Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Israeli Supreme Court allows state to replace Bedouin village with Jewish one

By Editor - May 06, 2015
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Negev Desert] [Bedouin] [ethnic cleansing] [House Demolition] [Displacement]

A protest in Susiya against the demolition of the village (archive).

Israel’s Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a petition from residents of the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran aimed at preventing their removal and the destruction of the community, so that a new town for Jewish residents may be built in its place, reported Israel’s largest English-language daily Haaretz.

The land in the northern Negev on which Umm al-Hiran has sat for the past five decades, the court ruled, belongs to the state and the Bedouins have no legal rights to it. 

“The state is the owner of the lands in dispute, which were registered in its name in the framework of the arrangement process; the residents have acquired no rights to the land but have settled them [without any authorization], which the state cancelled legally. In such a situation, there is no justification for intervention in the rulings of the previous courts,” wrote Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein in the majority opinion. 

Rubinstein reportedly ruled that the appeal should be rejected for two reasons. First, he argued that the petition is an indirect attack against the government’s decision to establish the new (Jewish) community of Hiran, to be built on technically owned by the state. The Justice said that such a challenge should have been raised in other forums. Secondly, the judges ruled that the government’s decision to bulldoze the community did not in any way violate the petitioners’ legal rights – and even if such rights were harmed, it was a “proportionate harm.” 

The Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday concerns only the evacuation orders. The Magistrate’s Court in Kiryat Gat will hold a hearing at the end of May about the demolitions orders for the houses in Umm al-Hiran. 

Families from the Abu Alkiyan family of Umm al-Hira originally filed a petition back in November 2013 to prevent the demolition of their homes and the evacuation of the community’s residents, after the Israeli government originally approved the creation of the Jewish town of Hiran and the corresponding demolition of their own unrecognized village. 

The Abu Alkiyan family, who filed the petition along with the help of Adalah – the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, claim they were not squatting on the land. The family says it was transferred to the area in the Yattir Forest in 1956 by direct order from the military administration at the time, a fact the state authorities have never denied. Like other Bedouin villages in present day Israel, the small community Umm al-Hiran—now home to about 700 people—is not officially recognized by the state as a local municipal community, and lacks infrastructure and electricity. 

Displaced during the violence and ethnic cleansing operations of 1948, the Umm al-Hiran clan used live on land now occupied by Kibbutz Shoval. Upon approaching the Israeli military administration in 1956, the tribe was transferred to the Wadi Atir area, and allotted 7,000 dunams of land—they have been there ever since. Unlike many Bedouin communities, the houses in Umm al-Hiran, and the neighboring community of Atir, are built of stone. 

Houses in the community have been sporadically demolished by the Israeli Land Authority ever since. The state has offered residence a compromise—if they move to the neighboring town of Hura, they will be compensated with an 800-square meter plot of land. The families rejected the offer, however, refusing to be removed from their land a third time. 

Rubinstein, the Supreme Court Justice, argued the case of Umm al-Hiran is “not an expulsion and not expropriation, but … involves various proposals of moving, construction, compensation and the possibility of homes, whether in the town of Hura where most of the residents will be moved, or in the community of Hiran, which is to be built.”

Another Supreme Court Justice, Daphne Barak-Erez, disagreed with portions of Rubinstein’s opinion, and criticized the government’s actions. “The petitioners cannot receive the full support they asked for,” she said, “but it is also not possible to reconcile oneself with the flaws in the authorities’ actions concerning the decision on the evacuation and compensation involved.” The Justice said the authorities should reconsider the compensation offered, given that the families had lived on the land for over 20 years and were not trespassing. She also said that the state should consider offering them a plot of land in the new town-to-be. 

Israel’s National Planning and Building Council approved the master plans for the new village of Hiran in 2012, but the actual work has been delayed due the appeal put forward by the Bedouin residents. According to Moshe Golan, an attorney representative the state, Bedouin residents may choose to live in the new community, but they will not receive the same 800-square meter plot in Hiran as they have been offered elsewhere, since the plots in Hiran are allegedly much smaller. 

The families set to move into the new town of Hiran are national religious Jews, who will be joined by secular residents from the nearby community of Meitar. 

Despite plans by the state to go ahead with the expulsion, the Umm al-Hiran clan plans to go on refusing to be moved. “I will continue to fight since I am not a criminal, and this is my home.” Israeli media reported that group is considering going to an international court to protest the issue. 

Adalah, the legal center that supports the legal rights of Israel’s Palestinian citizens, called out the hypocrisy of the Supreme Court’s decision noting that the residents are living in the area with the permission of the state and at its instructions as well. “The court makes do with the technical authority of the state to act as it pleases with the land on which Umm al-Hiran and Atir sit. In doing so, the court gave legitimacy to the erasing of an entire village off the face of the earth and the expulsion of its residents, while ignoring the entire human, political, social and historical perspective.” 

Adalah and the residents of Umm al-Hiran, along with human rights organizations and activists in the Palestinian community, are reportedly planning on looking into legal and public tactics to protect the village from demolition. 





















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