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Cabinet OK's razing Bedouin towns to build Jewish settlement in their place

After being expelled and relocated in the 1950s, the residents of Umm al-Hiran are about to lose their homes once again – this time to make way for a Jewish national-religious settlement.

(This post has been updated.)

The mosque at the unrecognized Bedouin village Umm al-Hiran (photo: Yossi Gurvitz)

The Israeli government on Sunday made one of its most outrageous decisions in recent years (and there is no shortage of those, as you know). The cabinet held a special session in Sde Boker – the Kibbutz in which David Ben-Gurion is buried – to approve plans to build a new Jewish town (along with several others – all for Jews) in the northeast region of the Negev desert.

The symbolism of meeting at Sde Boker is clear: Ben-Gurion believed that the Negev is Zionism’s final frontier, and all Jewish pioneering effort should take place there.

There is no better example of how Zionism as a state ideology represents, in practice, the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians. Two Bedouin-Palestinian villages, Umm al-Hiran and Atir (where members of the Al-Qia’an tribe live), are the location where the kibbutz is planned.

Last year, Lia Tarachansky of the Real News produced a comprehensive video report about Umm al-Hiran and the Israeli government’s plans for it:

A demonstration outside Kibbutz Sde Boker against the planned demolition of two Bedouin towns to make room for a Jewish settlement in their place, November 10, 2013. The Israeli cabinet held a special meeting at the kibbutz to approve the plan. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Several dozen protesters gathered outside the kibbutz to protest the cabinet decision and displacement of the Bedouin villagers, who are all citizens of the State of Israel. Four were taken away by police, including former MK Taleb el-Sana.

Police arrest former MK Taleb el-Sana outside Kibbutz Sde Boker during a protest against the demolition of two Bedouin towns to make room for a Jewish settlement in their place, November 10, 2013. The Israeli cabinet held a special meeting at the kibbutz to approve the plan. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Their residents are originally from the western part of the Negev (Palestinians call the same desert Naqab); they were expelled eastward by the IDF following the 1948 war, and a kibbutz called Shoval was built on their land. After several years of moving from site to site, the army finally told those members of the Al-Qia’an tribe to build their homes in Umm al-Hiran and Atir, and so they did in 1956. Here is the army’s order (via Adala). It is marked “confidential”:

Despite the fact that it was the state who told the Al-Qia’an tribe where to move, the new villages were never made part of a zoning plan, and their residents still lack basic infrastructure like water and electricity. The government is finally deciding to build a proper settlement there – but not for the Palestinian Bedouin (who are citizens of Israel, some of whom even served in the IDF).

In remarks at the start of the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about the new Jewish towns but did not mention the Bedouin who will be displaced to make room for them. The plan, he said, will “expedite the development of the entire Negev, which Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, very much wanted to do.”

A sign thanking the JNF-KKL for funding on a home for settlers of the future town “Hiran,” slated to be built on top of the unrecognized village of Umm al-Hiran (photo: Activestills.org)

The Bedouin residents of Umm al-Hiran will be pushed to the township of Hura, one of the poorest cities in the country, according to the socio-economic index of towns and municipalities. I suppose the government believes that things are so bad in Hura that its residents won’t mind another 500 refugees.

I visited Hura and Umm al-Hiran along with some other +972 bloggers last year – here is an account of that visit. Here is a video report on the Jewish group that is planning to settle on the ground as soon as the Palestinians are expelled. I will update tomorrow after the government’s decision.

Related:
+972′s ongoing report on the Prawer Plan and the attempt to displace thousands of Palestinian Bedouins.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Your Oct 2012 piece says that “a state zoning committee recommended recognizing Umm al-Hiran, but Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office overruled that decision.” Given that Umm al-Hiran was established by military order, so by the State, its destruction should be barred; otherwise, there are no protected use rights at all–if not Jewish. Failure to provide infrastructure integration also violates the equality guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence. Plausibly, the State has retarded development of the village, so cannot claim if must be removed for improvement; nor can a false doorway of a buy-in absolve the State when residents have no reserves paper over this usurpation.

      If anywhere there is a way to recognize the Nakba in a positive sense it is here: displacement is at an end, especially as those targeted for expulsion where ordered to this local by the military. That some of the present residents are not “long term” is irrelevant; once a village is founded one expects growth both by intrinsic increase and immigration.

      This expulsion is purely racial/ethnic, verified by the importation of another, subsidized, ethnicity. This too violates the Declaration of Independence. These resident Palestinian citizens are not full citizens.

