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Emptied LandsA Legal Geography of Bedouin Rights in the Negev$

Alexandre Kedar, Ahmad Amara, and Oren Yiftachel

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781503603585

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9781503603585.001.0001

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Historical Geography of the Negev: Bedouin Agriculture

Historical Geography of the Negev: Bedouin Agriculture

(p.121) 5 Historical Geography of the Negev: Bedouin Agriculture
Emptied Lands

Alexandre Kedar

Ahmad Amara

Oren Yiftachel

Stanford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter begins the task of challenging the geographical components of the DND, by providing a thorough account of the historical geography of the Negev, drawing on various historical accounts of European travelers and Zionists. Relying on these accounts, it challenges the hegemonic history and narrative that depict the Negev as an uncultivated and unsettled desert used by nomadic Bedouins. The chapter demonstrates that the human geography of the northern Negev was characterized, at least from the 19th century, by widespread agriculture, in parallel to traditional pastoralism. There is ample evidence that Bedouin agricultural settlement in general had existed for centuries, including among the al-‘Uqbi tribe in the ‘Araqib area. The chapter shows organized local habitation and economic activities, based on a customary and well developed land system.

Keywords:   Agriculture, Negev, ‘Araqib, European Travelers, Customary Land System, Ottoman, British Mandate

As we have seen, the Dead Negev Doctrine (DND) rejects the notion that meaningful Negev Bedouin agriculture existed before the British Mandate period. In its ruling in al-Hawashlah v. The State of Israel, the Israeli Supreme Court relied on the writings of Edward Palmer, who explored “the Negev situation in 1870” and “found wilderness, ancient ruins and nomadic Bedouins, who did not particularly cultivate the land, did not plough it, and were not occupied by agriculture at all.”1 In the al-‘Uqbi case the state argued similarly that the al-‘Uqbi, like the rest of the Negev Bedouins, did not cultivate the land in 1858.2 The state touted the notion that the lack of water in the area made land cultivation nearly impossible and further argued that ample evidence confirmed that the Bedouins despised land cultivation.3 In support, Ruth Kark testified that

writings of Europeans travelers who passed through the Land of Israel in the second half of the 19th century show that the Bedouins … gained a livelihood primarily from raising camels, sheep and goats, which require seasonal nomadic movement and raids on settled peasantry areas. Some of the sources describe minor, non-continuous and chance cultivation of land in the Negev, but such areas are distant from the claimed land at hand. Based on the analyzed material, I conclude that this agricultural activity conducted in remote lands was accidental, unplanned and unintended, without intensive treatment or work of the land all year long. The sources show that organized growing of agricultural crops, to a limited extent, began in this area only during the Mandate period and thereafter.4

(p.122) The al-‘Uqbi family argued contrariwise, stating that they did prove that they had lived on the land and had cultivated it for generations.5

Justice Sarah Dovrat reviewed the claims and testimonies that the Bedouins cultivated the land in the area and stressed (erroneously) that even the aerial photo interpreter for the plaintiffs found that in most plots only a small area was cultivated.6 She also repeated Kark’s disbelief that the 144 members of the al-‘Uqbi tribe (including children), enumerated in the Mandate statistics, could possess and cultivate 19,000 dunums.7 She concluded that the claimants failed to prove cultivation even in 1945.8

However a thorough study reveals a different picture, however—one that has been absent from mainstream legal and geographic discourses in Israel. Our study demonstrates that the human geography of the northern Negev, including the Beersheba Valley, has been characterized, at least since the nineteenth century, by widespread agriculture in addition to traditional pastoralism. Ample evidence shows that Bedouin agricultural settlement in general and agricultural settlement among the al-‘Uqbi tribe in ‘Araqib in particular has existed for centuries. For generations most northern Negev tribes inhabited residential areas near their permanent cultivation areas, in a spatial unit they termed a dira (pl. diyar), in most of the Negev or in bilad or bilad ‘amri (lands or inhabited lands) in more western areas. The Bedouins transferred the land from one generation to the next, establishing an agricultural setting based on dry farming sprinkled with clusters of tents; later, during the twentieth century, increasingly they constructed mud (baika) and stone (ḥajar) homes.

It is worth noting that, although Israeli courts and sometimes even the academic literature consider the Negev one region, it is more appropriate to treat it as a number of distinct zones. Most scholars divide the Negev into several parts, according to level of precipitation, topography, and the type of land. For our purposes we differentiate between the zones of the northern and northwestern Negev, which are the relevant areas for exploring the land claim in ‘Araqib—12 kilometers north of old Beersheba—and Zehilika, the second site of the al-‘Uqbi claims, 22 kilometers northwest of Beersheba. Contrary to the state’s and the Supreme Court’s depictions, these areas receive 250–400 millimeters of rain annually and contain fertile loess lands.9

Plenty of evidence indicates that the area was inhabited for centuries by Bedouin tribes and that Bedouin dwellers of the desert edge and fallahin from (p.123) nearby villages often intermingled in the shared region. It is unclear when Bedouin Arabs began settling in the Negev (which was not demarcated as a distinct region until the early twentieth century). The literature advances several theses about their arrival. Some scholars note that the Bedouins had been in the Negev since “time immemorial,”10 whereas others assert that they arrived with Prophet Muhammad’s armies in the seventh century.11 Additional tribes from Sinai and Transjordan settled in the Negev over the course of the last 300 years and were later joined by impoverished immigrants from neighboring countries, particularly Egypt and the coastal regions of Rafah and Gaza. It is reasonable to assume that several of the tribes who lived in the region known today as the Negev left later on, and that earlier tribes assimilated into new tribes often seamlessly.12

The comprehensive census conducted by the Ottomans in Palestine in 1596 is a detailed and systematic source that reveals some of the history of Bedouin cultivation in the region. The census was based on the pattern of tax collection in the empire’s various regions and was analyzed by Wolf-Dieter Hütteroth and Kamal Abdulfattah in their important book Historical Geography of Palestine, Transjordan, and Southern Syria in the Late 16th Century.13 Tax payment records detail some of the Bedouin cultivation and their crops—wheat, barley, and maize. However, the Ottoman records show that much of Bedouin agriculture was conducted in what were called mazra’at, large areas of crops, without clearly defined villages, cultivated by the Bedouins on the desert’s northern edge. Bedouin tribes were called jama’at or ’urban or, at times, badu.

The sedentarization process and transition to life based on permanent agriculture had therefore already begun in the sixteenth century. Hütteroth and Abdulfattah show that the residential location of their cultivators was not clear but that the existence of cultivation indicates a permanent possession and long-term commitment to tribal lands.

From the type of taxes levied on the ’urban jama’at, we assume there must have been stages of development between a traditional Bedouin and an agricultural way of life. … There are some which pay taxes for wheat and other field crops in exactly the same way as to the villages. … For the purposes of registration they were too widely scattered to be attributed to particular villages. … The mazra’at were usually small arable areas, dispersed amongst the hills.14

(p.124) The sixteenth-century Ottoman census marks the existence of “more than a hundred” mazra’at in southern Mount Hebron, which overlaps with parts of the northern Negev.15 In the census summaries the names of six Bedouin tribes are mentioned, five of which can be identified today in the Mount Hebron region and in the Negev.16

It is important to note that the southernmost area surveyed by the census, the edge of the Ottoman-controlled area, was, according to census maps, demarcated by a line straggling between Hebron and Rafah, that is, along the northern edge of the Bedouin region. Hence most of the Bedouin tribes who lived farther south were not surveyed or mentioned in the census.

