ta’ayush, an Israeli group that promotes a joint Arab-Jewish struggle against the occupation. The activists spent the day preparing games and activities for the village’s traumatized children, helping the villagers replace their uprooted olive groves, and assisting in the reconstruction of their demolished homes. In a massive makeshift tent where many of al-Arakib’s residents now sleep, I interviewed village leaders about the identity of the cheering civilians. Each one confirmed the presence of the civilians, describing how they celebrated the demolitions. As I compiled details, the story grew increasingly horrific. After interviewing more than a half dozen elders of the village, I was able to finally identify the civilians in question. What I discovered was more disturbing than I had imagined.

Israeli police volunteers go through the belongings an al-Arakib family

Israeli police youth volunteers pick through the belongings an al-Arakib family

Arab Negev News publisher Ata Abu Madyam supplied me with a series of photos he took of the civilians in action. They depicted Israeli high school students who appeared to have volunteered as members of the Israeli police civilian guard (I am working on identifying some participants by name). Prior to the demolitions, the student volunteers were sent into the villagers’ homes to extract their furniture and belongings. A number of villagers including Abu Madyam told me the volunteers smashed windows and mirrors in their homes and defaced family photographs with crude drawings. Then they lounged around on the furniture of al-Arakib residents in plain site of the owners. Finally, according to Abu Matyam, the volunteers celebrated while bulldozers destroyed the homes.

“What we learned from the summer camp of destruction,” Abu Madyam remarked, “is that Israeli youth are not being educated on democracy, they are being raised on racism.” (The cover of the latest issue of Madyam’s Arab Negev News features a photo of Palestinians being expelled to Jordan in 1948 juxtaposed with a photo of a family fleeing al-Arakib last week. The headline reads, “Nakba 2010.”)

According to residents of al-Arakib, the youth volunteers vandalized village homes

According to residents of al-Arakib, the youth volunteers vandalized homes throughout the village

The Israeli civilian guard, which incorporates 70,000 citizens including youth as young as 15 (about 15% of Israeli police volunteers are teenagers), is one of many programs designed to incorporate Israeli children into the state’s military apparatus. It is not hard to imagine what lessons the high school students who participated in the leveling of al-Arakib took from their experience, nor is it especially difficult to predict what sort of citizens they will become once they reach adulthood. Not only are they being indoctrinated to swear blind allegiance to the military, they are learning to treat the Arab outclass as less than human. The volunteers’ behavior toward Bedouins, who are citizens of Israel and serve loyally in Israeli army combat units despite widespread racism, was strikingly reminiscent of the behavior of settler youth in Hebron who pelt Palestinian shopkeepers in the old city with eggs, rocks and human waste. If there is a distinction between the two cases, it is that the Hebron settlers act as vigilantes while the teenagers of Israeli civilian guard vandalize Arab property as agents of the state.

The spectacle of Israeli youth helping destroy al-Arakib helps explain why 56% of Jewish Israeli high school students do not believe Arabs should be allowed to serve in the Knesset – why the next generation wants apartheid. Indeed, the widespread indoctrination of Israeli youth by the military apparatus is a central factor in Israel’s authoritarian trend. It would be difficult for any adolescent boy to escape from an experience like al-Arakib, where adults in heroic warrior garb encourage him to participate in and gloat over acts of massive destruction, with even a trace of democratic values.

Youth volunteers extract belongings from village homes as bulldozers move in

Youth volunteers extract belongings from village homes as bulldozers move in

As for the present condition of Israeli democracy, it is essential to consider the way in which the state pits its own citizens against one another, enlisting the Jewish majority as conquerers while targeting the Arab others as, in the words of Zionist founding father Chaim Weizmann, “obstacles that had to be cleared on a difficult path.” Historically, only failing states have encouraged such corrosive dynamics to take hold. That is why the scenes from al-Arakib, from the demolished homes to the uprooted gardens to the grinning teens who joined the mayhem, can be viewed as much more than the destruction of a village. They are snapshots of the phenomenon that is laying Israeli society as a whole to waste.

