UPDATE: Umm al-Hiran demolition impending; Adalah sends urgent letter to Israeli AG

State provided court with inaccurate information regarding availability of immediate housing solution; false media reports indicate demolition postponed as result of court order.

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent an urgent letter to Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit last night, 22 November 2016, requesting that he order the demolition of the Bedouin Arab village of Atir-Umm al-Hiran be frozen.


According to a court-issued demolition order, the state is permitted to carry out a demolition of two houses and approximately eight adjacent additional structures at any time until 30 November. This initial stage in the demolition of the village would leave some 20 residents homeless. After 30 November, the state is required to appeal to the court for a renewal of the demolition order. 


In their letter to the Attorney General, Adalah Attorneys Hassan Jabareen, Suhad Bishara, and Mohammad Bassam noted that the court approved the evacuation of Atir-Umm al-Hiran based on the state's claim that there exists an "immediate and available solution" for the displaced residents: namely, relocation to the nearby town of Hura.


However, as Adalah emphasizes, there is, in fact, no immediate housing solution available in Hura and the court's decision to approve the evacuation of the village was thus based on false information provided by the state.


Adalah is thus asking the Attorney General to halt the demolition process until the courts can take this faulty information regarding alternate housing into account and reconsider the evacuation and demolition of Atir-Umm al-Hiran.


On a separate note, media outlets inaccurately reported that yesterday's planned demolition was halted due to a ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court on the matter. In fact, the decision to delay the demolition of the 10 structures was made by police forces in the field.


In 2015, after a 13-year legal battle, the Israeli Supreme Court decided by a 2-1 majority to authorize the state's plan to demolish Atir-Umm al-Hiran and forcibly displace its approximately 1,000 residents for the sole purpose of establishing a new Jewish town named "Hiran" over its ruins.  Earlier this year, the Court rejected Adalah's request to re-consider this judgment and to hold a second hearing on the case.


The case of Atir-Umm al-Hiran is a clear example of dispossession and displacement for strictly racial reasons; the only reason the village is being demolished is to allow the state to establish of a new Jewish town with accompanying range of land.


The state initially expelled residents of present-day Atir-Umm al-Hiran from their original lands in the village of Khirbet Zubaleh by military order in 1956. The Court has recognized that residents, members of the Abu al-Qi’an Bedouin tribe, were not illegal trespassers – as initially claimed by the state – but were indeed moved there by the state. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court ruled that, because the village residents are on "state land," the state could retake it and do with it as they wished. The Court did not question why the new Jewish town had to replace the Arab village, when there exists vast and empty lands in the surrounding area. The Court also ignored the Bedouin residents’ political, social and historical roots to the land.