Hütteroth and Abdulfattah also note that in the years after the census, on the heels of decentralization processes in the Ottoman Empire, demographic changes took place in the southern coastal plain, including Bedouin raids and invasions into fellahin villages, at times causing their abandonment. This led to the resettlement of several Bedouin tribes in the more fertile northern Negev areas and consequently their move to a more agricultural lifestyle.

It is in this period that scholars begin to identify a “seminomadic” lifestyle, which combines agriculture, pastoralism, and a permanent living dira (defined tribal area) for each tribe.17 Overall, the Ottoman 1596 census clearly illustrates the existence of Bedouin agriculture for hundreds of years. The combination of grazing and agriculture anchored the Bedouins in specific living spaces, and there began the gradual establishment of a land division and allocation system, which exists to this day. As we will see in the next section, many of the travelers who visited this region documented this move to a more sedentary lifestyle.

5.1 Travelers’ Accounts

The diaries and reports of Western travelers who toured the Holy Land since the end of the eighteenth century serve as an important source for understanding the historical geography of the Negev. In the al-‘Uqbi case, the state and the judge relied on reports that failed to mention cultivation as evidence that no Bedouin cultivation existed during that period. Nuri al-‘Uqbi, on the other hand, challenged the decision to register their tribe’s land in the state’s name the

land on which he was born, that his father built upon it the family house, his grandfather cultivated and his great-great father lived in—and this according to (p.125) the travel diaries written a hundred and fifty years ago by the British orientalist Palmer, or the French rhetorician and bible researcher Victor Guérin who did not even traverse the claimed land.18

The al-‘Uqbi family argued further that orientalist conceptions and a religious outlook tainted the accounts of these travelers, who neither noticed nor searched for cultivation.19 Although most of these travelers were driven by religious motives to explore the lands and although only a few of them were scientists, their eyewitness accounts still provide substantive, if partial and often biased, descriptions of the geography of the Negev during previous centuries. Travelers crossing through the Beersheba Valley during winter, spring, and early summer often noticed active agriculture.20 Even though we did not find direct evidence regarding the specific plots in question before Judge Dovrat, many sources report on cultivation in the general area north and northwest of Beersheba.

For example, Edward Robinson, who passed through the area near Laqqiya (12 kilometers northeast of Beersheba and 10 kilometers east of ‘Araqib) in 1839, identified several wheat storage areas organized in a nattur, a special site designed and organized for such storage: “[We] went off to the left towards the N. [north] to a place where the Bedawin have their magazines of grain, called Nattur al-Luqqiyah.”21

In his 1854 diary the Dutch traveler Carel van de Velde also noted seeing cultivation.

Our course now lay north-north-east by the still remnant foundations of the city of Beer Sheba, which had last year been used as threshing floors, in consequence of which some part of the grains of corn that had been left had sprung up of themselves.22

The Reverend W. M. Thomson, who visited the Negev during 1856 and passed through the area of the Jbarat tribe, some 15 kilometers north of ’Araqib, noted that the area was “monotonous—wheat, wheat, a very ocean of wheat.”23 Thomson went on to describe the area as “no less fertile than the very best of the Mississippi Valley.” He similarly described the areas immediately north of ‘Araqib, such as Wadi Sheri’a (Wadi Gaza) and Wadi Grar, about 6 kilometers northwest of the al-‘Uqbi lands in Zehilika, and reported seeing broad fields of crops there.

(p.126) Edward Hull, who traveled the Negev in 1883, delivered another important testimony. Hull was different from most travelers in that he was a qualified researcher who headed a delegation of British geologists. This is how Hull described the Tal Abu-Hureira, in Wadi Sheri’a, about 25 kilometers northwest of Beersheba and 6 kilometers south of the al-‘Uqbi family’s land claims in Zehilika:

We therefore pressed for another day’s march to Tel Abu Hareireh. … The country we traversed consisted of an undulating plain, over the sides and hollows of which was spread a deep covering of loam of a very fertile nature. … The district is extensively cultivated by the Terabi’n Arabs, and by little parties of fallahin. … The extent of the ground here cultivated, as well as all the way to Gaza, is immense, and the crops of wheat, barley, and maize must vastly exceed the requirements of the population. In fact, large quantities of agricultural produce raised in this part of Palestine are annually exported from Jaffa and other towns.24

The French scholar Father Jaussen compared the barren areas of southern Palestine (i.e., the southern Negev) to the Gaza and Beersheba regions.

The south of Palestine … is neither the beautiful plains of Gaza, neither those of Bir as-Saba’, which were always cultivated by the inhabitants of the plain or by the villagers living close by. … I attract the attention on the plowing fields that spread more or less, with some interruptions of hills and dry plains. … The farmable land is, for a good reason, strongly appreciated by Bedouins, it is their strength, their source of livelihood; they sometimes know to claim it with energy.25

Several other scholars, such as Edward Wilton, Ulrich Seetzen, and Max von Oppenheim, also reported, sometimes in detail, the existence of agriculture in the nineteenth-century Negev.26

Yet other travelers, such as Victor Guérin, who passed through the Negev in 1863, and Edward Palmer, quoted by Justice Avraham Halima in the historic al-Hawashlah ruling, who passed through the Negev in 1868, reported the existence of only grazing lands and scattered ruins (khirbat).27 However, examination of the routes of their excursions reveals that both crossed the region in areas east of Beersheba. As is well known, these areas are dry and receive less precipitation and hence are more difficult for crop production. In such zones Bedouins needed greater land areas to support their basic needs and thus resided in lower densities.28

(p.127) In addition, the mapping delegation of the Palestine Exploration Fund visited the region between 1871 and 1877. Both the state and Judge Dovrat relied heavily on its report as evidence that no Bedouin cultivation existed in the nineteenth century.29 In their notes (memoirs) accompanying the maps, the delegation reported the existence of only a small amount of cultivation, mainly corn and tobacco, on the route connecting Beersheba and Dahariyya.30

Czech scholar Alois Musil conducted several trips and even prepared a map of the northern Negev in 1902. Musil laments the existence of many deserted and ruined localities in the northern Negev, but he also reports meeting the al-‘Uqbi tribe in their locality at Zehilika.31 Musil expresses his sorrow upon seeing the ruined landscape, especially with the knowledge that the area had prospered in the past.32

Importantly, the fact that the minority of travelers did not see Bedouin cultivation or localities is not equivalent counterevidence to other scholars’ observations of cultivation. Failing to mention cultivation can arise from a variety of causes, such as travel in areas remote from cultivated fields, lack of understanding of the seasonal or the biannual and triennial nature of cultivation patterns, or travel during a drought. “Not seeing” Bedouin agriculture does not negate the possibility that, in nearby areas or in other years, cultivation did exist. On the other hand, the positive observation that cultivated fields did exist cannot be contested, thereby refuting the state’s argument that the entire Negev was composed of mawat lands.

