Bedouin Village Faces Demolition Due to New Jewish Neighborhood

Zafrir Rinat
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Zafrir Rinat

Fifty years after moving to the Yattir area, members of the Alqian Bedouin tribe are in danger of being removed from Attir-Alhiran. The land is earmarked for a new Jewish neighborhood.

In an effort to halt the eviction and enable the construction of a permanent community for them, villagers recently revealed a document, once classified as confidential, proving that it was the state that permitted them to settle on the land.

An objection to the Be'er Sheva metropolitan master plan, which bars recognition of the village, was recently submitted to the National Planning and Building Council on behalf of villagers by Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and Bimkom, Planners for Planning Rights. The villagers seek formal recognition for Attir-Alhiran.

The master plan calls for the construction of a new neighborhood, Hiran, on most of the land currently occupied by the Alqian. Three months ago, the Southern District of the Interior Ministry announced that the tribe's buildings were slated for demolition.

One of the formerly confidential documents was written in 1956 by Uri Lubrani, then an adviser on Arab affairs in the Prime Minister's Office. In response to a query from a cabinet minister, Lubrani noted that members of the tribe were active in smuggling and gathering information about military movements and added: "In the wake of pressure from the military government and after many in the tribe were apprehended for various crimes, it was agreed that two-thirds of them, under the leadership of Azam Jibri Abu Rajan, were to move to the Attir area and acquire by lease state lands in accordance with Agriculture Ministry guidelines, and to work the land."

According to the recent petition, tribe members lived on and worked the land until the 1980s, when their leases were suspended and most of the land was made part of a Jewish National Fund reforestation project. "Despite this, the Alqian want to continue to live on the land and pursue a traditional way of life," the petition said.

The plans for the new Hiran neighborhood began six years ago. A report prepared at the time by the Israel Lands Administration described the Alqian as a special problem preventing the establishment of the new neighborhood.

According to attorney Suhad Bishara of Adalah, as the licensing process for Hiran advanced, demolition orders were issued for the homes of the Alqian, "and thus it was clear to us that there was a connection between the creation of the community and the intention to move them." The state proposed that the Alqian move to the neighboring Bedouin town of Hura, which is envisioned to become a city of 20,000, but the Alqian are demanding that they be permitted to stay where they are and maintain their lifestyle.

The villagers of Attir-Alhiran and other unrecognized villages had hoped for recognition of their communities as part of the greater Be'er Sheva metropolitan plan, which covers much of the northern Negev, but that did not happen. The plan does, however, include the establishment of three Jewish communities in the Yattir area: Hiran, Yattir and Carmit.

"Despite the fact that two of the new communities are planned for the exact site of Attir-Alhiran, recognition of the village, which has been in existence for over 50 years, was not recognized and no land was allocated for its development," the petition said. "At the same time, residents of the village have been offered a move to Hura as the sole solution, which harms their fundamental rights to choose the place and surroundings of their domicile and to enjoy equality in the division of the space in which they live."

According to Dudu Cohen, the Interior Ministry official responsible for the Southern District, the Be'er Sheva metropolitan plan provides a solution to the population of the unrecognized communities by creating a few new Bedouin communities and expanding existing ones to accommodate additional residents.

The Interior Ministry released the following statement regarding the Alqian: "Tribe members live north of Hura in illegal structures. A large neighborhood named Hiran is scheduled to be built in this area as part of the Metar Local Council. The tribe has ready plots of land in various neighborhood of Hura and they are permitted to move to them as soon as they so desire."