Posted by: Lister | June 29, 2007

Making the land without a people

Dozens made homeless as police demolish Bedouin houses (26th June). The Bedouin weren’t satisfied with the compensation offered, and didn’t want to be moved to areas with high rates of crime and unemployment.

At least 20 houses in two Bedouin-Arab villages were destroyed on 25 June by Israeli security forces, leaving over 150 people homeless.

[…] The two villages, Atir and Um Heiran, are “unrecognised” villages. They have no official status, are absent from state planning and government maps, and are entitled to few services. There are about 45 such villages in Israel’s southern Negev desert.

The villagers bring in water in tankers, and electricity comes from generators, as they are not connected to the national grid. Nearly all the residents hold Israeli citizenship.

The al-Qi’ans became internally displaced persons following the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. After losing their farmland in the hostilities, they wandered until the state placed them in 1956 on the land they now inhabit.

“They kicked us out of our homes once, in 1948, and forced us onto this land. Now they want to remove us by force. We have nowhere else to go,” said Sheikh Ali Abu Qi’an.

The state is now trying to move over 1,000 members of the Al-Qi’an tribe to a town, in order to build a new Jewish village on Atir and Um Heiran, as shown in state planning documents, obtained by Adalah.

The title of my post is pinched from a Jonathan Cook’s article (Aug-Sept 2004).

Four years ago Raed Abu Elkian, 27, finished serving in the Israeli army as a Bedouin tracker.

[…] In late June, some 23 members of the Abu Elkian tribe, mostly women and children who were not at work, were injured when paramilitary police forces entered the village to demolish seven homes, including that of Raed’s 90-year-old grandfather, Moussa Abu Elkian. On the same day, another member of the tribe, a 24-year-old teacher, Youssef Abu Elkian, was mistakenly shot in the shoulder by the army in a separate incident.

The harsh measures being taken against the Abu Elkian tribe are being repeated across the Negev against other Bedouin villagers, as the state begins implementing a scheme, known as the Negev Development Plan, personally devised by the prime minister, Ariel Sharon.

Over the next few years the government has set aside $200 million to enforce the removal from the Negev of the last remaining Bedouin farming communities, home to some 70,000 Bedouin.

[…] The Negev Bedouin have been living much like outlaws from the earliest days of the Jewish state’s creation, more than five decades ago.

They were collectively criminalised in 1965 by a planning law which zoned the lands on which they live as green areas, making their homes retroactively illegal and subject to destruction at any moment. The Bedouin villagers must repay the state for the cost of the demolition.

[…] Officially the state justifies its aggressive approach on the grounds that the Bedouin are too scattered to be connected to services. The irony is not lost on Bedouin leaders like Labad Abu Afash, the mayor of the unrecognised village of Wadi Al-Naam, near Beersheva.

In the late 1970s the state built the Negev’s main electricity sub-station in the very centre of the village, with volts surging over the heads of the 3,000 inhabitants even though none of their homes is connected to the supply. “We can feel the electricity humming in our heads but we are not allowed to benefit from it,’ he says.

Similar criteria are not being enforced on the more than 100 tiny Jewish communities that have sprung up all over the Negev in recent years. Some have barely more than a dozen families but are instantly connected to public services.

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Responses

  1. Bustan is a Jewish/Arab partnership working for Justice in Israel. They have an article on the destruction of homes in Um Al-Hiran and A-Tir

    The ILA is destroying the village and evacuating the inhabitants so that a Jewish Community named “Hiran” can be established in the area. Fourteen shacks, which housed some 100 people, have been destroyed by bulldozers so far.

    […] According to Adallah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the residents of the village have been living there for 51 years. They were transferred to the site in 1956 while under martial law. The land they originally owned was transferred to Kibbutz Shoval, while the Bedouin were leased 3000 dunam of land for agriculture and grazing.

    In August 2001 the ILA submitted a report on the establishment of new communities, which included Hiran. The Bedouin residents living in the area appeared under the title of “special problems” that may affect the establishment of the community.

    The government approved the establishment of Hiran in 2002, and in 2004 the state submitted a court order claiming that residents of Al Hiran should be evacuated as they are using state lands without permission.

  2. The Israeli committee against house demolitions also quotes from Haaretz.


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