Negev Bedouin pledge to resist eviction for new Jewish town

The land of one of the Bedouin communities slated to be evicted under a proposed Israeli government plan will be used for the construction of a new Jewish community, according to documents obtained by Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in the Jewish state. In the coming weeks, the Israeli cabinet is expected to approve the forcible relocation of some 30,000 Bedouin to designated existing Bedouin towns. Residents of the community in question did not squat on the land, but were transferred there in 1956 by the direct order of the military administration then in place on Arab lands within Israel. Their lands now lie within the master plan of the Beersheba metropolitan area.

The community of some 1,000, all members of the Abu Alkiyan clan comprises two unincorporated villages, Atir and Umn al-Hiran, located near the “official” villages of Wadi Ati and Houra. Until 1948, the clan held the land now used by Kibbutz Shoval. After the war, the clan roamed the Negev desert seeking new land, finally being assigned to the Wadi Atir area in 1956. A classified military administration document dating from 1957 says that the clan received 7,000 dunams of land near the wadi (oasis). It later divided into two hamlets that shared the land.

Last year, the Prime Minister’s Office intervened to block Atir and Umm al-Hiran from being recognized as “legal” villages, contrary to the recommendations of an advisory committee of the National Planning and Building Council. The residents have appealed the eviction orders. Meanwhile, a plan to construct a new Jewish community, to be called Hiran, has been submitted to the regional planning and building committee, which has already heard the Bedouin residents’ objections. The Interior Ministry told the Israeli daily Ha’aretz that a detailed plan for the first neighborhood of Hiran is already being discussed. The government bureaucracy responsible for regularizing Bedouin villages in the Negev said the Abu Alkiyan clan had illegally invaded state lands. It said the state was preparing new neighborhoods suited to the clan’s needs in the town of Houra.

One resident, Salim, told Ha’aretz: “We don’t want to move away; we have nothing to look for in Houra. They want to build a Jewish community on this land and call it Hiran. We have no problem with being annexed to Hiran as long as we stay on our land.”

“If anyone in the government thinks they can evict us, they’re mistaken,” another family member said. “If they demolish our houses, we’ll live in tents. If they take our tents, we have no problem living under the open sky. We’re not going to use force against anyone, but we will not leave our lands.” (Ha’aretz, June 3)

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