+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

From Umm el-Hiran, the future of Zionism looks bleak

Israeli authorities delay the demolition of the Bedouin village of Umm el-Hiran. But it’s just a matter of time. A regime that by definition privileges one national group at the expense of another, the indigenous group, has no choice but to destroy Umm el-Hiran for the benefit of the Jews waiting to move in.

A Bedouin woman enters a tin shack in the unrecognized village of Umm el-Hiran, the Negev. November 22, 2016. Residents expected Israeli authorities to demolish the entire village a few hours earlier. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

A Bedouin woman enters a tin shack in the unrecognized village of Umm el-Hiran, the Negev. November 22, 2016. Residents expected Israeli authorities to demolish the entire village a few hours earlier. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Despite the Israel Land Authority’s (ILA) announcement that it would begin demolishing the Bedouin village of Umm el-Hiran Tuesday morning, in order to build a Jewish village in its place, the bulldozers didn’t show up. Instead of standing in front of the bulldozers, dozens of activists were left to watch solemnly as the residents of Umm el-Hiran removed their property from the shacks and trailers and makeshift structures they call home.

The residents of Umm el-Hiran may have been able to breathe a sigh of relief Tuesday morning, but they know the impending eviction and displacement still looms over their heads. A delay is only a delay. Perhaps the Israeli authorities changed their plans due to the large numbers of activists, journalists and politicians who showed up Tuesday. But previous experience tells us that there’s not much hope for optimism: from the moment the state sets its eyes on a piece of land on which Palestinians live — whether it’s in the West Bank or Israel proper — eviction and displacement is only a matter of time.

The magnitude and absurdity of the injustice in Umm el-Hiran’s story is nothing short of astounding. You can read the whole history here in this article by Mya Guarnieri. In short, the community was uprooted from its land in the Israeli state’s early years, moved by state authorities to its current location, and now, the same Israeli authorities are about to uproot them again in order to build a Jewish town on the ruins of their homes. The High Court of Justice rubber-stamped the whole thing. Because it is “state land,” and that state can do whatever it wants with it. Screw the people who live there.

The Jewish public in Israel is used to hearing about about Bedouin citizens of Israel trespassing and building illegally in the Negev, but that is not the case here. Construing the Bedouin as “trespassers” is problematic anyway in as much as it reflects a deep-seated racism, but it is also simply not true in Umm el-Hiran: the residents were moved to their current location by the state itself, where, as Michal Rotem noted in Local Call (Hebrew), they even helped safeguard the Israeli border with Jordan.

Residents of Umm el-Hiran packed all of their belongings and removed them from their homes in anticipation that Israeli authorities would demolish the village Tuesday morning, Umm el-Hiran, the Negev, November 22, 2016. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Residents of Umm el-Hiran packed all of their belongings and removed them from their homes in anticipation that Israeli authorities would demolish the village Tuesday morning, Umm el-Hiran, the Negev, November 22, 2016. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

And despite all that, for close to 60 years, Israeli authorities not only failed to register any legal status for Umm el-Hiran or recognize its residents’ right to live there, it didn’t even connect them to basic infrastructure like water, electricity, roads, sewage, nothing. The only thing the state ever did for Umm el-Hiran was to let its residents live in tin shacks, without even the most basic conditions for sustenance and survival. Now the authorities want to take even that away, in order to build a Jewish settlement in its place, called Hiran.

It is here we can see the essence of contemporary Israeli Zionism in its purest form. Originally intended to create a safe haven for Jews who were persecuted for being Jewish, the Zionist project has instead turned into an enterprise of land theft and dispossession, the sole purpose of which is to remove the indigenous people from the land and to “Judaize” it. From Rehavam “Gandhi” Ze’evi’s transfer plan to Avigdor Liberman’s land-swap plan to Nobel Laureate Shimon Peres’s plan to Judaize the Galilee, the “formalization law” and dozens of other racist and discriminatory laws, the primary manifestation of the Israeli Zionist project today is the removal of the Palestinians from this land: physically, culturally, and nationally.