In summary, most travelers’ and explorers’ eyewitness accounts point to the most important geographic evidence that has thus far been overlooked in the Israeli courts: that systematic, broad acre farming did exist in at least considerable parts of the northern and northwestern Negev before British rule. Needless to say, this was rather patchy and extensive (rather than intensive) farming, suitable for the region’s climatic conditions and relatively low rainfall. Other accounts can only point to the fact that in certain areas (such as the eastern and southern Negev) and in specific seasons (summers or droughts), the land appears uncultivated. Nevertheless, from the traveler accounts, which are reinforced by Zionist reports outlined in the next section, one can conclude that in the northern Negev and Beersheba Valley systematic and permanent agriculture did exist and produced crops aplenty for local and international markets. Therefore these lands cannot be considered empty, distant, unpossessed, and uncultivated mawat lands.

(p.128) 5.2 The Negev in Early Zionist Accounts

During the late nineteenth century, several Zionist explorers arrived in the Negev and began studying the region’s landscape and population. Similar to the European travelers, they found considerable settlement and cultivation, although in a manner that differed from European or northern norms. This is reflected in the description published by one of the earliest Zionist travelers in the Negev, Zalman David Levontin, an early member of the Hibat Zion organization, which encouraged Jews to settle in the Land of Israel. Levontin was interested in settling the Negev and visited the region a few times. He reported on several meetings with the Bedouins in 1882, in the region of Wadi Jarrar/Grar, just 3 or 4 kilometers north of ‘Araqib and 4 or 5 kilometers southeast of Zehilika.

We walked four to five hours from Gaza surrounded by fields and Bedouin dwellings, and reached Nahal Grar as evening fell. … Both sides of the Wadi were filled with row after row of Bedouin tents accommodating shepherds. No trees in sight and all the valley is sown with wheat and barley.33

Later, Levontin recounts his meeting with a Bedouin sheikh (rai’s).

  • “How many is your tribe numbered?” I asked the rai’s.
  • “More than 100 families,” answered the rai’s.
  • “Do you have plenty of livestock?”
  • “Numbering thousands,” answered the rai’s proudly.
  • “And land for sowing, do you have plenty?”
  • “God possesses the entire earth and we plough and sow for our needs.”
  • “And for more than your needs you shall not sow?” asked my colleague.
  • “There are plenty among us who sow and sell their crops to Gaza traders … but I do not see much benefit in this.”34

Menachem Scheinkin, one of the leaders of the Zionist movement in Tel Aviv in the early twentieth century, conducted a trip to the Negev, probably around 1912 or 1913. Scheinkin reported on widespread agriculture but also noted the “primitive methods” of their Bedouin farmers.

On Saturday night as darkness fell we left our camping place and began walking northeast on the Beersheba road. Here and there are Arab neighborhoods, a sort of combination of houses, huts and tents … [and] a good, wide road for carts passing through fields of barley and corn, which brought us to the hills of Beer-sheba. … At night the regional clerk invited me for a meal. … We talked about (p.129) the city’s development … surrounded by plenty of fertile lands. … Local Arabs cultivate only part of the surrounding lands … superficially and poorly.35

Mordechai Yigal, one of the leaders of the Hashomer organization, composed another testimony. The Palestine Land Development Company (PLDC) (Hachsharat Hayishuv) sent Yigal to the area. He reports, “The residents are Bedouins, of whom a small portion lives as shepherds. … The majority are half-farmers (fallahin), who own both livestock and land.”36

After this initial short report, the PLDC conducted the first comprehensive survey of the Negev, supervised by Dr. Ya’aqov Tahun, who was the company’s manager and, before that, the director and a board member of the Land of Israel branch at the World Zionist Organization. In this important and historic report, published in 1920, the company’s surveyors detail the names of ninety-two tribes (‘asha’ir), their neighboring tribes, their farming areas, and their patterns of landownership and cultivation. The survey also lists the number of houses, tents, and other notable possessions of each tribe and the areas of ownership and cultivation (see Appendix 007).37

The PLDC survey conclusions were clear: Significant parts of Beersheba Valley and the northwestern Negev, as well as other parts of the region less intensively, were settled, cultivated, and belonged to Bedouin owners. The report notes that in the Beersheba region, 2.66 million dunums, of which 35% was cultivated, belonged to the Bedouins. The survey also shows that in the northern Negev about half of the land was cultivated. The tribes detailed in the report were incorporated into tribal confederations (qabai’l), as follows:

  • The ‘Azazma confederation owned 770,000 dunums, of which 140,000 (20%) were cultivated.

  • The Tayaha owned 1.12 million dunums, of which 640,000 (57%) were cultivated; the Bane ‘Uqba, meaning the al-‘Uqbi tribe, are included in that, owning 26,000 dunums, 10,000 (38%) of which were cultivated.

  • The Jbarat owned 66,000 dunums, of which 38,000 (57%) were cultivated.

  • The Tarabin owned 778,750 dunums, of which 272,000 (35%) were cultivated.38

The PLDC survey also reported that the Tayaha have ruled southern Palestine for several centuries. The Tayaha confederation grew barley, wheat, and dura (p.130) as well as watermelons, which provided food for the camels. In the chapter dealing with living conditions, the PLDC reported that the Tayaha are mainly “land cultivators, en route to becoming fallahin (farmers). … They live on their land, and leave it only for shepherding.”39

Another valuable source related to the Zionist movement is the Abramson Report.40 The Abramson Commission was established by the British high commissioner Herbert Samuel in 1920 with the aim of clarifying the landownership situation in Palestine. The committee focused on mahlul and mawat lands, which it claimed could be registered as state lands, thereby creating the geographic foundation for a Jewish national home. A leading member of the Abramson Commission was Haim Margalit Kalvariski, who worked as a land purchaser on behalf of the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association (a leading Jewish association). Another member was Faidi al-‘Alami, a former member of the Ottoman parliament.

The Abramson Report was submitted to the British government in July 1921. It mapped the location and size of agricultural lands in Palestine. The report found that 2.8 million dunums in the Beersheba region were owned and cultivated by the Bedouins and that most plots were cultivated only once every two years.41

In sum, early documentation from Zionist sources, which includes the first comprehensive report on Bedouin human geography in the Negev, clearly demonstrates that farming was a widely accepted way of life in the late Ottoman period. Because of climatic constraints and soil type, it was only natural that in the northern and northwestern Negev the percentage of cultivated land was higher. Even if the land was not cultivated, it was possessed and used by the tribes for their various needs, including grazing, paths, and cemeteries. It is within this region where the vast majority of Bedouin-claimed lands are located.

The findings conveyed in the Abramson Report run counter to the position widely accepted by the Israeli public and scholars and consequently by the state and the courts. As such, this material debunks a central component of the DND, which claims that the region was mostly empty, unpossessed, barren, and thinly inhabited by constantly moving nomads. Our challenge receives further reinforcement by the academic writings of the last few decades, to which we now turn.

