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The 'new Zionism' is turning Negev Bedouin into a myth

As the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran prepares to be replaced by a Jewish town with a near-identical name, its residents are offering solutions based on real co-existence. 

By Ariel Dloomy

The entrance to Umm el-Hiran. (Photo courtesy of Adalah)

The entrance to the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, Negev Desert. (Photo courtesy of Adalah)

In July 2007 I witnessed one of the saddest events of my life. Hundreds of security force personnel descended upon the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in order to evict the residents and demolish their homes. The police removed cradles together with the infants while bulldozers razed the homes and uprooted olive trees from the yards. Dozens of Jewish youth hired by the demolition contractor loaded residents’ personal belongings into containers that were then transported from the area. When everything was packed up, the youth danced in front of the stunned residents while chanting, “this is the new Zionism.”

Eight years and many court hearings have passed, but the threat of demolition and eviction lingers over the residents’ heads. Currently, this threat is more tangible than ever after the High Court recently rejected the appeal of the community’s 700 residents. This decision enables the government to proceed with its plans to forcibly relocate the residents of Umm al-Hiran residents to the neighboring village of Hura, while building the Jewish town of Hiran atop the ruins of the old village. This decision was unaffected by the mayor of the Hura local council, who said that his village does not have room for the evicted residents. The residents’ claims that in 1956, the military governor of the area ordered the tribe to move to its current location, after it had already forcibly removed them from the area of Wadi Zubaleh, near Kibbutz Shuval.

Just a few kilometers from the village, where the Yatir Forest road begins, 25 Jewish families from the Hiran Group are living in a temporary camp, awaiting “final authorization” to settle on the land Umm al-Hiran. According to the group’s website, “the intention is to build a settlement designated for the national-religious community in the northern Negev Desert as part of establishing a continuity of Jewish settlements in the area.” These descriptions are in complete contradiction to the state’s claim to the High Court that the new settlement will be a “general” (non-denominational) one without unique characteristics, and will not be closed to any potential resident based on religious affiliation. Thus, once again, the story of Umm al-Hiran epitomizes the national-ethnic struggle over land and settlement in Israel.

Sanda Abulkian sits outside her demolished house in the unrecognized village of Atir on July 12, 2013. The Abulkian house has demolished four times already, three of them during 2013. (Photo: Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Sanda Abulkian sits outside her demolished house in the unrecognized village of Atir on July 12, 2013. The Abulkian house has demolished four times already, three of them during 2013. (Photo: Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

In a minority opinion, Supreme Court Justice Dafna Barak-Erez writes:

The state did not take into consideration at all an additional important and even critical point, that the petitioners had been authorized to live on this land for tens of years. In this case, the state based its position on false information according to which the petitioners were trespassers. Even worse: the state did not reconsider its decisions when the true facts came to light. Moreover, it did not at all take into consideration the attachment that the authorized residents had developed for the place in which they were living. .. or the depth of the affront to them after the many years of their living on that site.

The High Court is one of the most important institutions in the State of Israel and its decisions must be honored. However, the question that must be critically examined is whether the Negev Bedouin are at all capable of succeeding in their legal battles over land rights within the Israeli legal system. This is a system that completely disregards their traditional methods of bequeathal, which continued during the periods of both the Ottoman and the British Empires; a system that expropriated the land from which the Bedouins had been evicted in 1951 through the passing of passing the Land Purchase Law in 1953; a system that circumvented the Bedouin villages when it passed the Building and Planning Law in 1965, and continued to abuse them with eviction notices, ongoing demolitions and insulting offers of compensation.

Within a few years the struggle over Umm al-Hiran will become embedded in the collective memory as the “Tel Hai” myth (considered to be the first major battle between pre-state Jewish settlers and Arab rebels, which later became part of the Zionist historical canon) of the Negev Bedouin: the few against the many, struggling over a piece of land in an isolated area while being unjustly attacked by forces more powerful than them. While it is true that there is a large gap between the myth of Tel Hai and the actual historical story, that is the nature of myths. To tell a story that will justify larger perceptions.

However, there exists an alternative solution. When I visited Umm al-Hiran again last week, the village sheikh was speaking to the residents. In an interesting step, he called for the establishment of a joint community together with Jews who are interested in living there. It now remains to be seen if Umm al-Hiran will become yet another national myth in the struggle between Arabs and Jews in this country. Perhaps it could also serve as a new model for cooperation between Arabs and Jews that will transform the crisis into a new opportunity, while sparking optimism for the future of the Negev.

Ariel Dloomy is Co-Executive director of AJEEC-NISPED, a Negev-based NGO that promote equality, empowerment and cooperation. This article was first published in Hebrew on Haokets.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Pedro X

      Using the Bedouin as Anti-Israel Propaganda Tool

      Ben-Dror Yemini from Maariv has responded to similar propaganda and untruths as follows:

      “It should be clarified that there is a huge difference between a critical stance against the state’s conduct and major deception, which has one result: Lies and incitement. There is no need to mention that the coalition of incitement and deception chose the second option – not a battle for the Bedouins, but another opportunity for an anti-Israel campaign.

