Erdan appearance in Negev fuels Beduin calls for boycott

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan's expected visit to the Negev has been protested against in a reaction to his handling of the controversial Umm al-Hiran affair.

Gilad Erdan (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Gilad Erdan
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A Beduin local council head in the Negev is under pressure to cancel an appearance in his community by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan that is scheduled for Thursday.
Opposition to the event reflects continued anger over the minister’s handling of the Umm al-Hiran affair, which left a policeman and a Beduin teacher dead in disputed circumstances during a January demolition operation.
At the time, Erdan repeatedly said the Beduin teacher had carried out a terrorist ramming attack against St.-Sgt.-Maj. Erez Levy. But media reports last month said that findings of an as yet unpublished report by the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigations Department, said that the incident was not a terrorist attack. From the outset, Umm al-Hiran residents have insisted that Yacoub Abu al-Kaeean was shot without justification and then framed as a terrorist.
The family of Abu al-Kaeean and Umm al-Hiran leaders on Sunday called on Naef Abu Arar, head of the Arara of the Negev local council, to cancel Erdan’s visit to the area to dedicate a new police station.
“We call on leaders of the Negev not to participate in the ceremony and, of course, call on the local authorities to cancel the visit of the minister,” read a statement from Abu al-Kaeean’s family and local leaders. “Minister Gilad Erdan has not recanted and not expressed apology to the family of the murdered Yacoub, and since that black Wednesday, he continues to be entrenched in his positions and even forbids Mahash [Police Investigations Department] from completing its report despite the family receiving information that the inquiry has been completed.”
Video and audio of police operation in Umm al-Hiran, Credit: Forensic Architecture
Noam Sela, an aide to Erdan, denied that the minister is holding up publication of the report.
“Erdan must apologize and resign – he is unfit to hold his position,” Abu al-Kaeean’s family said.
Balad MK Goumha Azbarga voiced support for the family’s sentiment. “I’m not in favor that Erdan... should make a speech,” he said. “I recommend canceling this appearance.”
Despite the opposition, Abu Arar said that Erdan’s appearance would go ahead as scheduled, noting that he was promised by an Erdan aide that the minister would use the occasion to issue an apology to the Abu al-Kaeean family. “I was promised that he will apologize for the Umm al-Hiran events. I am full of hope that he will apologize,” he said.
However, Sela said no such commitment was made. “It’s a lie,” he said.
Abu Arar took issue with his critics, saying a new police station was badly needed in the community. “The police guard us especially since there is a lot of violence in the communities. It’s vital to give protection to residents.”
Azbarga accused authorities of hiding the PID investigation findings. “Until now, they haven’t published the Mahash [PID] report, and this tells you everything about how they disparage the Beduin,” Azbarga said. He alleged that publication was being held up because the findings would be damaging to the police.
Days after the incident, The Jerusalem Post quoted a source at the L. Greenberg Institute of Forensic Medicine as saying that Abu al-Kaeean died after bleeding to death when he did not receive potentially life-saving medical treatment.
The police have declined to comment, saying they are awaiting results of the PID investigation.
Efrat Cohen, a spokeswoman for the Police Investigations Department, said she did not know when the report would be ready. “They still have to conduct tests,” she said.