(p.131) 5.3 The Negev in Scholarly Literature

A variety of scholars have analyzed the human geography of the Negev during the late Ottoman period. Most of them note the existence of widespread agriculture in the Beersheba Valley and northern Negev, adding weight to our claim regarding the pervasiveness of Bedouin cultivation, habitation, and property rights. For example, the Turkish historian Yasemin Avci outlines the main reasons for the establishment of Beersheba in its current location by referring to the conditions in the region in the late nineteenth century: “More importantly, there was an abundant supply of water drawn mainly from seven wells, and the surrounding country had already been under cultivation.”42

Clinton Bailey, a leading anthropologist in the study of Bedouin culture and tradition, also notes in his analysis of the Negev history that “The mid-19th century Bedouins … cultivated black goats and were engaged in agriculture, especially in the North-Western Negev. This is the reason they are classified as ‘semi-nomadic.’”43

Other scholars of the historical geography of Israel/Palestine describe the development of Arab agriculture in the Negev. In a constitutive article from 1953, David Amiran, one of the founders of Israeli geography, analyzes the cultivation from the northern Negev to Kurnub and the Negev craters

The interesting point is that the Beduin [sic] element takes part in the process of settlement. … Considerable and increasing sections of the Beduin population have turned semi-nomadic during recent centuries, first by growing cereals … then by using houses for storing their harvest, and eventually by occupying houses themselves, seasonally at first and at last permanently. … All Beduin engage in some sort of agriculture.44

Geographer David Grossman, who pioneered the study of Arab village development in nineteenth-century Palestine, concluded that Bedouin existence during the late Ottoman period was based on a “dual economy” of livestock and agriculture. Such an economic structure provided “subsistence insurance” for the Bedouins in case of drought or harm to their livestock. As Grossman shows, the widening Bedouin occupation in agriculture paralleled their sedentarization and the appearance of dozens of small inhabited localities in the northern Negev. Many such localities were established in khirbas (sites of either minor villages or ruins or abandoned villages), in caves, or in tent clusters, which functioned as permanent or seasonal localities. With regard to seasonal (p.132) localities, the tribe would return to the same places, often by anchoring their tent stakes in the same exact spots. In what follows we demonstrate how this pattern of farming was linked to the Bedouin landownership system and to the emergence of localities, all bearing property rights according to local law.45

Avinoam Meir, a renowned geographer who has studied Bedouin spatial culture for several decades, describes the development of Bedouin agriculture in the nineteenth century as a deep-rooted process.

It is therefore quite plausible that land cultivation among more northerly tribes in the Negev in the middle of the 19th century was considerably more widespread. … Land cultivation at the time of the Ottoman Land Law was thus already familiar among Negev Bedouins. … Due to ecological circumstances, this practice was neither an exception nor an agricultural anomaly in their nature, but rather the common reality in the northern Negev.46

The processes of cultivation and sedentarization described by Meir took place over several generations and were accompanied by the gradual establishment of land and settlement systems. As mentioned, we can trace the beginning of this process to the sixteenth century.

However, let us turn to the human geography of the Negev during the British Mandate period, which appears to reinforce the reliance of the Bedouins on farming and associated permanent settlement. In large parts of the Negev the Bedouins indeed had continuous possession, because they cultivated, grazed, and inhabited significant parts of the region. Thus Eliyahu Epstein noted in 1939 that in the northern Negev between 2.1 and 3.5 million dunums were cultivated (“primitively”) for crops. Given the harsh climatic conditions and mediocre soil quality, some of the fields were cultivated only once every two years; however, the minimal amount of cultivation, according to Epstein’s survey, was 2.1 million dunums, an area that covers most of the northern Negev.47

Similarly, in 1938 the archaeologist George Kirk, who led some of the first archaeological surveys of the area, pointed out that even in Wadi Mashah, southeast of Beersheba, there were large “patches” of cultivated fields. Kirk noted that, as he moved eastward toward the Arava Valley, cultivation declined and later disappeared and that the lands were mainly used for grazing.48 Likewise, the Goldberg Commission noted that most sources estimated the amount of land cultivated by the Bedouins as 2 million dunums.49

(p.133) Maps from the Mandate period also note large areas in the Beersheba Valley as “cultivated” and, at times, as “cultivated in patches,” including the areas inhabited by the al-‘Uqbi tribe. These maps were prepared using aerial photographs. They show cultivated areas as long as 30 kilometers south and east of Beersheba, thereby reinforcing the conclusions of most leading scholars.50 As we will see in the next section, a similar picture arises from an examination of the al-‘Uqbi case.

5.4 Al-‘Uqbi—Historical Geography

We do not have precise information regarding the date that the al-‘Uqbi tribe settled in the Negev, but their presence extends back hundreds of years, if not more. A few traditions appear in ’Aref al-’Aref ’s well-known book The History of Beersheba and Its Tribes. One tradition attributes to the al-‘Uqbi ties to the Midians, who were related to Moses; another mentions tribal members being a vanguard corps in the army of Muhammad that arrived in the Land of Israel/Palestine in the seventh century and were originally from ‘Aqaba.51 Al-’Aref and Y. Braslavsky described the places where the al-‘Uqbi tribe settled in ‘Araqib and Zehilika.52 Notable historian and anthropologist Clinton Bailey dates al-‘Uqbi settlement in areas north of Beersheba as no later than the end of the eighteenth century.53

The well-known German researcher and traveler Ulrich Seetzen described his meeting with the al-‘Uqbi tribe during his research journey in the Negev in 1807, while completing a survey of the area. Seetzen describes an impressive meeting with a tent settlement that was the largest he saw in the Negev, where the tribe lived at the time.

At three o’clock in the afternoon, we got to the dawar [apparently dira or diyar] of Atiya, a branch of the Uqba, where Ziban was staying. This dawar was larger than all the others I saw before or after, and included seventy tents. … There were three hospitality tents, and a special hospitality compartment in each tent, which the Bedouins called “al-shig.”54

The researchers Alois Musil55 and Max von Oppenheim56 report on meetings with the al-‘Uqbi tribe at their settlements in Zehilika and ‘Araqib. According to al-’Aref and Braslavsky, the al-‘Uqbi had a high and respected status among the tribes in the northern Negev, a result of their long-term presence in the area.57

(p.134) One of the testimonies indicating continuous tribal presence in the area is the gravestone of the plaintiffs’ grandfather, Haj Muhammad al-‘Uqbi, in the al-Sheikh Saleh Cemetery.58 The inscription on the gravestone includes the names of seven generations, which were, according to family history, members of the local community: “Haj Muhammad—Ben [son of] Salem—Ben Salim—Ben Amer—Ben Salim—Ben Salman—Ben Saed Alquraishi—al-‘Uqbi.”

Geographically, the claimed land is part of the historical region of the al-‘Uqbi tribe. As customary among Bedouin landowners (who belong to most of the large and powerful tribes), the tribe had two diyar: a large one in ‘Araqib and another in Zehilika, next to the present-day moshav Talme Bilu. The two settlements, in the two diyar, were included in the official British lists of places of settlement in the country that were published in the official gazette from time to time.59 The settlement in Zehilika was destroyed in the 1948 war, and most of its residents were driven away to Gaza.

