22 November 2016

The Demolition of al-Hiran, A Bedouin Village in the Israel’s Negev Desert

This is why Israel is still a settler colonial state

Only in Israel could the state seriously think of demolishing a village in order to make way for a town containing members of the ruling (Jewish) ethnicity.  That state is Israel.    

According to the Association of the Forty, a Bedouin organisation, there are some 92 ‘unrecognised’ villages in Israel, of which 59 are Bedouins.  Different organisations have different figures but it is accepted that about half the Arab villages in Israel are unrecognised.  Unrecognised villages are not connected to the national grid, have mains supplied water or any local government services. 

There are, of course, no unrecognised Jewish settlements in Israel.  In fact the Knesset is in the process of legalising illegal outposts and settlements established on private Palestinian land in the West Bank.  No such initiative is proposed for the ‘illegal’ (Arabs rarely get planning permission in Israel) Arab settlements in Israel because it is a Jewish not an Arab state.
Family gathered around their house which was slated for demolition on Tuesday. (photo credit:ELIYAHU KAMISHER) 
Once Umm al—Hiran is demolished, it is proposed to build a new Jewish town, Hiran, on the ruins.  This is the same process that has gone on in Israel since 1948.  Apartheid?  There are some wicked anti-Semites who are willing to defame the Israeli state by comparing it to South Africa.  However they are wrong.  By and large the Whites of South Africa did not demolish the villages of Black African villages in order that they could construct White towns and cities on top of them.   They simply excluded Black Africans from sections of different cities under the Group Areas Act.

Tony Greenstein

Umm al-Hiran. The government has decided to raze the Bedouin village in the Negev to make way for a new Jewish community. Credit:  Eliyahu Hershkovitz 
During the Mandatory Palestine era, the British authorities were in the process of registering lands in the territory before the end of the mandate in 1947. They recognised Bedouin ownership of their land, but the land registration process was incomplete by the time the mandate was ended. This was taken advantage of by the new Israeli government, which subsequently refuse to acknowledge traditional Bedouin land ownership customs, dispossessing thousands. Prior to the 1948 Arab–Israeli War

Bedouins numbered just over 90,000 in the Negev, but only 12% remained after the war.[1] The remaining Bedouin tribes were relocated to the north and north-east of the district of Beersheba, known as Siyag, which constituted only 7% of the total district. Lands beyond the Siyag area were designated closed military zones, barring Bedouins from accessing their original land.[2]

In 1956, the villagers of Umm al-Hiran submitted a request to return to their original lands, which was rejected by the Israeli authorities. They were subsequently moved by a military order to Wadi Atir. From this point onwards, they built houses from stone and other materials, paved roads, built wells and farmed the surrounding land. Sheikh Farhoud Abu al Qi'an argued that before their arrival "It was a desert, with no roads, water, houses or services".

In 2001, the Israel Land Authority described its residents as a "special obstacle" in its recommendations. In 2003, there was a state motion to the Magistrates’ Court in Beersheba for the demolition of the village ex parte, without informing the landowners; the state claimed that it was unable to identify or reach the inhabitants.[3] In 2004, the state filed lawsuits in 2004 to evacuate the villagers on the basis that they were trespassers who were squatting illegally. The court ruled that the legal status of the residents was as "permanent residents", but at the same time concluded that because the land was held from the state free of charge, their residency could be revoked at any time. The Prime Minister's Office had also previously blocked a plan to recognise the neighbouring village of Atir, which shares land with Umm al-Hiran, requesting instead that the plan did not clash with the proposal to establish a Jewish town.

The proposal would relocate the Bedouins of Umm al-Hiran to the Bedouin township of Hura, one of seven Bedouin townships, all of which are at the bottom of the country's socio-economic index. These townships are specifically designated towns intended to "contain" expelled Bedouins. They are characterised by being overcrowded, lacking in adequate services and having the highest percentage of unemployment and poverty in Israel.[4]

The authorities are supported by key NGOs, including the Or Movement, which works to promote the construction of Hiran. Opposition to the plan to forcibly evict and demolish the village of Umm al-Hiran has come from both non-governmental organisations and left-leaning MKs. Arab MKs have requested an overall solution to the Arab and Bedouin housing problem in Israel, including a freeze on all pending demolition and eviction orders. Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint List, made the housing crisis and treatment of Bedouins his party’s top priority following the March 2015 elections. Other MKs have also come out in opposition to the plan, including MK Tamar Zandberg from Meretz, who argued "How will we be able to explain how we razed a village… just because the people belong to a different ethnic or religious group?" Adalah launched a public campaign entitled "#save_UmmAlHiran", in order to "stop Israel's plan to demolish an Arab Bedouin village in order to build a Jewish town over its ruins". The Regional Council of the Unrecognised Villages has also been active in campaigning to stop the destruction of the village, arguing the plan amounts to an "ethnic cleansing" campaign.

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