Bedouin Call on Court to Block Destruction of Their Negev Village

'The court could avoid making a clear ruling,' says attorney for Umm al-Hiran villagers. 'The bench is very mixed and anything could happen.'

Shirly Seidler
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Shirly Seidler

Residents of the Negev Bedouin village Umm al-Hiran, whom the state intends to evict to make way for a new Jewish community on the land they’ve been living on since 1956, go before the Supreme Court today in a bid to block the state's plans.

The residents are appealing the decision by the Be’er Sheva District Court, which rejected their request to block the destruction of their village. The court ruled that the villagers were not squatters, as the state claimed, since they had received the land for Umm al-Hiran from the state in 1956. However, the court said the state has the right to evict them because it had given them the land without exacting payment. Previously, though, the villagers had wandered from place to place after being expelled from their tribal land by Israeli authorities.

The villagers’ attorney, Suhad Bishara of Adalah - the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, said it is difficult to predict the court's mood in today’s hearing. “The court might say it won’t interfere in a government decision, and thus the state can destroy the village. Or, they could understand the problematic nature of the eviction and try to find a solution,” she said.

The court could offer a compromise solution, but the families of Umm al-Hiran have said they will not accept one, having already turned down an offer to move to the nearby town of Hura. “The court could avoid making a clear ruling; the bench is very mixed and anything could happen,” Bishara said. The justices hearing the case are Elyakim Rubinstein, Daphne Barak-Erez and Neal Hendel.

Two protest rallies were held Wednesday morning in Jerusalem. Residents of Umm al-Hiran plan to demonstrate with members of an Arab-Jewish grassroots movement, Tarabut-Hithabrut, and Rabbis for Human Rights during the Knesset Interior Committee meeting on the controversial Prawer plan for relocating Negev Bedouin. Another demonstration is planned outside the Supreme Court building during the Umm al-Hiran hearing, and protesters plan to be in the courtroom for the proceedings.

Ofer Dagan of the Negev Coexistence Forum said: “The Supreme Court is the last obstacle before implementation of the racist plan that will lead to the eviction of an entire village." Last week the cabinet voted to speed up demolition of the village's homes so work on the new Jewish community can start within 60 days.

A home in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in 2009.Credit: Daniel Tchetchik

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