      Ben-Gurion et al. removed the Declaration for immediate advantage. It is time to take the document back.

      Reply to Comment
      • Adam Dayton

        Sorry – but in a civilized country under the administration of a government, people do not get to just pick whatever plot of land they like and build homes on it. Tell you what – I am going to build a home in your backyard. Hell, I am going to build a home in the middle of a busy street. If they don’t give me infrastructure then it’s a violation of the declaration of independence.

        Sorry – the violation is against the Jews. They don’t get to pick a plot of land in Israel and start building without permission. Neither should the Bedouins.

        Reply to Comment
        • Palestinian

          In a civilized country,the government isn’t supposed to discriminate against the indigenous population ,stealing their land to build homes for colonists from another continent.Remember those people predate the state.

          The majority of Israeli settlers inside and outside the Green Line live on stolen land.

          The law, in a civilized country, should not be made to accommodate the colonial ambitions of the barbaric colonists and thieves.

          Reply to Comment
          • Adam Dayton

            “The majority of Israeli settlers inside and outside the Green Line live on stolen land.”

            Kindly provide evidence for this claim. I demand to see evidence of ownership record for the “majority of Israeli settled land.” Sorry but just because your village is near some land doesn’t mean you own the land.

            Please provide your evidence and we can proceed from there.

            Reply to Comment
          • Palestinian

            How many acres of land,on which Israelis today live,was purchased ?

            Reply to Comment
          • Rabbi Arik Ascherman

            Adam, you are ignoring several facts:

            1. The Israeli State moved the residents of Um-Hiran to their current location in the 50′s.
            2. It is the fault of successive Israeli Governments that the village has remained “Unrecognized,” and there was therefore no legal way to build, no proper zoning plan, etc.

            While less relevant to Um-Al Hiran:
            3. Most so called “Unrecognized” villages are in locations where they existed before the State of Israel.
            4. In 1920, the PLDC of the Zionist Movement documented 2.6 million dunam as beloging to the Bedouin. The Ottomans and British honored these claims. Today disputed lands are 600-650,000 dunam. 5.4% of the Negev

            Reply to Comment
          • I believe Rabbi Ascherman’s points 1 and 2 for the village of Um-Hiran should in principle prevent the State from carrying out expulsion. The State’s hands are tainted, both in removing the military order promise and by decades of refusal to connect the village to infrastructure. I think the Court should hold that the State’s reasons for expulsion employ both a failed contractual promise on its part and ground conditions which it itself created, thereby making the State unheard before the Court. That is, the village should win argument because the State speaks in a false voice. This is not a matter of redressed equity, but a common law principle: when a litigant has created the very conditions he deplores, he will not be heard.

            But it would take a High Court panel with courage.

            Reply to Comment
          • Adam Dayton

            “Rabbi” – The government’s moving the Bedouin’s to a certain territory in no way, shape or form indicates that this was done with the intent of circumventing the standard bureaucratic procedures found in a state characterized by the rule of law.

            The more reasonable approach is viewing the government’s move as a temporary solution.

            Reply to Comment
          • Rule of law? Military order WAS the rule of law in 56, and that order asserts the move is permanent.

            Nor is 40+ years indicative of “temporary” solution. Moving them to plant Jewish only settlements is, however, a final solution.

            Reply to Comment
          • Adam Dayton

            Huh? Just because the military orders something, it doesn’t mean that it is permanent. Using that logic, all military orders the US army issued in Japan are still relevant today.

            Reply to Comment
        • Gordon Chamberlain

          you appear to be either misinformed or dont care about the present inhabitants who were instructed to develope their settlement there. So you are not saying stealing what was instructed to be their settlement is OK. Thanks for revealing the values you use toward others. They are not admirable they are hateful . Who taught you to hate others is this the values of your god

          Reply to Comment
    2. Yigal Arens

      The document is actually classified as “Secret”, not “Confidential”.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Genius, Beersheba

      Regocnition? fine but pay taxes, Umm al-Hiran is different because it was created by goverment but there are many bedouins living in 16 times tel aviv (for population 200,000 that built most of those illegal bedouin settlements illegaly according Israeli law because they didn’t buy it or something just settled there) this is HUGE area just look at their settlements in google earth!

      Reply to Comment
      • ayla

        dear Genius: please read my comment to Adam below that addresses your misunderstanding about Bedouin land rights. As for paying taxes… that’s one of the stereotypes thrown around about Bedouin to delegitimize them. Until recently, they never had the kinds of jobs that required paying income tax and generally, their old, traditional way of life is still catching up to the modern ones in ways that are often painful. Many Bedouin do pay taxes, and many Bedouin are successful business people, but anyway, you seem to live in Be’er Sheva; why don’t you go talk to some and ask some questions?

