Residents of Umm al-Hiran, an unrecognized Arab-Bedouin village in the northeastern Negev, have signed an agreement to dismantle their homes and move to Hura, a town of 20,000 people located adjacent to their current location. The last attempt to evacuate the village in January 18, 2017 ended in bloodshed, with local resident Yaqoub Musa al-Qee’an was killed by police, and an Israel Police officer, Sergeant Major Erez Levi, dead in an accident.
Security officials initially accused al-Qee’an of being a member of ISIS, but the claim was ultimately proven false. In addition, several residents, police officers and protesters were injured, including Hadash MK Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List Knesset faction.
The deal is also the latest in a half-century string of legal battles between the village and the Israeli government. The Abu al-Qee’an family founded the site in 1956 after being “resettled” to the area by the Israeli army and the military government at the time.
In 2015 a Supreme Court panel of judges ruled 2-1 that the village should be demolished. “They (the Israeli government) thought this issue could be solved with violence,” said Ra’ed Abu al-Qee’an, a resident of Umm al-Hiran. “But as we have seen, this led only to losses, tears and pain for everybody involved. When we realized we were out of options, we went for a deal that would be good for our next generation.”
Hadash MK Dov Khenin (Joint List), who participated last week in a demonstration to save the village from demolition, said he would continue to support the residents of Umm al-Hiran to ensure that the promises made to them are fulfilled. “The residents are being forced to leave their homes because of a government that insists that the village should be torn down to make room for a Jews-only settlement. A terrible spirit is blowing from the direction of the government toward the Arab public.” “We will also continue to demand a fundamental solution to the problem of unrecognized Arab-Bedouin villages throughout the Negev,” Khenin added.
Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel, which has represented the residents of Umm al-Hiran for 15 years, said it had not been involved in the negotiations with the state because of its “principled opposition to eviction and demolition.” In a statement, the center said “Adalah sees the demolition of Umm al-Hiran and forced displacement of its residents as an act of extreme racism, embodying Israel’s colonialist land policies with the backing of the entire Israeli court system.”
Knesset member Odeh, tweeted, “It’s not ‘negotiation’ when they hold a pistol to your head.” He added, “In 2018 they uprooted a community of Arab citizens in order to settle Jews — that’s already written in the history books. In another ten, 20 or 30 years, they’ll have to look back in shame at this act and ask for forgiveness.”