Find a Solution for Unrecognized Bedouin Village of Umm al-Hiran

The urgency to demolish an Israeli Arab village while the Amona settlers also face eviction means the government is placating the settlers, not equality before the law.

Haaretz Editorial
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Bedouin women react to the destruction of houses on January 18, 2017 in al-Hiran
Bedouin women react to the destruction of houses on January 18, 2017 in al-HiranCredit: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP
Haaretz Editorial

The two dead – police sergeant Erez Levi and Yakub Abu al-Kiyan – are the tragic result of the violent clashes Wednesday during the eviction of Umm al-Hiran’s Bedouin residents. Levi was part of a large police contingent that had come to secure the eviction and demolition of the illegally built homes, while Abu al-Kiyan is suspected of running him over with his car.

The incident is being investigated, and despite the haste with which it was initially described as a car-ramming attack, and with which Abu al-Kiyan was linked to the Islamic State, we should all wait until the investigation is completed.

The eviction of the Negev village’s residents and the demolition of its homes to allow for the establishment of a Jewish town called Hiran were ostensibly carried out based on a 2015 High Court ruling. The court rejected the residents’ petition and ordered them expelled.

The state offered the residents other land and help to build new homes in the town of Hura, but the residents rejected that proposal, arguing that the land they were living on had been given to them by the state in 1956, after they had been removed from their previous place of residence near Beit Kama.

During a High Court hearing in 2014, Justice Elyakim Rubinstein wondered why the new community of Hiran couldn’t be planned to include the Bedouin families, even noting wisely that “planning procedures aren’t the Ten Commandments.” But that suggestion, which might have led to the building of a mixed Jewish-Bedouin community, was rejected, and the time for eviction finally arrived.

Formally speaking, the state is meant to implement High Court rulings whether they’re for evicting settlers from Amona or Bedouin from Umm al-Hiran. It must also act against construction scofflaws whether they live in the Arab city of Kalansua or the settlements of Beit El or Ofra.

But enforcing the law doesn’t require one to be foolish, mean and brutal. The urgency to demolish illegal homes of Israeli Arab citizens while the Amona settlers also face eviction is proof that the government is keen about placating the settlers, not necessarily equality before the law. It’s as if there must be some sacred balance between Israeli citizens living for decades in an unrecognized village on state land, and Israeli citizens living in occupied territory that was clearly stolen from its owners.

Although the state is equipped with the High Court’s stamp of approval, it still isn’t too late to seek a solution to which all can agree. The government’s economic plans to advance equality between Jews and Arabs won’t be worth much if they aren’t accompanied by the appropriate humanity and compassion.