Israeli Supreme Court approves demolition of Umm el-Hieran and displacement of Arab Bedouin residents to build Jewish town of ‘Hiran’
Last night, on 5 May 2015, the Israeli Supreme Court decided to approve the state’s plan to demolish the Arab Bedouin unrecognized village of Umm el-Hieran and evict its Bedouin residents, citizens of Israel, in order to establish a new Jewish town, to be called ‘Hiran’ over its ruins. The Court’s 2-1 decision follows 13 years of legal struggle waged by Adalah and the villagers to cancel the eviction and demolition orders.
In its ruling delivered by Justice Elyakim Rubenstein, the Court acknowledged the state’s intention to demolish the Bedouin village in order to build a town “with a Jewish majority.” The Court also recognized that the Bedouin residents of Umm el-Hieran were not trespassers and had not entered the land illegally - a claim initially made by the state - but were moved there in 1956 by Israeli military order, after having their land confiscated and after having been displaced from their original village of Khirbet Zubaleh. Nonetheless, the Court concluded that the state had merely allowed the Bedouin citizens to use the land, which was state land, and therefore the state could still recover it and do with it as they wished.
Justice Rubinstein argued that the petition should be dismissed for two reasons. The first reason was that the case ought to have been taken to other bodies, such as land and planning committees, because it was an “indirect attack” on the plan to build new homes and infrastructure for the town of Hiran. The second reason was that even if the Bedouin citizens' rights were being harmed in some way, the state was providing “alternatives” for the Bedouin residents to live elsewhere.
In the dissenting opinion, Justice Daphne Barak-Erez wrote that the state's decisions concerning the village contained many “flaws” due to the fact that the Bedouin residents of the village were not trespassers on the land, and the state should therefore reconsider the compensation offered to them for their relocation. The justice also suggested that the state should consider offering the Bedouin residents a plot of land to live on as part of the new town of Hiran.
In response to the decision, Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara , who has been representing the villagers for 13 years, commented: “The Supreme Court condoned a discriminatory and racist state plan, which gives the state the ‘right’ to do what it wants with the people and with the land. Despite the fact that the Court found that the residents were not trespassers, it nevertheless upheld their ‘uprooting’. The ruling completely ignores the political, social and historical roots of the community, and legitimizes the demolition of an entire Arab village and the displacement of all of its inhabitants in order to build a Jewish one.”
Adalah will work closely with the villagers, human rights organizations and other partners in the coming days to evaluate the next steps that can be taken to defend the residents and the village against the discriminatory plans for demolition and displacement.
Case Citation: (Supreme Court) Appeal 3094/11, Ibrahim Farhood Abu al-Qi’an, et al. v. The State of Israel (decision delivered 5 May 2015)
Supreme Court decision (Hebrew) is available here
For more info:
Read Adalah’s newsletter, “Can Israel demolish an Arab village to build a Jewish one?” November 2013
Read Adalah’s newsletter, “Israel's 'Invisibility Cloak': A Village and a Detainee”, April 2014
Watch the video “Umm al-Hieran Unrecognized Village v. Hiran Settlement” by Adalah and the Negev Coexistence Forum
See and share a photo gallery and testimonies of residents of Umm el-Hieran
Read Adalah’s report, “Nomads Against Their Will: The Example of Atir-Umm el-Hieran”
Shirley Sidler, “Supreme Court allows state to replace Bedouin village with Jewish one”, Haaretz, 6 May 2014