Activists call ‘Day of Rage’ over plan to raze Bedouin village

Israeli Arabs will demonstrate against Supreme Court ruling allowing the state to build Jewish city atop Umm al-Hiran

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

An unrecognized Bedouin village in the northern Negev (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash 90)
An unrecognized Bedouin village in the northern Negev (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash 90)

Israeli Arabs plan to protest a Supreme Court decision to raze an unrecognized Bedouin village in the Negev to make way for a Jewish town. By a 2-1 majority, the court rejected an appeal by Umm al-Hiran residents Tuesday, ruling that the village was built on state land and its Bedouin residents had no legal rights to it.

In response to the ruling, activists and Israeli-Arab Knesset members said that in the coming month, Day of Rage demonstrations were being planned to protest the ruling, the state’s controversial initiative to resettle Bedouin communities, the Haaretz daily reported Thursday.

“The ruling is racist and disastrous for an already disadvantaged population,” MK Talab Abu Arar of the Joint (Arab) List told the paper. He said the ruling and its implementation dealt a major blow to the faith of Israeli-Arabs in the Israeli judicial system.

Abu Arar said that other Joint List MKs and leaders from the Supreme Steering Committee of Negev Arabs planned to meet in the coming days to discuss future options.

“We intend to stand by the [Umm al-Hiran] families,” Abu Arar said.

The government-backed Prawer Plan, shelved in 2013 amid violent protests, called for Israel to officially recognize and register many unrecognized villages while relocating residents of other villages into other towns and planned communities. The government argued that the growing population required planning and urbanization, while Arab activists insisted the plan amounted to a land grab driven by anti-Arab prejudice.

Home to nearly 500 residents, Umm al-Hiran was established by the Bedouin al-Qia’an tribe in 1956 in coordination with the IDF, after a nearly decade-long dispute. Since its establishment, the officially unsanctioned village has not been hooked up to water or electricity and has never been included in an official governmental zoning plan. New construction is forbidden at the site.

The planned Jewish city of Hiran is set to be erected at the site of the Bedouin Umm al-Hiran. It will initially include 2,500 housing units and its future population is expected to be mostly religious.

Last month, representatives of the Joint List walked from an unrecognized Bedouin village to Jerusalem on a four-day protest march demanding more equitable planning for the 260,000 residents living in 36 villages in Israel’s south. Many live in extreme poverty and more than half reside in unrecognized villages with no access to electricity or running water.

Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.

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