Israeli Arab MKs at protest in Beersheba against planned destruction of illegal unrecognized Beduin villages.
(photo credit: JOINT LIST)
Beduin, Arab MKs and supporters protested on Thursday in Beersheba against the planned destruction of two illegal unrecognized villages.
“We stand with the residents of the unrecognized villages and say to the government, we will not move from Umm al-Hiran and Atir!” declared Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh at the demonstration.
The High Court decided in January not to intervene to block the destruction of the unrecognized Negev villages of Atir and Umm al-Hiran.
The latter has created a particularly strong reaction from Beduin, NGOs and Arab MKs over the planned construction of a Jewish community on the site.
“Evacuation of the Arab community in order to settle a Jewish community is a red line and a severe escalation in the treatment of the country to the Arab minority.”
Odeh said recognizing the villages, building infrastructure and schools and providing medical services “are a basic right of each citizen.”
“I urge all residents of the Negev to join us in the struggle. Its success is in the interest of all residents of the Negev.”
The protest was backed by various NGOs including Rabbis for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Shatil: The New Israel Fund Initiative for Social Change and the Negev Coexistence Forum.
Raed Abu al-Kiaan, chairman of the local committee of the two villages said, “We call on the government to retract its decision to evacuate the villages of Umm al-Hiran and Atir.”
He called on the government to either recognize their presence or to establish a mixed Arab-Jewish Umm al-Hiran.
Haia Noach, CEO of the Negev Coexistence Forum, said the decision to destroy the Beduin villages is “a racist decision that will deepen the rift between the communities in the Negev.”
Ari Briggs, international relations director of Regavim – an NGO whose mission statement says it seeks to ensure responsible, legal and accountable use of state land – told The Jerusalem Post that “after 14 years of litigation and appeals to the highest court in the land, it has been proven that not one case has a legal leg to stand on.”
“Even so, the government is offering generous monetary compensation and free land. But, the protests continue,” he said.
“The activists’ continued illegitimate claims and protests have led to a dangerous path of conflict backed by foreign government-funded NGO’s and the New Israel Fund,” added Briggs. “When will their leadership wake up to the fact that lawlessness doesn’t pay in the end and planning and development processes are necessary for the benefit of all.”