The contents of entire homes are left in piles outside of the buildings Israeli authorities said they were coming to demolish, Umm el-Hiran, the Negev, November 22, 2016. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

The contents of entire homes are left in piles outside of the buildings Israeli authorities said they were coming to demolish, Umm el-Hiran, the Negev, November 22, 2016. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

As far as that goal is concerned, there is no daylight between the Left and Right in Israel. After 70 years of systematic displacement, there is no other way that Zionism can define itself. The instinct to displace Palestinians is part of its DNA. Even the purportedly liberal branches of Zionism believe that a regime which privileges Jews is the basic cornerstone of Zionist ideology.

Particularly at a moment in history like this, when dissidents and dissent are met with increasing persecution, it is crucial to say loud and clear: Zionism has nothing left to offer good and decent people. I don’t think that everyone who defines themselves as a Zionist is a bad person. I have a lot of Zionist friends who are very good people. But it’s time for them to recognize that what we are witnessing is not a deviation of or from Zionism; it is the only path for realizing its innermost logic. A regime defined by privileging one national group at the expense of another, the indigenous group, has no choice but to destroy Umm el-Hiran and others like it for the benefit of Hiran and the Jews waiting to move in. It is simply in its nature.

aChildren in the unrecognized village of Umm el-Hiran do a dance once it became clear that the demolition would not take place on Tuesday, Umm el-Hiran, the Negev, November 22, 2016. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Children in the unrecognized village of Umm el-Hiran do a dance once it became clear that the demolition would not take place on Tuesday, Umm el-Hiran, the Negev, November 22, 2016. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Seventy years are enough. It’s time to admit that Zionism is not a force of nature nor is it anyone’s destiny. It is a type of regime, the implementation of which is predicated on the displacement and oppression of another people. And ending the occupation is not enough: the real challenge is proposing an alternative to Zionism that fully recognizes and realizes the rights of all citizens to dignity and equality.

Doing so doesn’t require reinventing the wheel. Proposals like Balad’s state-of-all-its-citizens concept, or of a bi-national state, have been on the table for years. Before we despair out of the belief that there is no point of return, we must first put those proposals back on the public agenda, and start a serious discussion about them.

Look at these photographs from Umm el-Hiran and think long and hard about the delusion of “Jewish and democratic.” The “democracy” departed a long time ago, and the “Jewish” shrinks into itself more and more every day out of shame. It’s time to part ways with Zionism, as long as there are still people among us who don’t want to be just democratic or Jewish, but simply human beings.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • LEAVE A COMMENT

    * Required

    COMMENTS

    1. Baladi Akka 1948

      The State of Israel is a dark place but you, Orly, are indeed a Light Upon Nations. I’m so happy you also light up this site.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Lauren

      I stand with Um Al Hiran and thank you, Orly Noy, for this in-depth article, which brings to light, for those not already aware, of the background to the village and the government’s racist policy towards its Bedouin citizens. I came to this country many years ago thinking that Israel was a “light unto the nations”. Sadly, this light has long since faded. No matter how I look at Um Al Hiran, demolishing the Bedouin village in order to build a Jewish village in its place, and not even allow the Bedouin to coexist with the Jewish villagers, is wrong. As an Israeli citizen and resident of the Negev, I strongly protest the government’s actions re Um Al Hiran.

      Reply to Comment
      • carmen

        I came to this country many years ago thinking that Israel was a “light unto the nations”.

        You are not alone Lauren; I had the same fantasy thinking. There is no justification whatsoever for the actions of the zionist enterprise.

        “Proposals like Balad’s state-of-all-its-citizens concept, or of a bi-national state, have been on the table for years. Before we despair out of the belief that there is no point of return, we must first put those proposals back on the public agenda, and start a serious discussion about them.

        Look at these photographs from Umm el-Hiran and think long and hard about the delusion of “Jewish and democratic. The “democracy” departed a long time ago, and the “Jewish” shrinks into itself more and more every day out of shame. It’s time to part ways with Zionism, as long as there are still people among us who don’t want to be just democratic or Jewish, but simply human beings.”