        Reply to Comment
      • ayla

        p.s. Genius: Bedouin homes currently take up less than 6% of the land in the Negev, despite your Google Earth findings.

        Reply to Comment
    4. sh

      I’m reading, but can’t find anything to say except that I’m sickened. Thanks for chronicling these developments. They are Israeli-Palestinian history in the making, sadly enough.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ayla

      thank you, Noam, for all of your wonderful reporting and analysis. As a Negev resident with many Bedouin friends, and as a human, I am so sad. Also I was right near that demonstration yesterday and didn’t know about it because I was so busy trying to drive out of the Ben Gurion Day maze; so very sorry not to have been there.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Aaron Gross

      Is anyone defending this, and if so, on what grounds? I’d really like to hear the other side. If this article is accurate, then the action is indefensible.

      Reply to Comment
      • Adam Dayton

        I can defend this – in a civilized country, making a piece of land ones home depends upon going through the proper bureaucratic procedures. You aren’t allowed to just pick a spot of land you like and say “this is mine.”

        These people never went through the official, well-established procedures and therefore they have no claim to the land.

        The law, in a civilized country, should not be bent to accommodate the less civilized.

        Reply to Comment
        • Peter Wilson

          When you lot started the Nakba(plan Dalet) prior to the Israeli/Arab conflict of 1948 you ethnically cleansed hundreds of Palestinians from their homes and villages which you then illegally appropriated for yourselves. You had no title or legal right to that land but you think that whatever you do is OK but that Palestinians or Bedouins have no equal rights.

          Reply to Comment
          • Adam Dayton

            No legal right to the land? I suggest you take a close look at the mandate of Palestine. As codified by international law, Jews had every right to the land.

            The Nakba was the result of a civil war. The Palestinian side lost.

            At any rate, we are talking about Israel today, not how it came into existence.

            Reply to Comment
          • David T.

            “No legal right to the land? I suggest you take a close look at the mandate of Palestine. As codified by international law, Jews had every right to the land.”

            I took a close look at the mandate.

            I found something about facilitating their immigration and settling.

            But there’s nothing regarding Jews having right to “the land”. There’s nothing regarding Jews having a right to settle in all of Palestine. Actually there’s nothing regarding Jews having a RIGHT to settle anywhere in Palestine.

            I only found something about the rights enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

            Are you sure you are refering to the mandate and not its Zionist draft?

            Reply to Comment
          • Adam Dayton

            You initially used the term “legal right” and now have shifted it to “right.”

            I did not intend for this to devolve in a philosophical debate over what is a “right.”

            I refuted your assertion that the Jews had no “legal right” to settle the land by referring to the fact that such settlement was in accordance with an international legal agreement.

            The concept of “rights” is rather vacuous and ill-defined, even so after the myriad of attempts to codify such “rights.”

            In short – the Jews had explicit legal permission to settle the land under the land’s lawful administrators – the British Empire. Of course, they went back and forth on this, but ultimately, Britain abandoned the territory and the Jews took over, and henceforth determined who legally could and who legally could not settle the land.

            Reply to Comment
          • David T.

            > AD: “You initially used the term “legal right” and now have shifted it to “right.”

            Nope. I quoted you asking and saying: “No legal right to the land? I suggest you take a close look at the mandate of Palestine. As codified by international law, Jews had every right to the land.”

            > AD: “I refuted your assertion that the Jews had no “legal right” to settle the land by referring to the fact that such settlement was in accordance with an international legal agreement.”

            Nope, in didn’t assert anything before that. I refuted your assertion that “Jews had every right to the land”. It was Peter Wilson who asserted that you didn’t have any “title or legal right” to the cleansed Palestinian homes and villages “you then illegally appropriated for yourselves”. He’s right of course.

            > AD: “In short – the Jews had explicit legal permission to settle the land …”

            Nope. There was no “explicit legal permission to settle the land” in the mandate. Art. 6 clearly stated that:
            “The Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall … ENCOURAGE … close settlement by Jews on the land, …”

            That doesn’t mean that Jews had the right as such to settle the land as such.

            And if I remember correctly the Land Transfer Regulations of 1940 even restricted Jewish settling to the territory designated for Jews according to the Peel partion plan in 1937.

            Of course you can claim that they had the “right” to settle where they were given the right to do so.

