One of Ahmad Abu al-Kaeean destroyed structures in Umm-al-Hiran.
(photo credit: ELIYAHU KAMISHER)
The state’s efforts to compel Beduin residents to relocate from their unrecognized Negev village of Umm al-Hiran have begun to bear fruit, with one resident agreeing, allegedly under duress, to demolish his home and animal sheds.
Under the agreement, Ahmad Abu al-Kaeean will relocate with his family to the nearby Beduin town of Hura, also near Beersheba, where authorities hope the entire village of some 400 people will move. He has already destroyed five sheds for sheep and chickens and has until December 30 to demolish the structures in which his family live, said Ra’ad Abu al-Kaeean, head of the local residents committee, who is from the same clan as Ahmad. Police had been poised to demolish the structures on November 23 as the first stage in destroying the village, but delayed the operation without offering an explanation.
Ra’ad Abu al-Kaeean said that Ahmad signed the agreement under heavy pressure from police who came to his home at night. ‘’It was by force, a rape, they forced him to sign. He fainted from this, he lost consciousness, we were with him all night in the hospital on Friday. It’s not by free will.”
Ahmad Abu al-Kaeean declined to comment to The Jerusalem Post, but the Arab48 website quoted him as saying, “The police threatened us with uprooting us from our house and lands.” Abu al-Kaeean said that 40 people live in the family’s structures.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said he was unaware of the incident. Police turn up at home demolitions in coordination with courts, he said, but units “aren’t turning up at 3 in the morning.”
Umm al-Hiran residents say they refuse to move to planned towns because this would force them to change their rural way of life.
Umm al-Hiran has been the scene of a 13-year legal battle between residents and the state.
It is the second time residents are being forced to relocate.
In 1956, after being evicted from the land on which they were living in 1948, they were moved under military order and resettled by the IDF in their current location.
But they were never given 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 by mostly religious Jewish families.
Umm al-Hiran was windy with a light drizzle of rain on Wednesday as Ahmad Abu al-Kaeean began dismantling his barn made of wood and corrugated metal. He had already dismantled other structures. One, made of cinder blocks, was reduced to large chunks of rubble, and pieces of another structure, made of wood and metal, were scattered on the hillside.
“This is the face of the Israeli state,” said Salim Abu al-Kaeean, a village leader, from a vantage point overlooking the village. “There is no need to demolish these homes, they are not bothering anyone. My question is, could Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked imagine themselves living in a situation like this? Is this the democracy that they speak about?” A few children along with relatives assisted Abu al-Kaeean with the dismantlement.
Avraham Binyamin, a spokesman for Regavim, an NGO that, according to its website, works to promote a Jewish and Zionist agenda on land issues, welcomed Abu al-Kaeean’s agreement to demolish his home and leave Umm al-Hiran. “He understood he is obliged to obey the law and he made out to the media as if he opposes moving because this matter has taken on the aspect of a nationalist struggle,” Binyamin said. “We welcome that this happened, it’s too bad that it took so long.
“They are not being thrown out from anywhere. They will get a subsidized plot in Hura,” he added.
Binyamin stressed that three courts, including the Supreme Court, had ruled against the villagers and said the residents’ posture was holding up the building of Hiran. “We believe that others will follow in his footsteps,” Binyamin said of Abu al-Kaeean.
Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel commented: “This case is the most clear-cut example of racist state land policy since the end of the military regime” that governed Arab citizens until 1966. The group accused the state of “cynically exploiting a weakened Arab Beduin population in order to bolster Israeli-Jewish settlement in its place.”
Beduin leaders fear that if Umm al-Hiran is emptied this will set a precedent for other unrecognized villages in the Negev.