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Arab MKs complain of ‘cruel Israeli policies’ to EU delegation

Following deadly violence in Umm al-Hiran, Joint List MKs discuss ‘anti-democratic laws’ advanced by Netanyahu government

Lawmakers from the Joint (Arab) List meet with European Union representatives in the Knesset, January 18, 2017. (Courtesy)
Lawmakers from the Joint (Arab) List meet with European Union representatives in the Knesset, January 18, 2017. (Courtesy)

In the wake of the deadly violence in Umm al-Hiran, Israeli Arab lawmakers on Wednesday held a meeting with European Union officials to complain of Israel’s “cruel policies” towards its Arab and Bedouin communities.

MKs from the Joint (Arab) List, EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen and the European Commission envoy to the Middle East, Michael Kohler, met to discuss the issue of government-ordered home demolitions in Israel on Wednesday.

“[They] explained the complexities of building and planning regulations as well as the cruel policies of the current government that [has ordered] demolitions in Umm al-Hiran and Qalansawe,” a statement from the party said.

“The MKs also spoke about the anti-democratic laws that have been legislated by the coalition in the past two years,” the Joint List said.

The meeting with the EU delegation came hours after an operation to raze illegally built homes in Umm al-Hiran early Wednesday morning devolved into violent clashes and a deadly car-ramming incident.

Israeli policemen clash with a Bedouin man following a protest against home demolitions in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, January 18, 2017. (AFP/AHMAD GHARABLI)
Israeli policemen clash with a Bedouin man following a protest against home demolitions in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, January 18, 2017. (AFP/AHMAD GHARABLI)

Border Police officer Erez Levi was killed after being run over by a car driven by a local resident whose house was reportedly slated for demolition.

Israeli officials said Yaqoub Mousa Abu Al-Qia’an plowed into the group of officers in a “terror attack,” but some activists at the scene have refuted the initial assessment, insisting Abu al-Qia’an lost control of his vehicle after coming under fatal police fire.

In response, Arab leaders called a day-long strike for Thursday, while hundreds of protesters in a half dozen Israeli cities took to the streets to denounce “the bloodshed and the destruction of homes in the Negev.”

Umm al-Hiran has long been a flashpoint for clashes.

The roughly 700 residents of Umm al-Hiran are the descendants of a Bedouin clan that was removed in 1948 from its original village, a site on which Kibbutz Shoval now sits.

Today, there are plans to replace the Bedouin village with a Jewish town to be called Hiran. According to reports, the new town would have 2,400 housing units, which would be populated largely by residents of the nearby community of Meitar.

As part of a much-criticized government urbanization plan for the semi-nomadic Bedouin encampments that dot the Negev desert, the villagers were told they would receive 800-square-meter family plots in the nearby town of Hura, which was built by the government in 1989 as a place to absorb Bedouins from nearby unrecognized villages.

Bedouin women react to the destruction of houses on January 18, 2017, in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev desert. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)
Bedouin women react to the destruction of houses on January 18, 2017, in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev desert. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

The court said that since the Bedouins could theoretically live in the new town, the demolition was not discriminatory.

The inhabitants of Umm al-Hiran refused the court’s offer, and appealed to have their case heard before a High Court of Justice panel. The final appeal to keep their village from being demolished was struck down in January 2016.

The Arab legal aid organization Adalah, which has represented residents of Umm al-Hiran in court, said the deaths at the village Wednesday were “the responsibility of the Israeli court system and the Israeli government.”

It called the Supreme Court ruling permitting the demolition of Umm al-Hiran “racist, and accused the Israel Police of “seeing the Arab public as a whole as an enemy. The finger of the Israel Police is very light on the trigger when faced with Arab citizens.”

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