Israel’s violence at Umm Al-Hiran and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine

Israel/Palestine
on 16 Comments

Yesterday, Israeli police forces demolished homes and structures at Umm Al-Hiran, a Bedouin village in the southern Negev desert. The events included the two deaths: local resident, schoolteacher Yaqoub Mousa Abu Al-Qia’an, as well as policeman 1st Sgt. Erez Levi.

Al-Qia’an was shot by police whilst driving slowly, before accelerating and driving into policemen further down the hill. Whilst several eyewitnesses note firing before his acceleration (confirmed by later released police helicopter video) which may have led to his either loss of control or panic, the police and authorities immediately framed this as a terror attack, with Islamic motivations. The police immediately publicised Al-Qia’an may have ‘jihadist sympathies’ based upon their finding of Israel Hayom (Shledon Adelson funded right-leaning paper) copies from 2015 whose banner headline spoke of an ISIS bomb attack, as well as books in Arabic, during a raid of his home. Reading such a newspaper, the most read newspaper in Israel, with a headline that is typical for it, is surely very suspicious. So is the possession of Arab books. Shouldn’t Al-Qia’an only have been reading Yiddish?

If there is anything unmistakable here, it is the hysteric and pathetic haste of authorities to frame this as Islamic terror. As Netanyahu hastened to frame the Jerusalem truck-ramming on the 8th of January as ‘ISIS terror’, connecting it to France and Germany, he now hastened to continue his connect-the-dots campaign of incitement, stretching yet another line from Jerusalem to Umm Al-Hiran: “He was killed in a vehicular terror attack”, said Netanyahu about the policeman.

The deputy commander of the police southern district, Peretz Amar, despite the serious doubts and conflicting accounts, was almost calling anyone attempting to doubt the official narrative stupid: he said the incident was “a deliberate attack. This is clear. This is a fact. There is no other explanation, and anyone who tries to offer an alternative explanation wasn’t here at the time and doesn’t understand.”

Alright, let’s not be stupid. Let’s zoom away for a moment, and look at the story of Umm Al-Hiran from a wider historical perspective:

Umm Al-Hiran is one of 39 ‘unrecognised’ Bedouin villages in Israel’s southern Negev.

The town was first expelled from its historical dwelling by Israeli forces in 1948, under the policy of ethnic cleansing, ‘making the desert bloom’, as it were, where the flowers are of course Jewish, not Palestinian or Bedouin, settlements. The town was thus replaced with what is now kibbutz Shoval. Non-Jewish citizens regarded generally as ‘Arabs’ were under military government from 1948 to 1966. After 1948 Umm Al-Khiran was ordered by this government to move to an area called Lagiyya, and in 1956 they were again displaced by military order to Wadi Atory, where they have remained until today. Thus, whilst displacing them, the State in fact sanctioned their location in 1956.

Yet from 2001 the Israeli Land Authorities started considering Umm Al-Hiran a ‘serious obstacle’ to their settlement plans. The plans involved the creation of a new, Jewish town, called, can you guess it? Hiran.

The name works in Hebrew, and we are reminded of Moshe Dayan’s famous address at the Haifa Technion, quoted in Haaretz, 1969: “Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist, not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kefar Yehushu’a in the place of Tal al-Shuman. There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.”

Umm Al Hiran has attempted to avert this fate of ethnic cleansing under the principle of ‘Judaisation’, with a long and protracted legal battle. But in 2015, after 13 years of litigation, the battle was finally lost, having reached its last possible arena – the Israeli Supreme Court. As their lawyer Suhad Bishara notes, the court, whilst rejecting the initial state claim that the villagers were ‘trespassers’, nonetheless worked on the equation that ‘the state gave, the state can take’. In its ruling, the court even acknowledged the state’s intention to demolish the Bedouin village in order to build a town “with a Jewish majority”.  As Adalah (Legal Center for Arab Minorities in Israel) summates, “the Court concluded that the state had merely allowed the Bedouin citizens in Atir-Umm al-Hiran to use the land [my emphasis], which was state land, and that the state was therefore within its rights to revoke this decision and retake the land to do with it as it wished, even after 60 years of continuous land use and residence. Thus, according to the SCT’s ruling, the residents of Atir-Umm al-Hiran had acquired no ownership status or property rights to their land over the course of their decades of residence and land use.”

We are therefore to understand the case of Umm Al-Hiran as one of many, and part of an overarching policy of violence: ethnic cleansing. This policy is sanctioned by the highest legal institution in the state – the Supreme Court. It is not surprising in this respect, that the late professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz considered one of the courts former judges (Moshe Landau), a ‘Judeo-Nazi’, when he effectively legalized torture in 1987.

So here we have this systemic violence. And whilst several eyewitnesses report of police violence on scene yesterday, the event resulting in two deaths – one of the local driver and one of a policeman, is quickly framed, not merely as violence by the dispossessed, but as terror – Islamic motivated terror no less. The policeman is of course the victim, there must be no doubt about that, and the resident is a terrorist – there must be no doubt about that either.

Whilst I could mention so many other details regarding this incident, and go in depth into the drama concerning the firing of the Israeli Army Radio host who expressed sympathy with the driver , I have chosen to focus mostly upon the bigger paradigm here. Because the violence is in there, in that bigger picture. It’s in the incitement that follows by security and government officials. The violence is in the propaganda, and it’s in the policy. And if we fail to see that, then our attention will easily be distracted by shots, deaths and “terror”.

About Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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16 Responses

  1. Jackdaw
    January 20, 2017, 9:30 am

    How do you ‘ethnically cleanse’ Arabs, by moving them from a village, and into a town, only five miles away?

