26 November 2007
Adalah and Bimkom Demand Recognition and a Master Plan for the Unrecognized Village of Atir-Umm al-Hieran in the Naqab
On 31 October 2007, Adalah and Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights submitted an objection to the National Council for Planning and Building (NCPB) against the master plan for metropolitan Beer el-Sabe (Beer Sheva), which covers most of the northern Naqab (Negev), entitled Plan 23/14/4. The objection was submitted on behalf of 82 residents and heads of families living in the unrecognized Arab Bedouin village of Atir-Umm al-Hieran. The objectors seek that the NCPB order a revision of the plan to include: the marking of Atir-Umm al-Hieran on the map of the plan as an existing rural Arab Bedouin community; the recognition of Atir-Umm al-Hieran and the preparation of a master plan for it; the drafting of a plan for building infrastructure in the village; and the incorporation into the master plan of the possible development of an employment zone in Atir-Umm al-Hieran to ensure that there are reasonable sources of livelihood for its residents, Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel.
The objection, which was prepared by Adalah's Urban Planner, Hana Hamdan, Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara and Urban Planner Cesar Yeudkin from Bimkom, argues, inter alia, that the master plan for metropolitan Beer el-Sabe does not include suitable housing solutions for the Arab Bedouin of the Naqab in general, and for the residents of Atir-Umm al-Hieran, in particular. Further, the plan violates the basic rights of the residents, constituting another layer of the state's discriminatory resource allocation policy as regards the housing and settlement needs of the Arab Bedouin in the Naqab.
According to the master plan, a new community – designated exclusively for Jewish citizens – will be constructed on most of the land on which Atir-Umm al-Hieran is currently located (in the Nahal Yatir area). The new community, named Hiran, is being planned for 7,000-10,000 inhabitants. A report submitted by the Israel Land Administration to the Prime Minister detailing initiatives for the establishment of 68 new settlements throughout Israel identifies a number of “special problems” that may affect the planning and establishment of Hiran. Among these “special problems” the ILA notes the Arab Bedouin inhabitants of the area. In addition, two other new Jewish communities, Carmit and Yatir, are also planned for the same area.
While planning to establish these three new Jewish communities, the state is seeking to evacuate all of the residents of Atir-Umm al-Hieran and to relocate them in the nearby government-planned Arab Bedouin town of Hura. To this end, the state has filed lawsuits to evict them and requests for demolition orders for their homes. Adalah is representing residents of Atir-Umm al-Hieran in lawsuits challenging these orders before the Beer el-Sabe Magistrates' Court.
Approximately 1,000 people live in Atir-Umm al-Hieran, all of whom belong to the Abu al-Qi'an tribe. Until 1948, members of the Abu al-Qi'an tribe lived in the Wadi Zuballa region, where they had resided and farmed for many decades. Their land in Wadi Zuballa was transferred by the state to Kibbutz Shuval for agricultural use solely by Jewish Israelis. After the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the military government ordered the members of the tribe to leave their lands. At first, they were transferred to the Hirbat al-Hauzail region and later they were moved to the area of Jijli (today Kibbutz Lahav), Kokhleh and Abu Kaff. In 1956, the residents were forced by order of the Regional Military Governor to relocate to the Nahal Yatir area, where they have lived ever since.
Despite having moved to the location by order of the military government, their village did not receive recognition by the state and as a result they are deprived of basic services. In 1963, the state transferred some of the lands apportioned to the Abu al-Qi'an tribe in the Nahal Yatir region to the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in order to plant a forest. Over the years, the state transferred additional lands to the JNF which had been allocated to the members of the tribe, who nonetheless wish to continue to live in the village and to maintain their traditional lifestyle.
In the objection, Adalah and Bimkom argue that Plan 23/14/4 fails to address one of its main objectives – to resolve the issue of Arab Bedouin settlement in the unrecognized villages located within its purview. The plan precludes any future possibility of affording official recognition to the village or of resolving its many problems through the planning process.