After the youth clear out the homes, the police move in...

...and the destruction begins

...and the destruction begins

84 thoughts on “The “Summer Camp Of Destruction:” Israeli High Schoolers Assist The Razing Of A Bedouin Town

  1. jb4362

    Heartbreaking and disgusting, all at once. As always, thank you for sharing this, Max.

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  3. gd

    The people traumatized have been greatly harmed, they will suffer from depression, PTSD, anxiety, stress kills. These young volunteers were harmed too, their souls were killed.

  4. Leigh

    The only vaguely optimistic thing to say about this sickening stuff is that the more of it they do, the less international support they will have; and the less credibility the people will have who blindly defend them. Alan Dershowitz, for example, wrote about ethnic clenzing that “political solutions often require the movement of people and such movement is not always voluntary.” One should send this story around to the usual crowd to draw some insensitive comments. The only question is whether the Palestinian community can bear the suffering while Israel gradually erodes its own international standing.

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  7. angelaicahd

    Unbelievable. So many red lines crossed. Israel imploding morally. And thanks, Max, for clearing the cheering busloads as reported on CNN. Small correction: Yesterday wasn’t just Taayush organisation: ICAHD, Tarabut, Dukium, Gush Shalom, RCUV and various others all involved in organising what was in the end more solidarity than rebuilding, although some rebuilding took place. Hopefully it will extend to the whole village, and hopefully – insha’allah, pray hard, al-Arakib won’t face the fate of nearby Twail abu Jarwal which has now been demolished, totally, over 40 times.

    (Today the dedication of the rebuilt home in Anata of our summer international volunteers’ rebuilding camp, which has been twice demolished previously. Next week dedication of the ICAHD “Spanish” homes rebuilt in Beit Hanina and Hebron. To date of the over 160 homes ICAHD has rebuilt, including many in the Negev, only 10+ redemolished. Small good news in ongoing depressing stuff…)

    By the way, the CERD report I handed out on the bus yesterday is at http://dukium.org/modules/coppermine/albums/userpics/pdf_files/3/0/AlternativeReport7.pdf and a more recent one at http://dukium.org/user_uploads/pdfs/Response_to_State%20Report.pdf All of which are a damning critique of Israel’s lack of democracy, equality or human rights. The map of the unrecognised villages I cirulated is at http://rcuv.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/unrecognized-villages-map.jpg It’s a 2006 map, so Derijat recognition means there are now eight recognised town(ships). But still some 45 unrecognised. All of which means that NO BEDOUIN CAN LEGALLY FARM OR OWN ANIMALS. Bearing in mind that the legal townships such as Rahat are known as living graves, none of the 180,000 Bedouin citizens in the Negev have options that they would freely choose.

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  9. arieh zimmerman

    Shocking it may be, but it should come as no surprise that the upper echelon of Education Ministry is as putrid as the rest of the government. 10th, 11th and 12th grade students do not have classes which relate to current affairs; even if they did, too many of them would have teachers who would be inadequate, or worse, to the task of properly educating our kids. Of equal concern are the number of right-wing parents who obviously must be proud of their children’s actions as they help the on going Jewish colonization of Baudouin land.

  10. ecantarow

    All through the 1980s I reported on Israel and West Bank. In 1982 I reported on attitudes of Israelis towards Arabs in general, Palestinians in particular. The results of the poll: shocking. The younger the Israeli Jew, the more racist he/she was. Things have only worserned until the entire country now shares opinions that, in the ’80s, used to be seen as “lunatic fringe.” As commentator above notes, the US enables all of Israel’s crimes against humanity. I am sorry to feel that if we sent Obama’s aides this story, Obama would do exactly nothing. Why? He is only one of a long line of imperial Presidents, beholden only to corporate and state power. Bedouins and Palestinians – “the natives” – are weak, therefore expendable. Israeli arms and electronics development, and Israel itself, represent Growth, our great Assets, therefore not expendable. Nonetheless we should protest. It would be very nice if our movement didn’t split hairs about “one state/two states,” “the Lobby,” etcetera, and focused on Israel’s injustices, abuses, and crimes of peace and war. As well as on US complicity with these.