Evidence from the first half of the twentieth century reveals that the al-‘Uqbi owned, worked, and possessed a great amount of land, including the disputed plots. The important report prepared by the PLDC in 1920 placed the figure at approximately 26,250 dunums, with 10,000 of them under cultivation.60 The report contains a description of the al-‘Uqbi tribe, referred to as “Bani ‘Uqbana” or “Arab ‘Uqbana.” The name of the tribe’s sheikh is given as Muhammad al-‘Uqbi, and the tribe is said to have owned 60 camels and horses and 100 houses (including tents, of course). The report also mentions that land was used to raise wheat, sorghum, and barley. The area of the tribe is described as situated between the areas of the Shalahin (part of the ‘Alamat tribe) in the north, Ramadhin in the east, al-Huzayil in the south, and Abu-Ziban in the west. These descriptions correspond closely to the oral history of the tribe relayed in interviews with residents of ‘Araqib, particularly with members of the al-‘Uqbi tribe.61 (See Figures 2–6 for evidence of al-Uqbi settlement on their ancestral lands.)

In addition, in researching the property rights of the al-‘Uqbi tribe and of the Bedouins in general, we analyzed aerial photographs, which are important in determining the geographic ownership status on the ground. We found a series of British aerial photographs, taken in January 1945, that covers all the parcels in ‘Araqib claimed by the heirs of Suleiman al-‘Uqbi. The photographs, as well as the testimony by an aerial photography decipherer (the claimant’s expert witness) who analyzed the photos, lead us to conclude that, in this (p.135) period, intensive cultivation of most of the parcels in ‘Araqib took place and that more than 80% of the two large plots of land (claimed as ‘Araqib 1 and ‘Araqib 2) was under cultivation, as was almost the entire two parcels in Zehilika.62 The other plots of land were cultivated to a lesser extent, because of steep slopes and the existence of army installations. The photographs show especially intensive cultivation along the banks of the creeks flowing into Grar Stream (Wadi ‘Araqib) and less intensive cultivation of parcels farther from the stream, which were divided in a manner characteristic of field crops, such as barley and sorghum.63 In general, according to the aerial photographs, almost all cultivable land in the al-‘Uqbi diyar was cultivated in 1945. Needless to say, the cultivation was conducted with permission of the British authorities, who duly taxed the al-‘Uqbi harvest on a yearly basis.

Furthermore, Israeli archives contain documents dating from the period of the military government that indicate that Sheikh Suleiman Haj Muhammad al-‘Uqbi paid taxes to Israel on ‘Araqib-grown crops in 1950.64 Another document indicates that there is a school on the land.65 Some certificates in the archives classify the land as miri.66 Part of the land is even classified as mulk

Historical Geography of the Negev: Bedouin Agriculture

Figure 2. Ruins of Suliman al-‘Uqbi’s house in ‘Araqib.

Source: photograph by Ariel Crane.


Historical Geography of the Negev: Bedouin Agriculture

Figure 3. Tombstone of Haj Muhammad al-‘Uqbi found in a ruined cemetery near claimed land.

Source: photograph by Oren Yiftachel.

Historical Geography of the Negev: Bedouin Agriculture

Figure 4. The al-‘Uqbi family’s traditional cemetery in ‘Araqib.

Source: photograph by Oren Yiftachel.


Historical Geography of the Negev: Bedouin Agriculture

Figure 5. Remnants of al-‘Uqbi baikat (mud houses) in Zehilika.

Source: photograph by Oren Yiftachel.

Historical Geography of the Negev: Bedouin Agriculture

Figure 6. Remnants of al-‘Uqbi houses in Zehilika.

Source: photograph by Oren Yiftachel.

(p.138) land belonging to the al-‘Uqbi tribe.67 According to documents regarding the expropriation of al-‘Uqbi land for use by the state’s development authority, which were taken pursuant to the Land Acquisition (Validation of Acts and Compensation) Act of 5713/1953, all the land in the plots now claimed in court in ‘Araqib 1 and Zehilika are classified as miri.68 Thus a cross-check of military-government documents with expropriation documents indicates that in the 1950s the State of Israel acknowledged land belonging to the al-‘Uqbi family as miri, not mawat.

Hence, in contrast to the legal and geographic narrative recounted by the Israeli state and judiciary, firm and varied evidence shows that, for generations preceding the establishment of the State of Israel, Bedouins inhabited and farmed large parts of the northern Negev and Beersheba Valley, where the al-‘Uqbi land is situated, in a systematic and organized manner. The evidence dates back to the sixteenth-century Ottoman census, although cultivation may have started earlier. Bedouin agriculture gradually became a leading source of income, as the community turned to a seminomadic lifestyle, based on permanent settlement around the farmland, in combination with livestock. Some tribes were fully sedentarized by 1948.

In summary, organized and systematic agriculture was an important factor in the life of the Bedouins from the mid-nineteenth century until 1948. Under Ottoman and British rule, expansive areas in the northern and northwestern Negev, where the vast majority of Bedouins lived, were under cultivation and as such cannot be considered “dead” mawat lands. These lands were assigned, farmed, grazed, used, and legitimately possessed during these periods—a factor that has direct consequences on the acquisition of property rights. We next proceed to a discussion of the development of the al-‘Uqbi customary land system.

5.5 The Land System and the Al-‘Uqbi

Al-‘Uqbi tribe members testified that they owned and possessed land according to customary Bedouin, Ottoman, and British laws. The plaintiffs submitted to the District Court various documents pertaining to their internal property system and its acceptance by the authorities. These documents included agreements on leasing, selling, mortgaging, and dividing the land; British reports on payment of agricultural taxes from ‘Araqib in which the name of Nuri’s grandfather is mentioned in relation to five different places as the “known owner”; (p.139) and receipts attesting to land cultivation.69 In addition, some nontribe members testified that they had purchased land from the al-‘Uqbi family.

Indeed, the autonomous property regime of the al-‘Uqbi tribe is reflected in documents indicating institutionalization of the land system with respect to partitioning of the land and local cultivation. The earliest land document involving the area that we discovered is an 1883 bill of agreement (sanad), signed by seventeen sheikhs, regarding cultivation of farmland in the area of Khirbet Karkur, on the southern boundary of ‘Araqib.70 Written testimonies on land sales made by tribe members exist from the first decade of the twentieth century. For example, a sanad from 1909 involves the sale of land from Haj Muhammad (the paternal grandfather of the claimants) to the nearby al-Turi tribe; this land is a few kilometers north of the parcels that are the subject of the litigation.71 A sanad from 1911 indicates that Muhammad Salam al-‘Uqbi sold a parcel close to the claimed parcels to his neighbor Muhammad Salmeh al-Mu’rbe.72

The sanad documents regarding the parcels claimed by the heirs of Suleiman al-‘Uqbi illustrate the traditional land system. Each sanad details the borders, conditions, price, and notable personages or witnesses who signed the document.73 Two of the sanads contain a demand, under certain conditions, to register the land in the land registry in Gaza. This demand supports our contention involving British recognition and the possibility of registering cultivated Bedouin land, meaning that the land obviously was not mawat.74