        Absolutely ‘spot on’ Orly.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      “It is here we can see the essence of contemporary Israeli Zionism in its purest form….”

      All the protestations of the right (including its ‘liberal Zionist’ branch it must be said) founder on the shoals of this diagnosis by Orly Noy. All roads end here.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Lewis from Afula

      From Baghdad, Damascus, Algiers, Beirut, Rabat, Tunis, Cairo and all Arab States, the future of arabism still looks bleak. Why? They all expelled their Jewish inhabitants and confiscated their properties.
      There,
      Fixed it for you.

      Reply to Comment
    5. R5

      The Bedouin of the Negev kept Black slaves until Israel came along. Not sure if BLM would rather have let that one slide (as they seem to do re: Mauritania), or prefers to stick up for squatters rights of the “indigenous” (i.e. “Jews out” folks) inhabitants of the land.

      Reply to Comment
    6. i_like_ike52

      Is this meant as some sort of joke or parody? We should commit national suicide in order to create a state where supposedly all citizens would be “equal”? Where in the Arab Middle East does such a thing exist? Where is there democracy and equality of rights, outside of Israel? Israel should become like Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya or Algeria, all of which have or had bloody fratricidal wars, where good Muslims butchered each other? Don’t forget all Muslims are “brothers who love one another”, yet they slaughter each other, whereas Jews are viewed as aliens and outsiders who according to pure Islam are nothing more than dhimmis who are expected to live under Jim Crow-like subjugation, so who thinks a “state of all its citizens” would allow Jews to live under freedom? Of course there is Egypt, which fortunately has not had a civil war, but it has been living under what is bascially a military dictatorship for 64 years (with a short break a couple of years ago when it attempted to become an Islamic dictatorship).
      In any event all the Arab Middle East states, outside of Lebanon define themselves as ethnically Arab with Islam as the state religion. So why should anyone in the Middle East object to a Jewish Zionist state which is much more liberal and democratic than any of those regimes?

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Why should anyone object, you ask? The very question presupposes this premise: “the occupied Palestinians don’t exist, they don’t count, they are not human like you and me, and we all live in the 18th century anyway so what’s the big deal?” There are people–and their numbers are growing, not shrinking–who object to your premise. I know, shocking, eh? What’s this crazy world coming to? You hate the one state arrangement you’re slouching towards but steadfastly refuse the two state solution. And yet you always think the problem is somebody else.

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Ike no one said you shouldn’t be depressed. You’re forcing yourself to “commit national suicide” by your own standards. You face two grim roads to go down: (1) stagnation, persistent security tension punctuated by waves of terror and their violent suppression. (2) annexation of the territories ending in either institutional apartheid or by your standards your worst nightmare: democracy in which Arabs constitute half the population. And then no doubt you’ll be full steam ahead to civil war. You’ll make sure of that. No way you gonna give up lordship voluntarily. Not a pretty sight. I’d be depressed if I were you.

        Reply to Comment
    7. i_like_ike52

      I believe a more informative piece could have been written saying how the future of the Arab world looks bleak. Hundreds of thousands dead in fratricidal slaughter of Arabs/Muslims butchering each other, millions of refugees, almost all of their states, outside of the oil-rich states in the Gulf, are failed states, not one of them is a prosperous, peaceful regime.
      Given this, it seems odd that “progressives” are saying Israel should give up its Zionist ideology, which has allowed the creation of a peaceful, prosperous state which its Arab residents also benefit form, and dissolve itself into yet another failed, “multi-ethnic” Arab state, something like Lebanon.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        ​’odd that “progressives” are saying Israel should give up its Zionist ideology, which has allowed the creation of a peaceful, prosperous state’

        There are indeed weaknesses to a mindlessly “multicultural” and globalist ideology. Haidt is worth reading on this:
        http://www.the-american-interest.com/2016/07/10/when-and-why-nationalism-beats-globalism/

        Haidt articulates well and with sympathy the legitimate sources of the nationalistic tribal feelings a lot of the rightists here pound away at. And why these feelings are not necessarily “racism pure and simple.”

