Israel moved the residents to the plot of land they lives on today. Decades later, the state wants to displace them again — to build a Jewish town on the ruins of their homes.
Israeli police detained five people Sunday protesting the impending displacement of Umm el-Hiran, an “unrecognized” Bedouin village in southern Israel on top of which authorities plan to build a Jewish town, named Hiran.
Among the detainees were youths from the village, and former Rabbis for Human Rights president Rabbi Arik Ascherman. All of the detainees were released late Sunday night. Another woman was hospitalized for injuries she sustained from police.
Police arrived with a tractor and several surveyors to the village on Sunday in order to start building a fence adjacent to the Bedouin villagers’ homes, presumably in order to begin construction of the Jewish town meant to replace them.
Umm el-Hiran is one of dozens of so-called “unrecognized villages,” in which approximately 100,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel live without electricity, water, and other basic services the state refuses to provide.
Here is a quick summary of this history of Umm el-Hiran: Long before the establishment of the State of Israel, members of the Abu Qi’an family lived in an area called Khirbet Zubaleh.
In 1956, the Israeli military government forcibly moved the Qi’an family to the location where they live today. (Their former land was given to Kibbutz Shoval as agricultural land.)
This forced land “swap” is well documented in state archives, but despite the fact that the Qi’an family was settled in its current location by the state itself, its homes have never been connected to the electricity or water grids.
Last year Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled that the state can change its mind and take back the land it gave to the al-Qi’an family. In place of their current village, Umm el-Hiran, from which they are to be expelled, a new township for religious Jews will be established.
For the past few years, Jewish Hiran’s future residents have been waiting for their new homes at an encampment in the adjacent forest of Yatir.
“The government has no problem with Jewish citizens living on this property – so why should they have a problem with us?” Raed Abu al-Qi’an, a resident and activist from the village, told +972 last year. “They allow rural communities to be built for Jews across the Negev – why not us?”
“We have always said, and continue to say, that we have no objections to Jewish families living here or nearby us – but not in place of us. That is racism and injustice,” he added.
Noam Rotem contributed to this report.