Supreme Court to Attorney General: Why not include Umm el-Hieran into the area’s new master plan, rather than demolish it?

Attorney Bishara: “We hope the court finally understood the danger embedded in the displacement of the villagers after 58 years, just to house Israeli Jewish settlers in their place.”

On 10 June 2014, the Israeli Supreme Court held an additional hearing on Adalah's appeal against the eviction of all residents of the twin unrecognized Arab Bedouin villages of Atir and Umm el-Hieran. During the hearing, the justices asked the state representatives to answer a central question that was not asked by the court before: “Why not integrate the homes of Umm el-Hieran into the area’s new master plan?” The justices added that previous courts confirmed that the villagers were living on the land as a result of an Israeli military order in 1956, and that the villagers were not trespassers on the land.

The representative of the Attorney General’s Office responded that he was “not prepared to answer this question”. He added that a detailed master plan has been put in place to build 2,400 new housing units in the area, and that the homes in Atir-Umm el-Hieran do not fit into the plan. Justice Daphna Barak responded by stating that, "The plan is not part of the ten commandments", meaning that the government’s plan for the area can change. At the end of the hearing, the court gave the state 60 days to respond to its suggestions for integrating the existing Arab Bedouin villages and homes into the future plan.

Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara, who has been representing the villagers of Atir-Umm el-Hieran before the courts for the past 10 years, commented after the court hearing: “Today, for the first time, the court asked a very central question that we asked on the first day of our proceedings 10 years ago. Then we suggested to integrate the homes of Atir and Umm el-Hieran to the new master plan instead of displacing the residents yet again. We hope that the court finally understood the danger embedded in the displacement of the villagers after 58 years, just to house Israeli Jewish settlers in their place.”

On 20 November 2013, the Supreme Court held its first hearing on Adalah’s appeal against the decision of the Be’er Sheva District Court to approve the evacuation of Umm el-Hieran in the Naqab. At the same time, the Israeli government decided to accelerate the implementation of a decision taken in 2002 to demolish the village and build a Jewish town, called ‘Hiran’, in its place. The government accused the residents of the village of living there illegally, even though they were transferred to that location by the military in 1956, after the Bedouin families were displaced from and their land confiscated in their village Khirbet Zubaleh.

For more information:

Read Adalah’s press release, “Israeli Supreme Court Hears Adalah’s Appeal against Evacuation of Unrecognised Bedouin Village of Umm el-Hieran to Build New Jewish Town on its Ruins,” 25 November 2013

Read Adalah’s report, "Nomads Against Their Will: The Example of Atir-Umm el-Hieran"

Watch the video "Umm al-Hieran Unrecognized Village v. Hiran Settlement" by Adalah and the Negev Coexistence Forum

Read more about the Israeli government’s plan to forcibly displace thousands of Arab Bedouin citizens in the Naqab (Negev)