    • eljay
      January 20, 2017, 9:46 am

      || Jackdaw: How do you ‘ethnically cleanse’ Arabs, by moving them from a village, and into a town, only five miles away? ||

      Let’s see. According to Wiki:

      … Ethnic cleansing is the systematic forced removal of ethnic or religious groups from a given territory by a more powerful ethnic group …

      Ethnic cleansing is usually accompanied with the efforts to remove physical and cultural evidence of the targeted group in the territory through the destruction of homes [etc.] …

      According to this thread’s article:

      Yesterday, Israeli police forces demolished homes and structures at Umm Al-Hiran, a Bedouin village in the southern Negev desert. … The town was first expelled from its historical dwelling by Israeli forces in 1948 … The town was thus replaced with what is now kibbutz Shoval. … After 1948 Umm Al-Khiran was ordered by this government to move to an area called Lagiyya, and in 1956 they were again displaced by military order to Wadi Atory, where they have remained until today. … Yet from 2001 the Israeli Land Authorities started considering Umm Al-Hiran a ‘serious obstacle’ to their settlement plans. The plans involved the creation of a new, Jewish town …

      That, it would seem, is how it’s done.

      But I get what you’re saying: If in some other country a non-Jewish government were to uproot Jews from their village in coveted territory, move them to a nearby town and then destroy the village and replace it with a new non-Jewish settlement, you’d be OK with that. I wouldn’t.

      • rosross
        January 20, 2017, 10:31 pm

        Well said eljay.

    • Mooser
      January 20, 2017, 12:10 pm

      “How do you ‘ethnically cleanse’ Arabs, by moving them from a village, and into a town, only five miles away?”

      Well, aren’t you the clever one! Would you mind moving a few miles? That’s right, behind that barbed wire over there.

      • Jackdaw
        January 21, 2017, 6:53 am

        Well. Most of the residents of the unrecognized village have already voluntarily moved into the recognized town, with all it’s utilities and services.
        Mooser. You should start by asking them first.

      • Annie Robbins
        January 21, 2017, 11:45 am

        Most of the residents…..

        jack, do you have a link confirming this?

        edit, 4 hrs later. no, you have nothing. and how does “voluntarily” work after someone bulldozes your home? that doesn’t sound very voluntary to me.

        i highly recommend hatim kanaaneh’s excellent article on this topic we just published, for some history you might not read elsewhere:

        By their bulldozers you will know them
        http://mondoweiss.net/2017/01/their-bulldozers-will/

      • Mooser
        January 21, 2017, 8:45 pm

        ” that doesn’t sound very voluntary to me.”

        I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s when the full picture and details of the Holocaust were emerging, and were fresh news. So as a Jewish kid, I had no great difficulty positing myself as a victim.
        So when they told me about the “Arabs” leaving Palestine to the Zionists, it was natural to imagine what circumstances would force my family out of our house, to flee over some border. It would take sheer terror.
        And then I knew how Zionism was done.

      • Annie Robbins
        January 21, 2017, 10:51 pm

        chilling, isn’t it.

    • rosross
      January 20, 2017, 10:33 pm

      Beyond the fact they are not Arabs, they are Palestinians living on their own land in Occupied Palestine, what gives an occupying Government, not elected by these people, to uproot them and move them somewhere else?

      It is just part of the same Zionist-Jewish game in Israel where Palestinians are thrown out of their homes and the homes given over to Jews. Home or land it amounts to the same thing, ‘ethnic cleansing’ on a scale which would cause outrage anywhere else but Zionist UN Mandated Israel and Occupied Palestine. Such hypocrisy and your question says it all.

  2. Ossinev
    January 20, 2017, 1:43 pm

    @Jackdaw
    “How do you ‘ethnically cleanse’ Arabs, by moving them from a village, and into a town, only five miles away”

    So the Nazis did not “ethnic cleanse” Warsaw`s Jews after all?
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warsaw_Ghetto

    • rosross
      January 20, 2017, 10:36 pm

      @ Ossinev,

      Pretty clearly the term ‘ethnic cleansing’ can only be applied to Jews, even though Jews are members of a religion and not an ethnicity. For all non-Jews, even if they are ethnic, there can be no ethnic cleansing, just moving them on, around, and beyond for the convenience of Israeli Jews.

    • Jackdaw
      January 21, 2017, 7:10 am

      “So the Nazis did not “ethnic cleanse” Warsaw`s Jews after all?”

      I don’t know. Ask your grandfather.

      • Mooser
        January 21, 2017, 1:49 pm

        “I don’t know. Ask your grandfather.”

        Don’t be schtupid, be a schmarty, come and join the Zionist Party!

  3. Talkback
    January 21, 2017, 3:10 am

    This is not “ethnic cleansing”. It’s a racially motivated internal displacement or forced resettlement and part of Israel’s Apartheid Bantustan policy.

  4. Ossinev
    January 21, 2017, 12:00 pm

    @Jackdaw

    “I don’t know. Ask your grandfather”

    Struck a nerve there then old bean. So not a great expert on defining of “ethnic cleansing” after all. Stick to your day job – your part time Hasbaratics are starting to disorientate you.

  5. oldgeezer
    January 21, 2017, 2:46 pm

    So it is now starting to look like yet another typical murder gone wrong.

    Israeli forces are murderers and terrorists.

    Far far worse than common thugs and criminals.

    Yet again they let the innocent Palestinian bleed out for a half hour.

    Not an ounce of morality in the terrorist forces, country’s leadership or it’s supporters.

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