      Last week, the Supreme Court decided to approve the evacuation of Bedouins from Umm al-Hiran to allow the construction of the new town of Hiran. According to Prof. Aeyal Gross, Haaretz’s commentator, “The residents, who are about to be evacuated from the community and whose homes are about to be demolished in favor of the Jewish community of Hiran – have been living there for 60 years, after moving to the Nahal Yatir area in 1956 at the military governor’s order.”

      Had these been the facts, we should have joined the protestors against the brutal eviction government. The problem is that Gross’ statement is inaccurate, to say the least.

      The facts are, first of all, that the Bedouin expansion to the compound allotted to Hiran began only after the decision was made to build the new community. It’s written in the ruling. There are aerial photos that prove it. But Gross wasn’t wrong. He misled his readers. If there is an opportunity to spread another lie about the Zionist expulsion, the coalition of deception and incitement will seize that opportunity.

      Secondly, most of the Bedouins who were in the areas discussed by the Supreme Court willingly accepted the arrangement proposed by the state, according to the Prawer outline. The outline included generous land allotments in the adjacent recognized community of Hura, including an exemption from payment for the land, an exemption from payment for infrastructures and additional compensation for the transfer.

      Thirdly, up until two years ago, the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages of Negev – which are at the heart of the conflict – was headed by Ibrahim Aloquili, who tried to advance an arrangement with the state. The members of the coalition of incitement and deception didn’t like it. They worked to present him as a collaborator and oust him. Why? Because radical elements wanted a militant line. “Aloquili has been seen for a long time now as a person who is sabotaging the attempts of other leaders to advance a more hawkish line vis-à-vis the government,” they argued. The picture is becoming clear.”

      Reply to Comment
      • Weiss

        The Prawler Plan is a violation of International Law.

        Meanwhile Another Right Wing Brownshirt chirps about losing his White Privilege but fails to grasp the FACT that Israel already IS a Fascist Apartheid State.

        This is what happens when the persecuted become the PERSECUTORS…

        The end result:

        Warsaw Ghetto – version 2.0

        THIS Jew will NOT be SILENT!!!

        Reply to Comment
      • Philos

        Only a naive fool or utter idiot would actually use a lying POS like Ben Dror-Yemeni to back up their arguments. It’s like using Bill O’Reilly to back up your claims in an American political discussion.

        Reply to Comment
        • BigCat

          And only a complete and utter fool would not know that the argument you just made is textbook examples of fallacy ad non-sequitur and inherently stupid!

          Btw,

          Ya know where Ben Dror Yemini has been proven wrong on the facts? If yes, then please by all means show us.

          We are waiting…..

          Reply to Comment
    2. Pedro X

      Just the Facts

      Ben-Dror Yemini also wrote this on the Bedouin issue:

      “Let’s take, for example, the repetitive chorus of the past few weeks, which sounds like this: “The Bedouin community of Umm al-Hiran is slated to be turned into Hiran, a community for Jews only, via the disinheriting and transfer of the Bedouins, in accordance with the racist policy of the State of Israel.” This is also a summary of the claims in a series of articles in Haaretz.

      After setting sail on the sea of lies, it’s worth returning to the solid ground of facts. First, the Bedouin members of the Al-Qian tribe, who are the focus of the current fuss, were transferred to the Yatir region of the Negev decades ago, of their own volition and at their request, due to a dispute with another tribe.

      Second, when Hiran was being planned, a little over a decade ago, there were only a few Bedouins there, if any. The move to Umm al-Hiran occurred mainly in the wake of the plans for the new town. Aerial photographs prove this.

      Third, only a small part of the master plan for Hiran is on the land occupied by the new squatters.

      Fourth, adjacent to the Al-Qian compound, the state built Hura, a proper Bedouin village, with paved roads, electricity and water infrastructure and more.

      Fifth, every family in the tribe is entitled to receive nearly a dunam of land. Even a bachelor over 24 is entitled to a plot of land, in preparation for future generations.

      Sixth, in addition to the free land, with free infrastructure development, each family also receives monetary compensation for the previous, illegally built house where it lived.

      Seventh, and here we’re in for a surprise, most of the tribe – 3,000 of the 4,000 members – actually felt this was a fair arrangement, and they indeed moved to Hura.

      Eighth, Hiran is not designated only for religious Jews, and also not only for Jews. Any Bedouin who wishes to buy land there is invited to do so and is entitled to do so. Of course, that would cost money. In Meitar, for example, Bedouins from the surrounding area decided to buy plots of land. No one stopped them.”