Other documents indicate an organized traditional land system regarding allocation and settlement of ownership of al-‘Uqbi land. For example, a document from 1930 distributes ‘Araqib land to the five sons of Haj Muhammad al-‘Uqbi.75 This document represents the jaddiya method—transfer of land by inheritance from generation to generation, a customary practice among Arabs in the Land of Israel/Palestine. According to this method, the land is divided (by qura, a kind of lottery) and each of the recipients is required to work his plot. Other certificates testify to the function of the traditional land system: a bill of sale,76 permissions for construction and building of dams,77 an agreement to cultivate and maintain land, and a rahen (mortgage) for leasing land to neighbors from the al-Turi tribe in exchange for one-third of the crop.78 We found evidence that neighbors to the west of the al-‘Uqbi tribe, in areas where the Jewish National Fund bought land in the 1920s, practiced a traditional land system like that of the al-‘Uqbi tribe: The land was divided into clear (p.140) cultivation and residential tribal plots, which could be partitioned and sold in accordance with traditional law.79

We also located copies of receipts of tithe tax payments that the al-‘Uqbi family paid to the British government between 1922 and 1946 for the crops it grew in ‘Araqib and Zehilika (see Appendixes 13–14).80 These receipts explicitly mention the al-‘Uqbi family (Bani Uqba). These receipts show that the land was cultivated and that the British officials who issued the receipts accepted the land arrangement and approved cultivation of the land. As noted, under the Ottoman Land Code, land that was cultivated with government authorization was considered or became miri.81

Other solid evidence on the historical functioning of the land system in the ‘Araqib area is found in the archives of Kibbutz Mishmar Hanegev, which lies 3–5 kilometers west of the contested parcels in ‘Araqib. The archives contain a map drawn by the licensed surveyor Yosef Dubinsky in 1926. The map shows the boundary lines of the parcels and the names of the Bedouin owners from whom the land for the kibbutz was purchased.82 A letter dated March 3, 1944, from attorney Yoav Zuckerman to the Jewish National Fund specifies the names of all the landowners from whom he bought land in the Negev, including land on which Kibbutz Mishmar Hanegev sits, a total of 4,764 dunums. These details about the Arab owners from whom Jewish entities and individuals bought land strengthen the claim of recognition of Bedouin ownership and the legitimacy of Bedouin ownership in the years before the State of Israel was established.

Accordingly, the Bedouins in the Negev had legal autonomy that overlapped the first years of Israeli statehood. The autonomy is evident from the way the military government dealt with the Bedouin tribes in general and the al-‘Uqbi tribe in particular. An example is an order of the Negev military governor addressed to the officers in charge of Bedouin affairs. The order states that “until conditions are ripe to restore the tribes’ court, you are to appoint for each tribe a legal committee composed of three elders and respected members of the tribe which … will hear and adjudicate in civil and social matters of the tribe.”83 A response to the military governor from Sheikhs Salman al-Huzayil, Suleiman al-‘Uqbi, and Hassan Abu-Abdun states that they had decided to establish a joint tribal court for their three tribes. In the body of the letter the military governor added a note, dated August 1, 1949: “Approve the matter.”84

(p.141) Evacuation of the al-‘Uqbi tribe from ‘Araqib did not stop the Bedouins from considering the al-‘Uqbi tribe as the rightful landowners. We see this from affidavits signed by the Abu-Freih and al-Huzayil families, who leased land in ‘Araqib and recognized in their statements the ownership of the al-‘Uqbi tribe.85

In sum, we have seen that systematic agriculture served as an important factor in the life of the Negev Bedouins from the mid-nineteenth century until 1948. We have seen also that the al-‘Uqbi tribe owned, possessed, and cultivated a large amount of land (approximately 26,000 dunums). The authorities recognized the Bedouin customary legal system and traditional land regime as late as the early Israeli period. The al-‘Uqbi tribe, like many other Bedouin tribes, traded its land, selling it to other Bedouins, non-Bedouin Arabs, and private and public Jewish purchasers. Having rejected the state’s contention that the Bedouins in general and the al-‘Uqbi in particular did not cultivate the land, nor had any rights in it, in the next chapter we examine the contention that there were no Bedouin settlements in the Negev either in 1858 or in 1921. (p.142)


(1.) C.A. 218/74 al-Hawashlah v. The State of Israel.

(2.) C.C. 7161/06 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, Defendant’s Memorandum, par. 18 (Hebrew) (copy with the authors).

(3.) C.C. 7161/06 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, Defendant’s Memorandum, pars. 23–34.

(4.) C.C. 7161/06 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, Expert opinion of Ruth Kark (January 30, 2010), 4 (copy with the authors).

(5.) C.C. 7161/06 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, Plaintiffs’ Memorandum (2007) (copy with the authors); C.A. 4220/12 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel (2012), Statement of Appeal, pars. 1 and 27–31 (Hebrew), and Appellants’ Memorandum, pars. 12–25 (copy with the authors); C.C. 7161/06 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, hearing before Judge Timor (unpublished, June 22, 2008), and Plaintiffs’ Memorandum, pars. 35–36.

(6.) C.C. 7161/06 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, par. 19, and hearing before Judge Dovrat (unpublished, February 24, 2010) (copy with the authors); Shlomo Ben Yossef, “Expert Aerial Photos Decipher Opinion,” September 2, 2009 (unpublished, on file with the authors) (Hebrew).

(7.) C.C. 7161/06 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, par. 26.

(p.354) (8.) C.C. 7161/06 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, par. 19.

(9.) Other nearby areas receive 100–250 millimeters of rain.

(10.) ’Aref al-’Aref, History of Beersheba and Its Tribes, trans. M. Kapeliuk (Tel Aviv: Shoshani Press, 1937), 192–200 (Hebrew); Avraham Negev, “Preservation and Forgetfulness in Ancient Geographical Names in the Central Negev,” Cathedra 4 (1977): 121–32 (Hebrew).

(11.) Aref Abu-Rabi’a, Bedouin Century: Education and Development Among the Negev Tribes in the Twentieth Century (New York: Berghahn Books, 2001), 1–3; Joseph Ben-David, The Bedouin in Israel: Land Conflicts and Social Issues (Jerusalem: Land Policy and Land Use Research Institute, 2004), 52–53 (Hebrew).

(12.) Abu-Rabi’a, Bedouin Century, 1–6; Avinoam Meir, As Nomadism Ends: The Israeli Bedouin of the Negev (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1997), 74–86; Clinton Bailey, “Dating the Arrival of the Bedouin Tribes in Sinai and the Negev,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 28 (1985): 20–49.

(13.) Wolf-Dieter Hütteroth and Kamal Abdulfattah, Historical Geography of Palestine, Transjordan, and Southern Syria in the Late 16th Century (Erlangen: Selbstverlag der Fränkischen Geographischen Gesellschaft, 1977).