        But Israel-Palestine did not start as some land without a people or with one monocultural People, into which multicultural hordes are pouring. Israel is not Merkel’s Germany accepting floods of unacculturated Syrians. From the very beginning, and intrinsically, Israel-Palestine was fundamentally bi-cultural. All attempts to ignore this or play blame games around this (a favorite of some here) are at this point in history doomed to bloody failures. Israel would have to give up way more land than it would ever be willing to give up to make a Lieberman-style population-reshuffling, border redrawing work, and even there, the two populations are simply too intertwined to make it work.

        Moreover, your characterization of Israel as a “peaceful state” is wanting. It is neither peaceful nor a state in the sense that states have defined borders. It is an entity on the march and that march is aggressive. Again, your premise is “it’s relatively peaceful at the moment over here and I don’t want to know too much about what our troops do to other people over there. Those people don’t count.” Haidt’s worthy analysis does not assume or incorporate in its model a belligerent 50-year brutal occupation of one’s neighbor. That occupation is to say the least a confounding factor. A factor Israel refuses to remove because, let’s all be honest, Israel wants the land above all. It is ruled by incredibly spoiled settlers who worship stones and power. Nor would Haidt condescend to characterize coming to terms with the neighbor so occupied, and with the indigenous citizens within, as “multicultural” fluffery. He would recognize it as an intrinsic and serious challenge, not imposed from without by globalization and mass emigration on a stable society with stable and settled roots. And the bugaboo about the right of return and flooding you with hordes can be solved, finessed, in an agreed upon way. In the interests of israel’s own security, of course, as your retired defense and intelligence chiefs always seem to suddenly and miraculously see the light on upon their retirement and ability to speak out without destroying their careers. Israel has done far harder things. The raising of it as a fearsome specter by the right is at this point transparently a propaganda tactic.

        If Israel wants to solve this it can. It shows no sign whatsoever of wanting to. This is so clear to objective outsiders, with so much evidence confirming it, as to be irrefutable. Though the usual antagonists will try. So in the end, as I read it, the raising of the weaknesses of multicultural progressivism and the problems it involves outside of Israel-Palestine is only mildly and indirectly illuminating but mostly a distraction, mostly obfuscating, in the service of an ulterior agenda. It would be more credible if it came with a frank acknowledgment: “We don’t need Ariel and Ma’aleh Adumim and East Jerusalem sovereignty and such–let’s get that out of the way.” But it never does come with that disclaimer. It always comes with a totalistic irredentist (using the Right’s imagined 5000 year scope) rider attached. Or a dissembling rider attached. So it is, going on 2017 in the Holy Land.

        Reply to Comment
        • AJew

          “All attempts to ignore this or play blame games around this (a favorite of some here)”

          Let’s set the record straight. Who is playing blame games around here Ben?

          I think just about every +972 article does against Israel. Followed by regular posters such as yourself, Carmen, Bruce and a few other odd bods who do the same.

          In reaction to you guys then, a few of us (very few) we try to remind you that your Arab and Palestinian Arab friends are not just the innocent victims that you trying to make them out to be. So I guess then by doing that, we too join your blame game.

          Thank you.

          Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            Here is Israel’s side of the story:

            http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4280882,00.html

            Agree or disagree, it does not matter. But at least hear both sides of the story not, as always around here, only the Arab’s side.

            Personally, I CAN see the Beduin’s side of the story too but not only their side. I want to know why it is such a catastrophe for the Beduin to move to another place in which their presence would be changed from the status of squatters to legal owners? Especially if the new place would offer them reasonable and adequate dwellings? Could it be that their resistance to the proposed move is motivated purely by the politics of confrontation and incitement? I want to know what other country in the world allows it’s inhabitants to settle on any crown land and grow topsy turvy in an unplanned fashion? Why should the Israeli government forfeit it’s right to be the final arbiter about who does what on crown lands?

            Reply to Comment
    8. Michael MCintyre

      Very enlightening, thank you.

      Reply to Comment