      “When “rights groups” and Haaretz automatically side with the Bedouins who oppose the arrangement, rather than with those who support it, the arrangement is doomed to failure. Just like the “forces of progress” in the world, who fan the flames of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign and the fantasy of the Arab Right of Return. This is no way to reach an arrangement, and only bolsters the objectors. This perpetuates the suffering and the conflict and the bloodshed. What the “progressives” are doing for the Palestinians, the “rights activists” are now doing for the Bedouins.

      Truth be told, it is doubtful if there is a population anywhere in the world with similar characteristics, native or nomadic, that has been awarded such a generous settlement.”

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        “The facts are, first of all, that the Bedouin expansion to the compound allotted to Hiran began only after the decision was made to build the new community.”

        This is a curious talking point. If it is true, why do Ben Yemini and Pedro X assume it undermines the case against Israel’s actions that the Bedouin decided to establish more visible facts on the ground to try to preempt a land grab they saw coming? This from the preeminent champions of preemptive “facts on the ground” land grab maneuvers all over the West Bank?? The hypocrisy is astounding.

        Moreover, Ben Yemini gives two versions of the same talking point:

        Version 1: “The Bedouin expansion to the compound allotted to Hiran began only after the decision was made to build the new community.”

        Version 2: “When Hiran was being planned, a little over a decade ago, there were only a few Bedouins there, if any. The move to Umm al-Hiran occurred mainly in the wake of the plans for the new town.”

        No Bedouin become “a few Bedouin” and a move that “began only after the decision” becomes one that “mainly” occurred after the decision.

        In addition the “dispute with another tribe” reason put forth as the primary reason for one of the transfers is highly suspect. Where’s the proof that that is a sufficient and true explanation and not a misleading half truth or outright nonsense?

        Readers should turn now to the arguments of Greg Pollock and others here:

        http://972mag.com/israel-supreme-court-bedouin-have-no-indigenous-rights/107171/

        Reply to Comment
        • BigCat

          “Moreover, Ben Yemini gives two versions of the same talking point: Version 1: “The Bedouin expansion to the compound allotted to Hiran began only after the decision was made to build the new community.” Version 2: “When Hiran was being planned, a little over a decade ago, there were only a few Bedouins there, if any. The move to Umm al-Hiran occurred mainly in the wake of the plans for the new town.” No Bedouin become “a few Bedouin” and a move that “began only after the decision” becomes one that “mainly” occurred after the decision.”

          Once again, Brian, you are confused, mixing up issues and seeing contradictions that don’t exist. Oh dear….

          Reply to Comment
    3. Bruce Gould

      Israel is a country in which people who don’t belong to the correct ethnicity are moved around like rocks on the landscape.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ginger Eis

        Dunce!

        Regardless,

        MYTH:

        “Israel is a country in which people who don’t belong to the correct ethnicity are moved around like rocks on the landscape.”

        FACTS:

        1. Israeli-Arabs have the same rights as other Israelis – the Druze, Jews, Christians, Circassians, others. Israel is one of the few places in the Middle East where Arab women may vote. Arabs in 2014 form the third largest political party in Israel’s 120-seat Knesset;

        2. Israeli-Arabs hold various government posts, including one who served as Israel’s ambassador to Finland and the deputy mayor of Tel Aviv . There thousands of Arab-Israeli policemen, teachers, doctors, lawyers, administrators, etc. in Israel.

        3. An Arab Israelis sever in government on Ministerial level (Abu Razag, who served as the Director General of the Ministry of Interior; Sala Tarif, etc.)

        4. Israel-Arabs also serve as Supreme Court Justices (two so far). One has been named Vice President of a major Israeli University (Haifa);

        5. The Arabic language is also an official language in Israel. More than 300,000 Arab children attend Israeli schools. The State Of Israel made their education COMPULSARY until the age of majority. If their parents cannot afford to pay for their education, the Jewish State will pay! Arab-Israelis have the right to State funded education until they get their University degree (!!).

        6. At the time of Israel’s founding, there was one Arab high school in the country. Today, there are hundreds of Arab schools.

        7. Jews, The Druze, Christians and Circassians are obligated to do Military Service and if necessary die protecting their country and their families. Muslim-Arabs exempt from military service. While our Druze, Jewish, Christian, Circassian brothers and sisters keep vigil at the Walls Of Zion at night, Muslim-Arabs are busy snoring under the security blanket paid for by other – in blood! Discrimination, no?

        8. Compared to the United States that was born sever millennia ago, the very small Israel born just a few decades ago has done a better job of integrating all of its diverse communities. We are not perfect, but we are definitely BETTER than you in terms of race-relations! As we speak, racial tensions and animosities still rage at the fabric of the US society.

        Before you come here pointing your filthy finger at the Jewish State, try to get your facts straight – FIRST and FOREMOST!

        Reply to Comment
      • CigarButNoNice

        “Israel is a country in which people who don’t belong to the correct ethnicity are moved around like rocks on the landscape.”

        The Jews forcibly uprooted from Gush Katif (Gaza region) in August 2005 agree with you on that.

        Reply to Comment

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