Construction minister calls to ‘concentrate’ Beduin

Galant’s comments raise Arab fears of more demolitions after Umm al-Hiran.

A VIEW of Umm Al-Hiran, the Beduin village in the southern Negev Desert demolished by police (photo credit: REUTERS)
A VIEW of Umm Al-Hiran, the Beduin village in the southern Negev Desert demolished by police
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A call by Construction Minister Yoav Galant to “concentrate” Israeli Negev Beduin into “permitted areas” is raising fears among Arab leaders of further demolition operations to follow the January 18 police action in Umm al-Hiran that destroyed 10 houses and left a policeman and Beduin teacher dead in disputed circumstances.
“What is needed is to concentrate the Beduin settlement into permitted areas where there will be building for height and quality of life,” Galant said Tuesday while on a tour of the South. “But this must be accompanied by vacating other territories. What is happening is that they receive territory, move into it but don’t leave the area they must vacate. This has to end.”
MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) criticized Galant’s remarks saying, “They are a source of worry.”
“He is construction minister but he speaks of construction only for Jews,” Jabareen said. “For Arab Beduin he speaks of the need to concentrate them in specific areas, which means to demolish homes and houses in areas the government is not willing to recognize.”
Galant’s remarks come two weeks after a court-sanctioned demolition operation was carried out under cover of darkness by 480 police in Umm al-Hiran. That action aimed to force the approximately 400 Beduin there to relocate to the nearby township of Hura, under state terms, so a new town can be built in place of the unrecognized village.
It is the second time the families are being displaced. In 1956 they were forcibly moved from the Wadi Zbala area of the Negev to their present location.
Galant backed up the Umm al-Hiran operation, which has evoked calls on the Left for an independent commission of inquiry into government and police actions.
Police say that policeman Erez Levy was killed in a terrorist ramming attack by Beduin teacher Yacoub Abu al-Kaeean, but eyewitnesses say the latter’s car came under fire before it accelerated and video footage backs up this conclusion. Witness testimonies and video footage also raise suspicion that a policeman may have shot Abu al-Kaeean after he was immobilized.
“Above all else, Israel is a country of law and we will not allow anyone to raise a hand against the security forces,” Galant said.
“The law must be enforced. We have a very difficult problem of illegal takeover [by Beduin] in the Negev. We must strengthen Jewish settlement in the Negev. We are in a democratic country with equal rights, but this is a Jewish state.”
Jabareen accused Galant of making “racist” statements.
“When he speaks of the need to take care of and develop Jewish settlements, he is basically stating that he prefers Jewish settlement and needs at the expense of the housing and land rights of the Beduin Arab community in the south,” Jabareen said.
“He’s referring to Beduin in a negative way, reinforcing prejudices about them, while advocating for the advancement of the Jewish community. If you take this same statement and replace the word ‘Arabs’ with ‘Jews’ in France or Europe or the US, it would rightly be characterized as an antisemitic statement.”