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Zionism at Its Best

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Residents of Umm al-Hiran protest against the planned demolition of their homes.
Residents of Umm al-Hiran protest against the planned demolition of their homes.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The videos produced by the Hiran settlers’ group show a lot of joyful Jews who like to sing and play music, tell jokes and have fun. They will be even happier very soon, when they move to the site of their permanent community in the northeastern Negev.

The land the state has designated for them is called Atir/Umm al-Hiran, and for 60 years it has been home to members of the Bedouin Al-Qi’an tribe. In other words, the homes and playgrounds for Jewish children that will be built there, and the gardens to be planted, will all be established on the ruins of the homes and lives of some 1,000 other people, who are also Israeli citizens (some of whom served in the army, for those who care).

Any day now, the bulldozers of the Israel Land Administration and/or its subcontractors are going to demolish the homes of these Bedouin citizens to make way for a flourishing community of joyful Jewish citizens. Zionism in a nutshell.

This is not an act of war or even an act of vindictive passion; everything has been calmly and carefully planned. The government of Ariel Sharon decided, the National Planning and Building Council approved, and the appeals committees rejected all the objections filed.

The plan to destroy the lives of Bedouin for whom the Negev has been home for hundreds of years to advance and elevate a group of Jews who have gathered from all over the country – this also has the approval and sanction of six judges from three different courts: Israel Pablo Akselrad of the Kiryat Gat Magistrate’s Court; Judges Sarah Dovrat, Rachel Barkai and Ariel Vago of the Be’er Sheva District Court and Justices Elyakim Rubinstein and Neal Hendel of the Supreme Court. (Justice Daphne Barak-Erez objected to the demolition.)

These judges knew that the Al-Qi’an tribe has lived in Umm al-Hiran since 1956, after being sent there at the order of the military governor. After 1948, those few Bedouin whom Israel did not expel to Gaza or the West Bank and Jordan were ordered to stay in a designated area of the Negev, which has gradually been reduced. The Al-Qi’an tribe was forced to leave the lands it had lived on for several generations, and on which Kibbutz Shoval was built. After years of wandering and evacuations, they were allowed to settle in the area of Wadi Yatir. Nevertheless, the state never officially recognized their village. That’s 60 years without electricity, water service or government expenditure on education, welfare or health. Moreover, all its structures are defined as “illegal.”

The Startup Nation wants them to move to the Bedouin township of Hura. So here’s another mini-lesson in Zionism: Jewish Israelis are allowed to decide for themselves where and how to live. Arabs? They should be thankful we aren’t expelling them; they’ll live where and how we decide.

Wrote Judge Akselrad: “We can say that the personal interest of the plaintiffs that the roofs over their heads not be demolished are not weighty under these circumstances, and in any case do not prevail over the public interest of preventing construction on state lands.”

And the judges in Be’er Sheva put it, “Once it was determined that the permission given the appellants to use the land was revocable, the respondent has the right to demand their eviction from the land. The claim that the respondent has some covert or even overt motive for evacuating them from the land in favor of establishing a Jewish community at the site [must be discussed] by a different tribunal.”

And what did the two justices from the different tribunal, the Supreme Court, say? They hid behind the procedural explanation that the residents had been late in filing their complaints against the destruction of their homes and lives.

The majority decision by Rubinstein and Hendel permitting the village’s demolition was handed down in May 2015. Now the children and adults in Umm al-Hiran know that any minute the bulldozers and Jewish officials bearing official orders will be coming to kick them out.

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