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  17. lareineblanche

    Stellar and careful reporting as usual, Max.
    ” ‘obstacles that had to be cleared on a difficult path.’ Historically, only failing states have encouraged such corrosive dynamics to take hold.”
    -Not only do you give people the facts “after the facts”, but you put it in a historical perspective, and notice the direction in which things are going.

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  22. Gony

    Israel lost again its moral right to exist. The fascist government is bending over to suck up to the parasites from the religious parties who do not serve in the military, while tormenting the Bedouins who pay taxes, and do serve in the Israeli defense force.
    This hooligan government disrespect human rights and disregard the international law.

  23. DICKERSON3870

    RE: “Israeli police demolished 45 buildings in the unrecognized Bedouin village of al-Arakib…part of a larger project to force the Bedouin community of the Negev away from their ancestral lands and into seven Indian reservation-style communities…” – Max Blumenthal

    FROM THE ANNALS OF ÜBER HYPOCRISY: “US senators call for UN probe on Myanmar” ~ AFP, rawstory.com, 07/30/10

    (excerpts) Thirty-two US senators urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday to back the creation of a special UN commission to investigate possible crimes against humanity and war crimes in Myanmar…
    …The group, led by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and Republican Senator Judd Gregg said a UN Commission was needed to look into “a number of reports” that showed “a consistent pattern” of rights abuses. They cited “the use of child soldiers, the destruction of villages and the displacement of ethnic minorities, the use of rape as a weapon of war, extrajudicial killings, forced relocation, and forced labor.”…

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://rawstory.com/news/afp/US_senators_call_for_UN_probe_on_My_07302010

  24. poyani

    “Israel is deliberately turning itself into one of the most hated countries in the world, and is also losing the allegiance of the population of the West, including younger American Jews, who are unlikely to tolerate its persistent shocking crimes for long. Decades ago, I wrote that those who call themselves ‘supporters of Israel’ are in reality supporters of its moral degeneration and probable ultimate destruction. Regrettably, that judgment looks more and more plausible.” Noam Chomsky, Exterminate All the Brutes http://www.chomsky.info/articles/20090119.htm

    Max Blumenthal wrote “The spectacle of Israeli youth helping destroy al-Arakib helps explain why 56% of Jewish Israeli high school students do not believe Arabs should be allowed to serve in the Knesset – why the next generation wants apartheid. Indeed, the widespread indoctrination of Israeli youth by the military apparatus is a central factor in Israel’s authoritarian trend.”

    Where are Israel’s patriots, who will save the nation from the depth of racism and the continuing slide into Apartheid and self-destruction? Without them, their country is lost!

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  30. walt kovacs

    hey max

    guess you wont mind if i build a home in your front yard

    never mind if its legal or not….i should have the right

    i have a friend who built a home in los angeles…problem is, his contractor didnt get the right forms filled out…the city tore it down

    the village was illegally built…end of story

    and while max busies himself worried about illegal structures, hamas continues to fire rockets into israel

    very nice

    btw max…who is funding this extended trip in the holy land

  31. walt kovacs

    btw…now the negez if occupied territory???

    thanks max….

    thanks for showing that what you want is an israel that is juden frei

  32. tmma86

    Two problems with that bit of Hasbara Walt! Firstly, the village existed before the state of Israel, if the state wants the land they would have to pay the residents significant amounts in compensation (which they didn’t), and if the residents don’t want to sell the state has no right to force eviction, in doing so they are commiting acts of ethnic cleansing, the same sort of acts that are on the charge list for Omer Al Bashir.

    Second, even if the buildings were somehow illegal, why is it only illegal Arab buildings get torn down whereas over 500,000 illegal settlers in the west bank and East Jeruselem live freely on land that not only doesn’t belong to them, but in fact is stolen from others; filling their pools with water that also doesn’t belong to them, whilst the rightful owners have sever shortages; and wantonly vandalising property of others in an attempt to steal more land. Your double standards are unbelievable, in fact it can only be called for what it is, racism and advocation of ethnic cleansing!

