Protesters, Police Clash at Israeli Arab Village Set to Be Razed for Jewish Town

Three cops and one civilian wounded and several arrests made as violence erupts at Umm al-Hiran, where bulldozers and earth removal equipment began digging near the homes of the unrecognized Bedouin village.

Israeli Arab Bedouin protest in March 2016 at Umm al-Hiran, an unrecognized village Israel plans to remove to make way for a Jewish town.
Israeli Arab Bedouin protest in March 2016 at Umm al-Hiran, an unrecognized Negev village Israel plans to remove to make way for a Jewish town. Ariel Schalit/AP

Three Israeli policemen and a civilian were injured in protests that erupted on Sunday as bulldozers moved onto the site of an unrecognized Arab village Israel plans to tear down to make way for an authorized Jewish community.

Six protesters, among them, two minors, were taken into police custody.

Protesters tried to disrupt the work of Israeli bulldozers and earth removal equipment which began digging a boundary close to the site of Umm al-Hiran homes destined for removal.

Rabbi Arik Ascherman, president of Rabbis for Human Rights, and Israeli Arab activist Salim Abu Alkayan were among those arrested. Abu Alkayan's son Ra'ad Abu Alkayan told Haaretz that "new heavy equipment" was brought to the site on Sunday morning to mark off territory around the village.

"Is this how police should behave? They stpped on a four year old girl and fired tear gas at point blank range at minors," Alkayan said.

Police said the arrests were "against the background of disturbances at the work site of Hiran, after they allegedly started to disrupt the machinery's work, also risking their own lives and others, and assaulting police who were safeguarding the area."

In May, Israel's Supreme Court rejected a last-ditch petition by Umm al-Hiran residents to outlaw their planned eviction. About 1,000 people live in the village, including descendants of those who moved there in 1956 when Israel's military governor at the time ordered them to do so. 

The court ruled the land 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," wrote Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, representing the majority opinion.

In a dissenting opinion Justice Daphne Barak-Erez wrote that the state should be obliged to consider offering the residents an alternative lot in the new community of Hiran.

Barak-Erez cited the fact that they were not considered “trespassers,” and says the compensation formula and the eviction ought to be reconsidered.