On 21 October 2009, Adalah submitted an appeal to the Beer el-Sabe (Beer Sheva) District Court on behalf of Arab Bedouin residents of the unrecognized village of Umm al-Hieran to overturn the decision of the Beer el-Sabe Magistrate Court dated 30 July 2009, which ordered the eviction of residents from their homes. Adalah demanded that the District Court cancel the eviction orders and prevent the evacuation of the entire village which is the state is seeking through numerous eviction proceedings pending before the court. The appeal was filed by Adalah Attorney Ala' Mahajneh.
The village of Atir – Umm al-Hieran was established by order issued by the Israeli military governor in 1956, after the military forces had forcefully evicted its residents from their homes in the Wadi Zuballa area of the Naqab (Negev). This transfer was not the first time that the villagers were evicted from their homes: they were displaced in 1948 to the Hirbat al-Hanzail area and then to the Kokheh and Abu Kaff area. In 1956, the villagers were displaced for the third time to the Wadi Atir area in which they live today. At the time, the residents received assurances from the military governor in the region that this move would be the last time they would be forced to leave their village. The members of the tribe established their village and built permanent homes of brick and cement in this area, and devoted their efforts to resuming their familial and social lives, which had been disrupted each time they were expelled from their homes. Today, there are 150 families living in the village, with a population of around 1,000 people, all of the Abu al-Qia'an tribe.
In the evacuation lawsuits, the State claimed that the village residents are violating the law as they have "invaded" State territory and settled on it without the right to do so. From the Magistrate's Court decision, it appears that although the court accepted Adalah's argument that the residents of Umm al-Hieran live in the village with the State’s permission and are not "trespassers", the court considered that their presence on the land depends solely on the will of the state. According to the court, the state can withdraw its permission at any time and accordingly the Arab Bedouin residents, citizens of Israel, can be expelled from the land. The court did not accept the argument that the residents invested in the village, building their homes and resuming their lives there for more than 50 years, which makes them the rightful owners of this land, as legal precedents confirm.
The court also rejected the argument that the villagers paid a heavy price for being forced by the military governor to move from their village lands in the Wadi Zuballa area in 1948, and being uprooted from their villages several times until they finally settled in Umm al-Hieran.
In the appeal, Attorney Mahajneh argued that the court ignored the historical circumstances that brought the Arab Bedouin inhabitants to this village after they were compelled by the military forces to leave their lands.. Further, the court did not afford the appropriate weight to villagers’ hopes and aspirations for stability and their wish to continue living in their village, after having been uprooted several times.
The appeal also emphasized that the State did not identify any public benefit or public interest that would result from evacuating the residents and demolishing the village. Rather, the only objective behind the demolition is the establishment of a Jewish town, named “Hiran”, on the ruins of an Arab Bedouin village named “Umm al-Hieran”. Adalah also argued that the court's acceptance of the state’s claim is a flagrant violation of the constitutional rights of Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel to equality, dignity and property ownership. Adalah stressed that the court's failure to rule on these arguments, finding that it was not the authoritative body to defend these rights, constituted an error of law.
Adalah has been defending residents of Umm al-Hieran since 2004. Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara submitted the initial replies to the state's evacuation lawsuits filed against residents and the closing arguments in the cases before the Beer el-Sabe Magistrate Court.
Case Citation: Civil Appeal 11165/09, Ibrahim Abu Al-Qia'an et al. v. The State of Israel (Beer el-Sabe (Beer Sheva) District Court)