            > “… Britain abandoned the territory and the Jews took over, and henceforth determined who legally could and who legally could not settle the land.”

            Britain never acquired the territory. It only held the state under mandate. And Jews only acquired about 6%. So what gave Jewish Palestinians and Jews without Palestinian citizenship the right to take more of Palestine and against the will of the majority of all citizens of Palestine?

            Reply to Comment
        • William Burns

          Really? “Just picking a spot of land and saying this is mine” without going through “proper bureaucratic procedures” seems to work fine for Jews on the West Bank, even on private Palestinian land. Quit trying to defend the indefensible.

          Reply to Comment
          • Adam Dayton

            Actually, the settlers must go through proper bureaucratic procedures. Those who don’t are deemed to live in illegal settlements.

            Again, in a proper functioning civilized state, and within it’s lawfully sovereign territory, people can’t just take a hunk of land and say this is mine. Maybe this was appropriate at some time in the past, but for obvious reasons it’s not today.

            Reply to Comment
          • Adam, you well know that most “illegal” WB settlements are allowed to stand, and that many such have eventually been made legal. Indeed, the High Court has ruled that barring State expulsion, an “illegal” settlement must be protected by the IDF. There is no parallel with the Bedouin at all.

            Reply to Comment
          • ayla

            William et al, while you make an important point (about illegal, squatting settlements in the west bank), that is not what Bedouin are doing. They are living in the territories where they have always lived by their own law and as accepted by Israel in 1948. Suddenly it doesn’t suit us so we no longer recognize the Ottoman Era agreements we recognized in 1948 when we had bigger fish to fry.

            Reply to Comment
        • ayla

          Adam–that’s a misunderstanding of Bedouin’s land rights. Their land was recognized by Israel under their Ottoman Law agreements when Israel became a State. Also, forgive me for not going back to re-read, but I think I remember reading that this particular village set up camp in this particular place when they were displaced by Israel in 1948 and ordered to be here instead? In any case, they may look to our eyes like squatters, but they aren’t. If you talk to Bedouin, they are very clear on which families belong to which tribes and which tribes belong to which section of the land, and have since long before 1948. Although they are no longer nomadic, those who have not relocated to recognized towns–built by israel–are still living on their tribal land (again, recognized as legally purchased and owned under ottoman law).

          Reply to Comment
          • Adam Dayton

            Please provide me with the legislation that recognized the relevant Ottoman Land Laws.

            Reply to Comment
        • “The law, in a civilized country, should not be bent to accommodate the less civilized.” : Anyone tells you you are racist, Adam, you don’t believe it.

          “These people never went through the official, well-established procedures and therefore they have no claim to the land.” : Have you read Kafka’s “The Castle?” I’m beginning to think several Israeli Administrations have.

          Reply to Comment
    7. ayla

      it really feels like there’s an opportunity here to TRY to awaken people–local, non-activist people–to stop this one thing from happening. That would go a long way toward, well, awakening people, and also to sending a message to the government that there are things we won’t tolerate. (she said with one foot on a plane out of the country for the month).

      Reply to Comment
    8. Ari

      This article is factually incorrect! Yes, there are Bedouin squatters there but they moved in only after the preparations for the new town began. The location of the new town of Hiran has been in public maps for 20 years since first discussions for its establishment were raised by the Government and planning process started. Aerial photos taken at the time attest to the fact that there were NO Bedouin located where the town was to be established – the reason the land was chosen. The Bedouin have lived around the general area since 1956 but not in the specific location of the planned new town. Over the last 15 years, the Bedouin have taken over the land illegally, specifically during the time it was undergoing planning and approval procedures for the new town of Hiran. They now scream and shout because the town has finally got all its planning approvals (on average it takes 15 years for a new legal town in Israel to be approved) to move forward and they have become “well” established on someone else’s land (i.e. government owned).

      Reply to Comment
      • ayla

        Ari–here’s more reporting that frames it the same way. Ha’aretz is also liberally-bent, but they are news vs. blog, and they certainly fact check… http://www.haaretz.com/mobile/.premium-1.557261

        Reply to Comment
    9. Disgraceful to displace others …like many Jewish families were displaced.

      A poor way to honor your ancestors.

      Reply to Comment
    10. David T.

      Preventing Nonjews to build in a specific area and destroying their buildings for NO OTHER REASON than to exclusively allow Jews to build there is utterly racist and open Apartheid.

      Who needs any “Only Jews”-signs as evidence?

      Reply to Comment
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