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Only international protest will save Bedouin villagers from being evicted

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Villagers say only international protests can stop the Israelis from demolishing the village.

This village is in Israel, not the Palestinian territories. Its residents are full citizens of Israel.  Yet they are treated as though they had no rights, no importance.

At the time of Israel’s war of independence in 1948 the villagers were thrown out of their ancestral village in a more fertile area in the Western Negev to make way for a Jewish kibbutz as part of the drive to “make the desert bloom”.

Eight years later they were forcibly moved again to their present location in the Atir valley in the less fertile northern Negev where they rebuilt their village and called it Umm al-Hiran.

“It was a desert with no roads, water, houses or services. We built the village. We invested in the houses, the roads and the water pipes. Life has been tough, but we worked hard to develop this place into a beautiful and wonderful village,” said the village sheikh.

Like all the other “unrecognized” villages in the Negev, they are provided with no mains electricity, no paved roads, no water, no sanitation.  They have to do their best buying water from tankers and using solar panels for intermittent power.

Screenshot of “Goldog” website, a dog kennel and cemetery located in the Negev. Goldog has electricity while their Bedouin neighbors do not.

This is not because it is remote. On the contrary, the Jewish owner of a dog kennel only 875 yards (800 meters) away is provided with all mod cons. The Israelis do this solely to make life difficult for Arab villagers so they will move.

And it is not a question of money. Often if the villagers try to pave the roads, army bulldozers break them up; if they install water pipes, they are disconnected; if they build stone houses, they are demolished. The Israelis want the buildings to look temporary, ramshackle, worthless.

This makes it easier for the Israelis to sustain the myth that the villagers are Bedouin nomads who originate from other countries. In fact, while they are all proud of their Bedouin heritage, it is historically verifiable that their families have lived in the Negev for hundreds of years.

And while a few of the villagers are still engaged in the traditional Bedouin occupation of sheep-farming, Umm al-Hiran also has lawyers, teachers and doctors among its 500 residents.

A few weeks ago the leader of the Jewish settlers came and drank coffee with the villagers to ask them, disingenuously, why they were trying to block plans for the new Jewish village in the courts.

Salim Abu Alkia’n, Atwa’s brother, explained patiently: “To all the Jewish people who want to live in this town I say that people are already living in this town. We have been living here for 60 years and, even if they demolish our homes, we will stay here forever.”

Israelis can be excused for not knowing about the village, as it does not appear on Israeli maps.  Even when the National Council for Planning and Building approved plans for a new Jewish town on the site in 2010, they submitted a map to the planning committee that made no reference to the fact that there was already an Arab village on the land.

When they applied for demolition orders, they claimed the buildings “had been discovered” by an inspection patrol and they had been “unable to identify or reach the people who owned the houses”.

When they applied for eviction orders, they described the villagers as “trespassers” squatting illegally on state land and the magistrate had to point out that they had lived on the land for years with the state’s knowledge and consent.

This article was originally published on Feb. 23, 2017, on Martin Linton’s website here.

Martin Linton

Martin Linton is a writer and lobbyist focusing on the Middle East. He is a former Member of Parliament and Guardian journalist. In addition to campaigning on Palestine, Martin is the co-Director of Travel2Palestine, a travel company that specializes in Labour Party group visits to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

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3 Responses

  1. amigo on February 22, 2017, 12:38 pm

    “A few weeks ago the leader of the Jewish settlers came and drank coffee with the villagers to ask them, disingenuously, why they were trying to block plans for the new Jewish village in the courts.”

    They should be asked why they were trying to build a “Jews only ” village.Or am I asking an antisemitic question.

    • Cazador on February 23, 2017, 11:23 am

      No. You’re not asking an antisemitic question, but an antizionist one, since the Palestinians are Arabs and therefore Semites, but don’t spread it, coz the Zionists do not want the world to know. That way they can force the world countries like Canada to enforce laws against antisemitism.

      I know for a fact that there is a growing number of Jews worldwide who are more and more very uncomfortable with the terrible murderous and genocide/apartheid plans and actions of Zionist Israel.

      Quite frankly, it’s regrettable that they are, in a way, trapped by Zionist Israel’s constant wrongdoings, against international laws, against the UN charter and mandate, as those wrongdoings are war crimes, crimes against humanity.

      BDS is the peaceful solution. At least I hope it is. Therefore we have to make sure it will force Zionist Israel to start behaving and respect what it says to save face internationally: a two-state solution, a remittal to the Palestinians of the land stolen by Israel, and as a payment for all the suffering and killings of Palestinians since 1948, give the settler houses to the Palestinians when the settlers will be forced to leave. That being said, I doubt the inside of the said houses will be presentable, healthy, useable…, as it happened in Gaza when Israelis were forced to leave that stolen territory.

      As a reminder, there were THREE (3) League of Nations/United Nations-partitioned territories in Palestine, for the 2,000,000 or so Palestinians (living all over their territory by the way), amounting to 47% of their original 100% territory, and the 150,000 Palestinian Jews living in peace with the Palestinians were awarded the remaining 53%, with the real help of the British and the French, supported by the USA, as a result of the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Once again, empires divided to try to rule. The French went as far as secretly helping the Zionist Israelis progress in their nuclear research and build nuclear bombs. The first test were secretly made offshore, South of South Africa, as seen by a US satellite. Of course South Africa and Israel denied the fact…

      • amigo on February 23, 2017, 12:23 pm

        “No. You’re not asking an antisemitic question, but an antizionist one, ” cazador

        Oh I am well aware my Q was not antisemitic . I was laying some bait for our usual suspects to come along and explain to us why it is antisemitic.Looks as if the usual suspects have given up on the argument that antizionism is antisemitism.It took long enough.

        As to leaving the illegal squatters houses for Palestinians , I doubt that any self respecting Palestinian could live in those illegal squats .Bulldoze every single one of them and fumigate the surrounding area and then start from scratch and build structures that are compatible with the neighbourhood and inhabited by indigenous natives v those intruders from Europe/Russia et al.

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