There are currently active efforts to remove the Bedouin families who live in the Negev, in Umm al-Hiran and to relocate them to the town of Hura. On the site of Umm al-Hiran, a new Jewish community will be established – to be called Hiran. This highlights the ongoing callousness, double standards and missed opportunities of our leadership.
The Abu el-Kiyan tribe were moved by the State from the Bet Kama/Kibbutz Shoval area in the Western Negev to their current location in the 1950’s. They have been living there since, but in an “unrecognized” status. Although Israel acknowledges that it indeed moved them to their current location, and they are not squatters, the government refuses to recognize the village—denying it basic services such as water, electricity, and infrastructure. Accessing healthcare and education is difficult for many, impossible for some. And now, 65 years later, their homes are being demolished and they are being forced to relocate. The families have been fighting against this eviction and want to gain status as a recognized town. This forced relocation, 65 years after their forcible transfer to the site, could maybe, in some unlikely scenario, appear reasonable, if in fact, this land had to be developed for the purpose of some awesome master plan. But in fact, the plan is to establish a new Jewish town in the place of the Bedouin settlement – period.
Last week, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a petition by the residents of Umm al-Hiran against their removal and the demolition of the community, ruling that they have no legal right to this land and can therefore be relocated.
It is hard to believe this ruling, which is so blatantly unfair. But for the sake of argument, let us assume that there is some excellent reason to establish a Jewish community there: this is the perfect opportunity to experiment and create a new model for finding a more equitable solution to this humanitarian issue.
At the same or even reduced cost, the State can establish a new shared space for Jews and Bedouin. It does not have to be fully integrated (although that would be laudable). The plan could allow for adjacent communities, sharing services, industry, commercial districts, parks. Imagine: It is the perfect opportunity for a natural and accommodating plan that addresses the needs of both the Bedouin and the Jews, who in fact live in the Negev together.
Recognize Umm el-Huran. Let the folks that were moved there finally build permanent homes, pave roads, gain access to water and electricity. Right next door, build homes for Jews.
The potential for creating something positive from this crazy unfairness seems to be within reach. Instead of making Umm al-Hiran an ugly symbol of a continuing historical injustice, and instead of oppressing a people whose main wish is to live a stable, decent life in their own land, turn the place into a model of justice, shared society and vision.