High Court rejects final appeal to stop demolition of Umm-al-Hiran Beduin village

Ruling comes as part of ongoing battle between the state and the Beduin over settling the Negev.

January 18, 2016 01:27
2 minute read.

BEDUIN BOYS walk toward the ‘unrecognized’ village of Um Al-Hiram in the Negev.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Supreme Court President Miriam Naor late Sunday rejected a final try by Umm-al-Hiran southern Beduin villagers to block the state from demolishing their village.

There has been an ongoing battle between the state and the Beduin over how widely the Beduin can settle the Negev or whether they need to move into larger clumps to make way for new modern towns.

In that battle, the Beduin, represented by Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, selected Umm-al-Hiran as a flagship case, because the Beduin there have the unusual distinction that the IDF itself moved them there in the 1950s.

In May, the High Court rejected the Umm-al-Hiran Beduin petition to block the demolition of the town, leading them to make a desperate plea to have their case heard by a broader High Court panel, a request rejected by Naor.

Naor said that as unique as Umm-al-Hiran’s case was, it did not fit the standard of a major constitutional issue for getting a special broader High Court panel.

The Umm-al-Hiran Beduin had claimed they did not squat on the land they now live on.

Rather, they said they were transferred to the area in 1956 by IDF order when they requested the army find them a spot after losing their original land after the 1948 War of Independence.

Ari Briggs of Regavim has said that the Umm-al-Hiran Beduin actually ended up settling near where the IDF directed them to go, but beyond the boundaries of the IDF directive.

Part of the court debate, which ultimately went for the state against the Beduin, was whether they were sent to the land on a temporary basis, which eventually extended for decades, but never got legal title, or whether the order to move there and the extended stay constituted legal title.

The court said even after decades the Beduin were never given legal title and were being offered compensation and multiple choices for new places to live.

The Umm-al-Hiran Beduin no longer have a legal recourse to avoid demolition, but that does not mean the state will move them tomorrow.

Every few years, the government throws out a new big-picture plan, usually to legalize some Beduin villages, while forcing some to move into more defined and circumscribed areas to make more room for new southern cities.

There has been the 2008 Goldberg Commission, the 2011 Prawer-Begin plan, which was dropped in 2013, and most recently Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel first tried to resubmit the Prawer Plan only to pull it indefinitely in June following heavy Beduin and Israeli-Arab protests.

The latest plans had suggested a compromise of legalizing 63 percent of Beduin villages, which the state emphasizes is substantial, but the Beduin say that even at that level, 40,000 Beduin would be forced to move from the other 37% of the land Regavim disputes these numbers.

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