Renounce Theft of Bedouin Land

Cabinet decision to demolish Bedouin village and build a new town on its land constitutes a new stage in Israel's becoming an ethnocracy.

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

The cabinet’s decision on Sunday to build the new town of Hiran on the lands of the Bedouin village Umm al-Hiran will require the village to be evacuated and demolished. This constitutes a new low in the state’s treatment of the Bedouin of the Negev, and a new stage in Israel’s becoming an ethnocracy: a regime that exists for the good of a single ethnic group, and that grants rights on the basis of ethnic affiliation rather than the principles of equality.

Like many Bedouin in the Negev, Umm al-Hiran’s residents were expelled from their lands many years ago by Israel’s military administration and wandered from place to place. In 1956, they were ordered to move to the Nahal Yatir area, where they settled. A government document from 1957 discovered by Adalah, a legal advocacy group for Arab rights in Israel, includes a statement to this effect by the official who served at the time as the prime minister’s adviser on Arab affairs.

Despite this, the village never received government recognition, leaving its residents deprived of basic services such as water, electricity and a sewage system. Residents of Umm al-Hiran say that when the state sought to issue demolition orders targeting their homes and filed suit for their evacuation, it concealed the fact that the village had existed since 1956 and that its residents settled there on orders from the military governor. Appeals have been filed against these demolition orders, and are pending.

Yaron Ben Ezra, the director of the World Zionist Organization's settlement division, told TheMarker in 2011 that the purpose of the plan for new Jewish communities in the Negev is “to prevent the continued invasion of state lands by the Bedouin and to prevent the creation of Bedouin or Arab [territorial] contiguity.” A month before this admission, the Prime Minister’s Office, crudely intervening in a professional decision by the National Planning and Building Council, denied recognition to two Bedouin villages in the Negev, one of which was Umm al-Hiran (the other was Tel Arad).

To enable the establishment of Hiran, which is earmarked for Jews from the religious Zionist community and will be one of several Jewish towns being built in the area, the state has categorically ignored the existing residents. Currently, 500 non-Jewish citizens of the state are supposed to be expelled to another community (Hurra) for the benefit of these Jewish citizens.

The story of Umm al-Hiran is the story of many unrecognized villages, which, contrary to the story the government periodically tries to sell, are not the result of a Bedouin “invasion” of Israeli land. Some have existed since before the establishment of the state, and some were created because their residents were expelled from the places where they had previously lived.

The government should not wait for the court to rule. It must renounce this act of theft and recognize the right of the Bedouin residents to remain in their village.

The unrecognized Bedouin villages of Atir and Umm al-Hiran.Credit: Albert Denkberg

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

The projected rise in sea level on a beach in Haifa over the next 30 years.

Facing Rapid Rise in Sea Levels, Israel Could Lose Large Parts of Its Coastline by 2050

Tal Dilian.

As Israel Reins in Its Cyberarms Industry, an Ex-intel Officer Is Building a New Empire

Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III and a British synagogue.

How the Queen’s Death Changes British Jewry’s Most Distinctive Prayer

Newly appointed Israeli ambassador to Chile, Gil Artzyeli, poses for a group picture alongside Rabbi Yonatan Szewkis, Chilean deputy Helia Molina and Gerardo Gorodischer, during a religious ceremony in a synagogue in Vina del Mar, Chile last week.

Chile Community Leaders 'Horrified' by Treatment of Israeli Envoy

Queen Elizabeth attends a ceremony at Windsor Castle, in June 2021.

Over 120 Countries, but Never Israel: Queen Elizabeth II's Unofficial Boycott