  33. Michael

    max
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  35. Israeli

    It seems like you’re a great writer but no so great journalist. As a journalist you should consider all the sides in the story when reporting it, yet here you didn’t. The Bedouin village was an illegal one and eventhough it is the Israeli government responsiblity to take care of the villagers(and I sure hope it will), it must not help them brake the law. It is not a racist policy. First of all, as an Israeli territory, Israel laws apply there. Second, Israel has evacuated some illegal jewish settelments, such as Amona, and yet you had’t repprted it.
    I know that there are some racist people here is Israel but they are extremist and no one supports them, not even the so called “extreme” right wing government.
    The youth are not educated to hate Arabs. In the 11th and 12th the students must take citizen studies and there they learn what is democracy(and not just the meaning of vote every 4 years), human rights and etc. Any racist activity is condemn.
    Israel doesn’t have the perfect democracy but Israel is in a situation no other country is firmiliar with. We try pur best to be a democracy but we have our limits.

    Thank you for reading. I hope you would’t reject my opinion and try to check my facts before disqualifying them like I didn’t reject yours and checked your facts.

    P.S
    The “youth police” was established to help young people who has a criminal record to integrate back to society and become a law saving citizens. And yes, it helps them to integrate in the military because if we won’t protect our homeland who will?

    Again, thank you :)

  36. saron

    dear all,
    i saw this article and for once i had to comment. im an israeli leaving in the netherlands at the moment. every time i see the way the conflict is depicted i am deeply disturbed – to begin with if you think for a moment you are doing good, struggling for peace, lending a hand you are dead wrong
    you are just helping re-flame hatred, antagonism and ignorance. depicting the israelis as devils is the easy way, showing a complex picture is hard, challenging and at times even (god forbid) confusing. as a soldier with values that sometimes conflicted i had to make decisions and live with their consequences, i had to realize that there are no good or bad choices there just ones you can live with and ons you can’t. i had to struggle every day with the complex reality of both of our nations and try to live through it. dont get me wrong, in israel i am considered left wing, i had my share of demonstrations, peace marches and seminars, it makes me even more mad that this stupid hollow criticism of yours is positioning me in a place im not sure im comfortable with, i am not a nationalist, not a militant, i am the last one to defend my government and its decisions – criticize them as much as you can but dont dare talk about my fellow israelis, about the youth, about the soldiers – most of them are fine people stuck in an impossible situation and trying to live through it. same should be said about the Palestinians, i have to hate to any individual even not one who straps a bomb on himself and goes to kill my friends while they are shopping in a mall, he is also stuck in the same situation i can only blame the leaders who dont have the vision and the courage to make hard decisions.

    all of yo outsiders with your high moral ground – shame on you. sitting, writing and talk-backing in your safe carefree oblivious homes. grow up ! think, listen, do something useful. i remember when i was a teenager i went with a special delegation to spain to meet Palestinians, back then it was still forbidden by law to meet PLO affiliated people and we were warn that the army will give us trouble when we get back, but we went anyway. it was a very tough experience, for the first time to feel the conflict up close, it was hard but at one point during the heated discussion a European guy stood up and shouted ‘ i dont understand why cant you just compromise and live together in peace and harmony ‘! us and the Palestinians looked at each other and laughed in understanding it was clear he really get it !

    i dont want to go on and talk about all the evils are happening in the world, about all the deeds almost all the European countries have done (and some are still doing) and dont even get me started about the us. we are in a conflict, fighting to survive. mistakes are done on both sides, mainly by leaders and history will judge them. i do think that still today i should be able to hold my head high as an israeli, conflicted from outside and inside but doing my very best to make it through and hope for a better future for both.

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  38. SIREO

    Israelis have the blood of their own people on their hands. They cannot keep doing this and not expect significant retaliation.