(14.) Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, Historical Geography, 28–29. According to Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, “From the use of the term ‘mazra’a,’ it is clear that it denotes, with very few exceptions, an agricultural area which has no permanent settlement on it” (29).

(16.) The census mentions the U Yatim, U Jaram, U B ‘Attiyya, U B ‘Atta, U B Haytam, and U B Sawalina tribes. The designations U and B stand for ‘urban and bani (sons of), respectively. See Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, Historical Geography.

(17.) David H. K. Amiran, “The Pattern of Settlement in Palestine,” Israel Exploration Journal 3 (1953): 65–78; Avinoam Meir, “Geo-Legal Aspects of the Ottoman Land Law in Relation to the Negev,” in Economy and Land Among the Negev Bedouin: New Processes, New Insights, ed. Avinoam Meir (Beersheba: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, 2006), 53–56.

(18.) C.C. 7161/06 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, Plaintiffs’ Memorandum, par. 4; C.A. 4220/12 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, Statement of Appeal, par. 21.

(19.) Some of them traveled during the summer or far from Bedouin settlement. See C.A. 4220/12 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, Plaintiffs’ Memorandum, pars. 103–7.

(20.) Victor Guérin, Description géographique, historique et archéologique de la Palestine, v. 2, Judée (Paris: L’Imprimerie Impériale, 1869); William M. Thomson, The Land and the Book: Or, Biblical Illustrations Drawn from the Manners and Customs, the Scenes and Scenery of the Holy Land, 2nd facsimile ed. (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2004 [1901]), 556–57.

(21.) Edward Robinson and Eli Smith, Biblical Researches in Palestine, Mount Sinai, and Arabia Petraea: A Journal of Travels in the Year 1838 (London: John Murray, 1841), 1: 306.

(22.) Carel Willem Meredith van de Velde, Narrative of a Journey Through Syria and Palestine in 1851 and 1852 (Edinburgh: William Blackwood & Sons, 1854), 2: 139.

(23.) Thomson, Land and the Book, 556–57. See also Henry Baker Tristram, Journal of Travels in Palestine, Undertaken with Special Reference to Its Physical Character (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1865), 372.

(24.) Edward Hull, Mount Seir, Sinai, and Western Palestine: Being a Narrative of a Scientific Expedition (London: Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund by R. Bentley, 1885), 138–39.

(25.) Antonin Jaussen, Coutumes des arabes au pays de moab (Paris: Adrien-Maison-neuve, 1948), 246 (emphasis added). Translated into English for the authors by Dr. Cédric Parizot.

(p.355) (26.) Edward Wilton, The Negeb, or “South Country” of Scripture (London: Macmillan, 1863), 222–29; Ulrich Jasper Seetzen, Reisen Durch Syrien, Palästina, Phönicien, die Transjordan-Länder, Arabia Petraea und Unter-Aegypten (Berlin: Verlegt bei G. Reimer, 1855); Max von Oppenheim, Die Beduinen, Bd. 2, Die Beduinenstämme in Palästina, Transjordanien, Sinai, Hedjaz (Wiesbaden: O. Harrassowitz, 1943).

(27.) See Section 1.7.

(28.) Edward Henry Palmer, The Desert of the Exodus: Journeys on Foot in the Wilderness of the Forty Years’ Wanderings; Undertaken in Connexion with the Ordnance Survey of Sinai, and the Palestine Exploration Fund (Cambridge, UK: Deighton, Bell, 1871), 2: 294–349.

(29.) C.C. 7161/06 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, Defendant’s Memorandum, pars. 40 and 42, and pars. 20 and 22.

(30.) Claude Conder and Herbert Kitchener, The Survey of Western Palestine: Memoirs of the Topography, Orography, Hydrography, and Archaeology: Judaea (London: Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, 1883), 3: 392.

(31.) Alois Musil, Arabia Petraea (Vienna: A. Holder, 1907), 38.

(32.) On Musil’s reports, see Y. Braslavsky, Do You Know the Land, vol. 3, Around the Dead Sea (Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1943), 227–28.

(33.) Zalman David Levontin, To the Land of Our Fathers (Tel Aviv: Eitan, 1924), 1: 37 (Hebrew).

(35.) There is no exact dating of the visit, but in his writings, Schenkin describes the Beersheba school building, which is dated to 1912–1913. See Menachem Scheinkin, The Writings of Menachem Scheinkin (Jerusalem: Rubin Mass, with Miriam Scheinkin, 1935), 186–87 (Hebrew).

(36.) Aspiration for the Negev, 1974, Yad Ben Tzvi Archive, 2/5/1/1 (Hebrew).

(37.) Palestine Land Development Company, The Negev, ed. Yaakov Tahon (World Zionist Organization, 1920), Central Zionist Archives (CZA), L/6298/2 (1/33, Old no. L 2/127/18).

(40.) General Report of the Commission to Enquire into the Conditions of Land Settlement in Palestine (Chair, Major Abramson), 1921, Public Records Office, London, CO 733/18, 174761 (hereafter, Abramson Report).

(42.) Yasemin Avci, “Application of Tanzimat in the Desert: The Bedouin and the Creation of a New Town in Southern Palestine (1860–1914),” Middle Eastern Studies 45.6 (2009): 976–77.

(43.) Clinton Bailey, “The Negev in the Nineteenth Century: Reconstructing History from Bedouin Oral Tradition,” Asian and African Studies 14.1 (1980): 35 and maps on 40–41.

(45.) David Grossman, “The Fallah and the Bedouin in the Desert Fringe: Relationships and Subsistence Strategies,” in The Arabs in Israel: Geographical Dynamics, ed. David Grossman and Avinoam Meir (Ramat-Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press, Ben-Gurion University Press, and Magnes Press, 1994), 23 (Hebrew); David Grossman, Expansion and Desertion: The Arab Village and Its Offshoots in Ottoman Palestine (Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi, 1994), 213–16 (Hebrew).

(46.) Avinoam Meir, “Contemporary State Discourse and Historical Pastoral Spatiality: Contradictions in the Land Conflict Between the Israeli Bedouin and the State,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 32.2 (2009): 831; Meir, “Geo-Legal Aspects,” 54.

(p.356) (47.) This area lies between the contemporary localities of Sderot, Qiryat Gat, and Beersheba and a certain distance from Dimona. See Eliyahu Epstein, “Bedouin of the Negeb,” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 71.2 (1939): 70.

(48.) George Eden Kirk, “Archaeological Explorations in the Southern Desert,” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 70.4 (1938): 214–16.

(50.) See maps of the Beersheba District and Hebron District from 1936 (sheets 12 and 15), based on aerial photographs. Copies at the Survey of Israel.

(58.) Located where a road was later built at what is now the Talmei Bilu intersection. Sason Bar-Zvi, Aref Abu-Rabia, and Gideon Kressel, The Charm of Graves: Mourning Rituals and Tomb Worshipping Among the Negev Bedouin (Tel Aviv: MoD, 1998), 103 (Hebrew).

(59.) Robert Frier Jardine and B. A. McArthur Davies, A Gazetteer of the Place Names Which Appear in the Small-Scale Maps of Palestine and Trans-Jordan (Jerusalem: Department of Lands and Surveys, 1940).

