Objection Submitted against the Building of a New Jewish Town to be Called "Hiran" on the Land on which Atir-Umm al-Hieran is Located (the Nahal Yatir area)
On 12 January 2011, Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel who are residents of Umm al-Hieran, the southern area of the unrecognized village of Atir-Umm al-Hieran, in cooperation with Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights and Adalah submitted an objection to the National Council for Planning and Building (NCPB) against the building of a new exclusively Jewish town to be called “Hiran” on the land on which Atir-Umm al-Hieran is located (the Nahal Yatir area).
The master plan (Plan 15/02/107) aims to build the Jewish town of ‘Hiran' after demolishing the homes of the 500 Arab residents of Umm al-Hieran and evacuating them from the area that falls within its designated borders. According to the Hiran master plan, most of the Arab Bedouin residents' homes are located in the zone designated for residential buildings, while others are situated in the zone for public lands, including a proposed forest. The objection argued that the plan proposed only one option – the demolition of Arab Bedouin homes and the forced eviction of the residents that have lived in the area for more than 55 years. The implementation of the plan would result in gross violations of the constitutional rights of residents to property, dignity and equality. The objection also argued that planning committee could have investigated and proposed a less devastating alternative to this plan. For example, the plan could have recommended the recognition of the village.
Cesar Yehudken, an urban planner with BIMKOM, stated that: “The plan totally ignores the situation on the ground and the rights of the Bedouin residents. It is evidence of the government's policy to congregate the Bedouin into a few recognized towns. Furthermore, this plan represents a new level of discrimination in the division of land and resources for the Bedouin community in the Naqab.”
The submission of the objection is the most recent legal action taken by the residents of Umm al-Hieran in a planning process that has spanned over the last over seven years. On 20 July 2010, the NCPB decided to recognize the northern area of the village of Atir-Umm al-Hieran, where the residents of Atir live and accepted the proposal that the residents of Umm al-Hieran would move to Atir according to a specific time-line and process. In a rare move, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu's office intervened in the decision and requested that the NCPB reconsider its decision. The NCPB committee members complied with the request and retracted the recognition.
Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara, one of the drafters of the objection, argued that: “All the facts included in the objection lead us clearly to the conclusion that the plan was (built) to give preference to the interests of the Jewish residents above the interests of the Bedouin who have lived in this village for more than 55 years. This is a blatant violation of the people's right to equality. The practice of evacuating a certain group of residents in favor of another based on nationality and/or religion is a policy of illegal segregation."