Some 300 residents of the villages Atir and Umm al-Hiran, Israeli Arab lawmakers and other activists from all over the country marched in Be’er Sheva Thursday in protest against the government’s intention of evicting them from their villages and demolishing their homes in order to build a new Jewish community, Hiran, on the ruins.
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The public battle is taking place after a long and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle. In January Supreme Court President Miriam Naor rejected a petition by the residents and Adalah - The Legal Center For Arab Minority Rights In Israel, for another discussion of the future of their eviction.
“As the ruling noted, this really is a matter of public importance and sensitivity,” she said. “However... this case is not one of those extremely rare and exceptional cases that justify further deliberation.”
With that the legal battle came to an end, and now the residents together with the Joint Arab List are launching a comprehensive public battle. On Thursday the first demonstration took place, with additional protests expected to follow. The demonstrators held up signs against the demolition of the village, shouting “There is no unrecognized village, it’s lies by the regime” and “Yes to building, no to uprooting.”
Salim Abu Alkiyan, a resident of Umm al-Hiran and one of the leaders of the protest, told Haaretz that “This is just the beginning. It’s important for Bibi [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] to know that there’s a village here that does not intend to be evicted.” He added that although the legal battle ended without results, they do not intend to give up the struggle.
Joint Arab List Chairman MK Ayman Odeh told Haaretz that during his visit to the United States he spoke to United Nations representatives and to the editors of The New York Times, the Washington Post and others, in order to gain their support for the struggle against the demolition.
There are also tours conducted for representatives of foreign embassies by the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, in order to convince them to pressure the Israeli government not to carry out the evictions. On Tuesday a representative from the Canadian Embassy came to visit the village.
Interior Ministry statistics indicate that in 2015 there was a decline of 8.5 percent in home demolitions, from 1,073 in 2014 to 982 in 2015. But this year’s statistics are far higher than the average.