State pressures Beduin to leave Negev village to make way for Jewish town

“What’s being done to us is coercion and eviction orders, not dialogue.”

January 16, 2017 02:06
4 minute read.
Umm al-Hiran


About 50 residents of the unrecognized Beduin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev, including a 100-year-old man, face forcible eviction from their homes as part of the state’s plan to clear the area to establish a Jewish town.

Yossi Maimon, assistant to the director of the authority for the settlement and development of the Beduin, confirmed to The Jerusalem Post Sunday that the state is pressing for all the approximately 400 residents of the village to relocate to the nearby township of Hura.

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“No one will remain there,” he said.

Residents of some 12 houses have received notices that their evictions can take place between January 15 and 30, and other homeowners have received preliminary eviction notices without the dates specified.

Atwa Abu al-Kaeean, 62, told the Post police have called him five times in the last 10 days telling him he must “conclude matters with the authority because we will demolish your home.”

Residents say they do not want to move to Hura because infrastructure isn’t in place there, and they have not received any written guarantees that their living conditions would be anything close to what they currently have.

They stress that they need room to keep up their agricultural way of life, including sheep herding.

They also say that Hura residents have made clear that they don’t want the Umm al-Hiran residents coming to live there.

“What’s being done to us is coercion and eviction orders, not dialogue,” said Salim Abu al-Kaeean, a member of the Umm al-Hiran village council.

It is the second time residents of the village have been forced to relocate. In 1956, they were moved under military order and resettled by the IDF in their current location after being evicted from the land on which they were living in 1948. But they were never given a title to the land.

A 2015 supreme court ruling authorized the state’s plan to demolish the village to make way for the new town of Hiran, to be populated mostly by religious Jewish families. About a 100 meters from the homes of Umm al-Hiran, tractors could be seen working the earth Sunday.

Akram Abu al-Kaeean, whose family faces eviction, said: ”I prefer staying here. This is the place I was born and grew up. But I respect the decision of the court. But we want something close to what we have here.”

His mother, Akla, said: “I sleep for two hours a night. I’m constantly afraid they will come. They can come any moment and destroy the house.”

In a chilly building, 100-yearold Musa Hussein Abu al-Kaeean, frail and trembling, recalled the name of the army officer – Haim Tsuri – who, in 1956, told the Beduin they would be able to stay in Umm al-Hiran. “They said. Just stay here. All the area is yours.”

A relative who cares for him, who asked not to be identified, said the family had received eviction notices that went into effect January 15.

“What did I do that they are evicting me like this? They should come and explain,” the relative said.

Atwa Abu al-Kaeean, whose father, Issa, was expelled to Umm al-Hiran in 1956, said the state originally had promised them water, electricity and services but never delivered. He believes the potholes in the road leading into the village are also deliberate negligence on the part of the state. There is no bus stop leading to the village either.

In the 1990s, the government gave some funding to turn the residents’ ramshackle buildings into concrete houses, but did not hook up the water and electricity.

Atwa received an eviction order last week.

“This is super racism,” he says, comparing the situation of Umm al-Hiran with the compensation package offered to residents of the illegal Amona outpost.

“You give Amona all the conditions and throw us into the sea. The state put us here and is now turning us out into the street.”

Maimon, the state official, said: “Their place is in Hura. This isn’t their land. It’s the land of the state and that was a decision of the court. All kinds of solutions have been offered them in Hura. They are still in negotiations. There is a neighborhood for them.”

Asked if the state is pressuring the Umm al-Hiran residents, Maimon said: “Certainly. Every state with sovereignty, the moment there is a court decision, it needs to implement it with negotiations, words and also, if necessary, enforcement.”

This includes demolitions, he said.

In a vacant lot where he has set up an aluminum shack in Hura, Ahmad Abu al-Kaeean, seventy-four-years-old, told the Post he was forced to relocate there despite the location having no infrastructure and having to sell almost all of his sheep herd because there is no grazing space. His shack has holes in its walls and is so cold one can see one’s breath inside.

“They pressured me in every way to move. It was like putting a knife to my throat. They told me if I didn’t move they would demolish my house and I would have to pay a NIS 119,000 demolition cost,” he said.

“There was no choice. A dog lives better than I do and the state isn’t even embarrassed.”

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