Justice Minister Shaked: Israel's Decision to Raze Bedouin Town Is Not Discrimination

‘I’m not saying that it’s okay or not, just that people shouldn’t say it’s discrimination,’ Ayelet Shaked says.

Shirly Seidler
Bedouin children sit outside their home in the village of Umm Al-Hiran in the Negev desert, May, 2015.
Bedouin children sit outside their home in the village of Umm Al-Hiran in the Negev desert, May, 2015.Credit: AP
Shirly Seidler

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Wednesday there was no discrimination against Arabs in the High Court’s decision to let the state raze a Bedouin village and put up a Jewish town in its place.

Earlier this month, the court ruled that the residents of the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran could be evicted.

“I’ve dealt with the case of Jews being evicted from their homes, when the state had put them there, and most of them didn’t receive compensation, only some of them,” Shaked said, noting that the Bedouin were being evicted “so that apartment towers can be built there for other people. I’m not saying that it’s okay or not, just that people shouldn’t say it’s discrimination.”

Shaked was speaking during a hearing at which MKs voted 24 to 1 against sending the issue to the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee.

Shaked cited the High Court’s ruling two weeks ago stating that the residents did not have ownership rights to the land.

Ayelet Shaked.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

“The inhabitants of the illegal village never proved property rights The buildings were put up illegally, so they should not be eligible for compensation,” Shaked said.

She added that the residents were being offered the option of relocating to the Bedouin village of Hura. They were also being offered financial compensation and infrastructure aid, but they were not interested, she said.

Opposition MKs harshly criticized the authorities' decisions. “How will we be able to explain how we razed a village just because the people belonged to a different ethnic or religious group?” said MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz). “In the future, we’ll have to face the question of how, in a democratic parliament, we discussed removing certain people in order to bring other people in.”

According to Zandberg, the only difference between the village’s current inhabitants and the town’s future inhabitants was their ethnicity.

MK Masud Ganaim (Joint Arab List) added: “When you’re evicting people of a certain nationality and settling Jews there instead, you can’t say it’s not racism.”

As MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) put it: “The state is letting the Bedouin issue fester and in the future we’ll have to be even more concerned about it. The more time goes by, the harder the situation will be and the higher the price to be paid.”

He also criticized the High Court’s ruling that the Bedouin would receive the option of living in the Jewish town to be built there. “To say that they’ll be able to obtain lots in the new community is surreal,” Shelah said. “Show me where something like this exists anywhere else.”

Minister Benny Begin, a former official in charge of the Bedouin issue, noted that Bedouin citizens also lived in Jewish locales.

“Bedouin live not just in Be’er Sheva but also in other smaller Jewish places, and have been buying apartments in recent years,” he said. “I haven’t heard about any incidents here, and I welcome the trend.”

Begin added that 15 years ago, Umm al-Hiran was a merely agglomeration of eight tin shacks. “So to argue that this is a permanent settlement is an exaggeration,” he said, adding that “without suitable legislation, it won’t be possible to make progress and really solve things properly and for the long term.”

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