(62.) Judge Dovrat compared the cultivation percentage to Araqib 6 and Araqib 60, where the cultivation percentages were 20% and 5%, respectively. See C.C. 7161/06 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, par. 19 (Hebrew).

(63.) Ben Yossef, “Expert Aerial Photos,” January 5, 1945, Survey of Israel, Flight PS13, photos 5032, 5033, 5034, 5132, 5133, and 5161.

(64.) Military Governor in the Negev, Receipt 0894, August 28, 1950, al-‘Uqbi Family Archives; Finance Ministry, Receipts 110834 and 110837, January 24, 1950, al-‘Uqbi Family Archives; C.C. (Beersheba) 5278/08 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, Appendixes 47 and 49 to the opinion of Prof. Oren Yiftachel.

(65.) Ministry of Education, School Report of Nuri al-‘Uqbi, December 25, 1950, al-‘Uqbi Family Archive; C.C. (Beersheba) 5278/08 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, Appendix 48 to the opinion of Prof. Oren Yiftachel.

(66.) Land Registry Office of Beersheba, registration dated May 24, 1956. See also the Turkish document on the registration of Beersheba land to its holders, May 4, 1891, Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivleri (The Prime Minister’s Ottoman Archives) (BOA), IMMS, 122/5229; and Salman Abu-Sitta, The Denied Inheritance: Palestinian Land Ownership in Beer Sheba (London: Palestine Land Society, 2009), 6–7.

(67.) Land Registration of the Military Government, Israel Defense Forces Archive, 233–834/1953. A copy of the document is found in C.C. (Beersheba) 5278/08 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, Appendix 51 to the opinion of Prof. Oren Yiftachel.

(68.) Land Registry Office of Beersheba, registration dated May 24, 1956; Abu-Sitta, Denied Inheritance, 6–7.

(69.) Additional evidence included an expert opinion of an aerial decipherer who showed (p.357) that in 1945, 584 out of 885 dunums were cultivated and that 263 dunums were possessed by British military as fortifications. C.C. 7161/06 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, Plaintiff Memorandum, pars. 37 and 42–44.

(70.) C.C. (Beersheba) 5278/08 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, Appendix 005 (“Agreement of 17 Sheikhs on the Allocation of Land Khirbet Yaacov,” 1883) to the opinion of Prof. Oren Yiftachel (al-‘Uqbi Family Archives; report copies available from the authors).

(71.) C.C. (Beersheba) 5278/08 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, Appendix 27 (“Sanad: Sale Agreement Between Salam, Farih, and Aven Sbiha al-‘Uqbi to Suleiman Hussein Abu-Modig’im al-Turi,” 1909, 1929) to the opinion of Prof. Oren Yiftachel (al-Turi Family Archives). This appendix is reprinted as Appendix 011 of this book.

(72.) C.C. (Beersheba) 5278/08 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, Appendix 28 (“Sanad: Sale Agreement Between Muhammad Salmeh al-Mu’rbe and Muhammad Salam al-‘Uqbi,” 1911) to the opinion of Prof. Oren Yiftachel (al-‘Uqbi Family Archives). This appendix is reprinted as Appendix 010 of this book.

(73.) C.C. (Beersheba) 5278/08, al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, Appendix 29 (“Sanad: Sale Agreement, Araqib 1, 2, Between Haj Muhammad and His Son Suleiman,” December 8, 1942) to the opinion of Prof. Oren Yiftachel (al-‘Uqbi Family Archives).

(74.) Oren Yiftachel, Alexandre Kedar, and Ahmad Amara, “Re-Examining the ‘Dead Negev Doctrine’: Property Rights in Arab Bedouin Regions,” Law and Government 14 (2012): 7–147 (Hebrew); C.C. (Beersheba) 5278/08 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, Appendix 29 to the opinion of Prof. Oren Yiftachel.

(75.) Yiftachel et al., “Re-Examining the DND”; C.C. (Beersheba) 5278/08 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, Appendix 30 (“Land Distribution Agreement Between Haj Muhammad and His Five Sons,” 1935) to the opinion of Prof. Oren Yiftachel (al-‘Uqbi Family Archives).

(76.) C.C. (Beersheba) 5278/08 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, Appendix 31 (“Sanad: Zhiika Land Sale Agreement 132–134,” September 5, 1935) to the opinion of Prof. Oren Yiftachel (al-‘Uqbi Family Archives).

(77.) C.C. (Beersheba) 5278/08 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, Appendix 33 (“Land Agreement Within al-‘Uqbi tribe, Between Sheikh Suleiman and His Father Haj Muhammad,” 1937) to the opinion of Prof. Oren Yiftachel (al-‘Uqbi Family Archives).

(78.) C.C. (Beersheba) 5278/08 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, Appendix 34 (“Rahen: Conditional Sale Agreement, Between Salameh al-‘Uqbi and Suleiman al-‘Uqbi, Araqib 6,” September 28, 1945) to the opinion of Prof. Oren Yiftachel (al-‘Uqbi Family Archives).

(79.) C.C. (Beersheba) 5278/08 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, Appendix 22 (“Names of the Bedouin Owners from Whom the Land for the Kibbutz Mishmar Hanegev Was Purchased, Dubinsky Map,” 1926) to the opinion of Prof. Oren Yiftachel (Mishmar Hanegev Archives).

(80.) C.C. (Beersheba) 5278/08 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, Appendix 36 (receipts of payment of the tithe tax from Salman Al Haj Rashod [al-Turi] in ‘Araqib, 1922–1935, approval of Sheikh al-‘Uqbi), Appendix 37 (revenue of the tithe tax from Bani Uqba in ‘Araqib, 1927–1928), and Appendix 38 (list of tithe tax payers in Zehilika, 1927–1928) to the opinion of Prof. Oren Yiftachel (al-‘Uqbi Family Archives).

(81.) Ottoman Land Code, art. 3, 103, tinyurl.com/hagn7h9 (accessed July 3, 2017). See also Section 2.7.

(82.) The names of the Bedouin owners from whom the land for Kibbutz Mishmar Hanegev was purchased appear in the Dubinsky map (1926), Mishmar Hanegev Archives (copy with authors).

(83.) Letter from Michael Hanegbi, Military Governor, to the liaison officers of the Bedouin, (p.358) July 2, 1949, Israel Defense Forces and Defense Establishment Archives, 1447/52/80 (copy with authors).

(84.) Documents regarding the establishment of a tribal court by Israel with the participation of Sheikh al-‘Uqbi, 1949, Israel Defense Forces and Defense Establishment Archives, 1447/52/80 (copy with authors).

(85.) C.C. (Beersheba) 5278/08 al-‘Uqbi et al. v. State of Israel, Appendix 39 (Letter from Salama Abu-Fariya and others, confirming the ownership of Suleiman al-‘Uqbi on ‘Araqib land, 1973) and Appendix 40 (Letter from Suleiman al-Huzayil and others, confirming the ownership of Suleiman al-‘Uqbi on ‘Araqib land, 1973) to the opinion of Prof. Oren Yiftachel (al-‘Uqbi Family Archives).