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Bedouin town slated for destruction is true test for Israelis

The Negev comprises two thirds of Israel’s territory, but only 10 percent of citizens lives there. It is thus no coincidence that the Jewish settlement of Hiran is being planned directly atop the ruins of the Bedouin village Umm al-Hiran. This is  a test for all Israelis, and I really hope we do not fail.

By Michal Rotem

Children in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Um al Hiran, Negev, Israel, January 18, 2014. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Children in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Um al Hiran, Negev, Israel, January 18, 2014. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

On January 17, Israel’s Supreme Court judges decided not to hold an additional hearing on the future of the Bedouin villages Atir and Umm al-Hiran. Legally speaking, this means that the court’s May decision, according to which there is no barrier to evacuating the residents to the town of Hura and destroying their villages, remained in tact. As far as the reality in the Negev, it means that there is nothing stopping the government from destroying one Bedouin village in order to build a Jewish town in its place, and there is nothing stopping the government from destroying a second Bedouin village in order to expand the Yatir forest on its ruins.

We can get into a deep legal discussion on the matter, but I don’t think it’s that interesting. The fact that the court ruled this way doesn’t mean we should accept it. Rather, this is a breaking point that should be seized in order to launch a public struggle that refuses to accept the ruling.

Before we go off the rails

It is in fact most critical for people who don’t live in Atir and Umm al Hiran to join the struggle and push it forward. For its Bedouin residents, this is a battle over their homes, their land and future. But for all other citizens of Israel, this is the final step before this place goes off the rails completely. As far as Israel’s Jewish citizens, this is a struggle against the state’s ability to stomp all over Palestinian citizens of Israel, to humiliate them and destroy their homes in order to build Jewish ones in their stead.

And just to refute a few counter claims that some readers may be thinking: Yes, Hiran is a town designated for “the general population.” But there aren’t actually any towns in the Negev that serve the “general population.” The reality on the ground is, the more separation between Bedouin and Jews, the better. Moreover, the core group of founders of Hiran are a national-religious community from the Eli settlement in the West Bank, and the goal of their relocation, in their own words is to “build a faithful community dedicated to strengthening the northern Negev, and contributing meaningfully to the demographic balance, out of a Zionist vision of settlement.” (Taken directly from official government website, in Hebrew). “Contributing meaningfully to the demographic balance?” So maybe they this place isn’t actually catering to the general population after all.

You may also be thinking: But the Bedouin are the ones who refuse to live among Jews. Wrong. Big time. The residents of Umm al-Hiran want to stay where they are, as part of the new Hiran town. As far as they are concerned, they can exist as an independent neighborhood or an integral part of the new town. If you visited the village, you probably heard Ra’ad Abu al-Qi’an, one of the leaders of the village’s struggle, expressing his longing for Rani and Roni, Mussa and Moshe to all grow up together in a cooperative Arab-Jewish town. So who is sabotaging this possibility? The Israeli government and its various local bodies.

What can be done

So how are the settlers from Eli connected to all this? The truth is I don’t know, but there are some settler groups who have begun “settling” the Negev. What I do know is that the Negev comprises two thirds of Israel’s territory, and less than 10 percent of the country’s citizens live there. This means there is a lot of space in the Negev, or in the words of Dr. Thabet Abu Rass, formerly the director of Adalah’s Negev office: “There is room for everyone in the Negev.” It is therefore no coincidence that a Jewish town is being planned directly on top of the ruins of a Bedouin village. This is a test for all of us, and I really hope we do not fail.

If you feel that the Negev in particular and Israel in general should belong to all its citizens, regardless of ethnic affiliation, this is the time to join the struggle. The residents of Atir and Umm al-Hiran are holding a protest march on Thursday in Be’er Sheva. For more information on the campaign, click here.

Michal Rotem works for the Negev Forum for Coexistence and is based in Be’er Sheva. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Carmen

      “If you visited the village, you probably heard Ra’ad Abu al-Qi’an, one of the leaders of the village’s struggle, expressing his longing for Rani and Roni, Mussa and Moshe to all grow up together in a cooperative Arab-Jewish town.”

      I hope the people’s desires, to be part of an Arab-Jewish town will be realized. Children are without guile or hate, but their parents/leaders/etc. usually fuck everything up. These are beautiful people and thanks for the link to the website.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ginger Eis

      How Lady Justice is strangled by +972mag

      “We can get into a deep legal discussion on the matter, but I don’t think it’s that interesting”.

      Of course not. The FACTS are NOT important (e.g. ALL parties agree that the land is State’s land; the State allowed the villagers to move in on that land; the State and the villagers have been negotiating for several decades re the future of the village; the State offered alternative plot to the villagers; most villagers accepted and moved; a few remained and are serving as weapons of “lawfare” against Israel, etc.). The law is NOT important. Supreme Court Justices are stupid and uneducated, they understand neither the facts nor the law. Court Judgments are therefore irrelevant and inconsequential. A Democratic Israel based on the Rule of Law? Who cares! To hell with Democracy and the Rule of Law.

      “The fact that the court ruled this way doesn’t mean we should accept it”.

      Indeed. Let Anarchy Reign. Set the house ablaze. Long Live Anarchy!

      “Rather, this is a breaking point that should be seized in order to launch a public struggle that refuses to accept the ruling”.

      No kidding! Winning Court cases is our absolute and unalienable right. Loosing is the right of others. We must always win in Court. Others must always lose. We believe in the Court and the Rule of Law only when we win. Any Judgment against us is per definition big injustice. We riot, rampage and run amok until the Court understand this.