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  40. poyani

    Israeli/saron,

    I appreciate what you wrote, but there is a disconnect between your claims and the reality on the ground. The reality on the ground is that several million people are held by the government of Israel in a stateless limbo, because the government covets a piece of land, but does not want its people.

    The state of Israel is engaged in a fight to maximize territory against international law. What’s worse, the Israeli state is trying to accomplish this without having to grant citizenship to the inhabitants of that land. This is profoundly racist.

    Notice that this is profoundly more racist and demeaning than, say the actions of the Chinese government in Tibet.

    The Chinese government is engaged in a similar game. They are trying to gain land in violation of international law, in Tibet. In doing so, they are violating the Tibetan people’s right to self-determination. However, note that the Chinese government granted Chinese citizenship, to the inhabitants of Tibet.

    The Chinese government’s actions are certainly illegal. They are certainly, immoral. They are certainly unethical. But what separates them from Israel, is that they are not racist!

    The government of the state of Israel, feels that it has a right to maintain total dominance and control over that land, despite the fact that it is illegal under international law.

    On the other hand, it does not want to take the people in, because their inferior race (Arab) would dilute the racial mix-up of the society and change the demographics of the state away from what the government clearly considers a superior race.

    This is abhorrent and completely indefensible. It is, in fact, the worst case of government applied institutional racism in the world today. For that reason, people, good people, will always oppose it.

    There are two simple solutions to avoid this profoundly racist problem:

    1. The Israeli government grants citizenship to the inhabitants and annex the land (the one state solution).
    2. The land and its inhabitants are liberated (the two state solution).

    Anything short of these two simple solutions, is just a game, used to prolong a significantly immoral and racist system of control.

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  42. angelaicahd

    Wednesday: Demolition again at al Arakib? — Yassams have just arrived there. What was rebuilt on Saturday presumably to be redemolished. Maybe we are seeing another Twail Abu Jarwal – another nearby unrecognised village – which has been demolished over 40 times in the past 2 years or so.

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  46. saron

    dear poyani

    ok, you started by stating the banal obvious, yes the occupation of the territories is bad, we all know that but again its a very general way to paint the picture of a much more complex reality in which israel is living in a hostile environment, that the Palestinian people are governed today by a terrorist organization that has stated before an aim of wiping israel off he map (then and other nations i the region) not that that is an excuse for many wrong doings and not that there hasn’t been progress even from when i was a teenager (about twenty years ago) maybe not fast but there have been major changes and sacrifices done by israel (retreat from the gaza strip as being a major one – a choice israel is paying for now in a daily rocket shower on israeli soil – i wanna see any state in the world not launching a full military attack after being bombarded daily )

    the comparison to china is absolutely absurd…. the Tibetans are non violent, china has ruined any Tibetan symbol within tibet and are definitely not threatened by the Tibetan people, the granting of citizenship is just the chinese way of occupation the same as they have done in hong kong and the intend to do next in taiwan.

    its funny you mention that cause you dont hear almost nobody, leaders, media, almost no one is saying anything about tibet !!!

    and by the way i just came from china – you are talking nonsense if you think they are not racist. i dont say we dont have racist people amongst us, like everywhere, but to say we are a racist country is absurd. the reason why the Palestinians dont get citizenship is because in such a small and democratic country as israel that means turning it to a muslim country in a couple of years ( two issues the chinese definitely dont need to worry about). that an immanent problem of my country and there is no easy solution i can think of.

    everybody knows the two state solution is where we are heading (though some might not admit to it in public) that, again, obvious but it dosnt make the way there let bumpy, and full of twists and turns. again you are making banal, demagogic statements, which have no connection to the ‘reality on the ground’ – which im interested in how do you claim to have any knowledge about ?

    would be interesting to hear from you and all those other smart ass talk backers – where do you come from ? what have you done in life ? where do you get your info from ? and what have you done lately which deserve you nobel ideas and moral high ground ? you wouldnt be so quick and harsh to judge if you were a bit more then a ‘talk backer’ i think and i do wish you would some up with just a bit more complex though provoking things to say !

    i dont mean no disrespect personally but it really makes me angry….

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