      “Before we go off the rails”

      Err..SIR, you already went off the rails with your anti-Democratic, anti-Judiciary and anarchist ideology!

      Reply to Comment
      • Samson

        ROFLMAO …

        Anyways, here is the summary of the FACTS:

        HCJ 3094/11, Abu al-Qi’an, et al. v. The State of Israel.

        “The Abu al-Qi-an Tribe and the Village of Atir/Umm al-Hieran 3. The Petitioners belong, as aforesaid, to the Abu al-Qi’an Bedouin tribe. The parties dispute the tribe’s history in the years prior to its settlement on the land, which is the focus of the case at hand. However, according to all, the members of the tribe moved to the vicinity of Wadi Yatir in 1956 by order of the [Israeli] Negev military governor, and there divided into two areas: the area of Atir where Petitioner 1 and his family reside, and the area of Umm al-Hiran where Petitioner 2 and his family live. It must be noted here that in the Respondent’s view the two neighborhoods do not comprise one village, but are two separate locations which have different settlement patterns (without taking a stand regarding this, and for the sake of convenience, I chose to designate both areas as “the village”). The number of tribe members is in dispute: According to the Petitioners, it is approximately 1000 people, and according to the Respondent, it is approximately 750 people. The distance between the two sites is also in dispute: According to the Petitioners it is one kilometer, while the Respondent estimates it at two or more kilometers. There is no dispute that most members of the tribe moved to the Bedouin town of Hura and that the remainder, including the Petitioners, are a minority. In any case, there is no dispute that the village’s houses are situated on land owned by the Respondent, which was registered in its name on 9 May 1978, at the conclusion of the regulation procedures pursuant to Land Rights Ordinance [New Version] 5729 – 1969. In addition, all of the buildings in the two locations were built without permits and in violation of the law, and demolition orders issued against them in 2003 are still in force1 […] The village is not connected to basic infrastructures and its residents do not receive social, health and education services. The Bedouin town, Hura, which is recognized by the authorities, is located approximately 5 kilometers south-west of the village, and offers its residents and residents of the area all of the above community services. As will be specified, since the 1980s, the Respondent has held negotiations with the villagers in order to evacuate them to Hura in exchange for a plot in the town, and indeed most moved there. The Respondent, even at this time, is offering the Petitioners a plot in Hura in exchange for their evacuation of the village, in addition to assistance in the development of the plot and connection to infrastructures, as well as financial compensation […]”

        Reply to Comment
      • carmen

        I knew when I read Mr. Rotem’s line “We can get into a deep legal discussion on the matter, but I don’t think it’s that interesting” that you’d be along shortly. You’re so predictable granny. Why don’t you write a letter to Mr. Rotem and explain how off the rails he is? Why bitch about +972 publishing it? They publish all sorts of comments and some of them are really off the rails. Especially from people with the penchant for capitalizing words and phrases and the inordinate use of the ! mark, the flare for drama and actually comedic joy for so many. Thank you so much for providing the much needed humor here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=1myF6sztiTs

        Reply to Comment
        • Samson

          You’re sooo envious, jealous and as dumb as a rock. Wao, did Ginger do something to you? Why such strong feelings? Let go of the envy and the jealousy in your heart, else they will kill ya.

          Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Eis, a few questions. Ahem, the entire rest of Michael Rotem’s article beginning with “And just to refute a few counter claims” refutes your claims. If that’s your concept of a lady being strangled I’d hate to see what you think constitutes a lady being treated with respect. Your parade ground strutting about the “rule of law” (see Bruce Gould’s spot on comment below with regards to that–it applies with force to virtually every Eisian “rule of law” philippic in the long history of such) has one aim: to deflect from the real legal, administrative and human story. Were the tables turned and Jews not Arabs treated this way would you not suffer paroxysms of indignation? I ask you. What’s with the obsession with geographical segregation and land-use discrimination? With population transfer? How is it even possible to construe this as not the grossest discrimination? How is it possible to imagine a future without racial divisiveness if the entire state administrative and legal apparatus works day and night to keep people segregated and divided and favored and disfavored like this? If your “Germanocracy” ever dared with whatever erected legal scaffolding to move German Jews against their will out of their homes because the good German burghers moving in could not bear the thought of having Jews as close neighbors, what would you say? The questions just multiply, Eis. I await your kind reply to these vexing questions. Thanks.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Felixio

      Well, well, comments in this one are not needed.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Bruce Gould

      It’s all ‘legal’ – the state of Israel can always pull up some laws (or invent some) that makes it all kosher, there’s always some piece of paper that justifies it. But that’s not the point.

      Israel is in the process of putting its undesired minorities in reservations and ghettos.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Jan

      Israel claims that it is a democracy. Last time I checked the Bedouin of the Negev are Israeli citizens. What kind of a democracy expels one group of its citizens so that another, more privileged groups of its citizens, can live on the land from which the other group was expelled. Seemingly only in an Israelis “democracy.”

      Reply to Comment
    6. Sorry, Mairav, your state has failed this test (just the latest of many thousands of such tests)- check today’s updates on this situation in the Negev – and is already ‘off the rails’ of civilised conduct to its minority populations, and those it oppresses under occupation. Of course, it can and will get worse until the struggle for Palestinian rights and self determination is successful.

      In a way, it’s an example of baseline bias. I grew up in a Zionist home in the 50s and 60s so 1967 and its aftermath was my period of truth about Zionism. You grew up with that, so Umm el Hiran seems exceptional. Someone adult in 1948 would have thought the 400 or so destroyed Arab villages and the forced mass expulsions of hundreds of thousands of Arabs in the Naqba a pretty stern demonstration of failed morality and ethics.

      Reply to Comment