Adalah Seeks to Overturn Court Decision Approving Evacuation of Arab Bedouin from their Homes in the Village of Umm el-Hieran in the Naqab
(Beer el-Sabe, Israel) On 17 April 2011, Adalah submitted a motion for the right to appeal to the Supreme Court of Israel on behalf of Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel living in the unrecognized village of Umm el-Hieran in the Naqab (Negev) in the south of Israel. The motion follows the decision of the Beer Sheva (Beer el-Sabe) District Court to reject an appeal filed by Adalah against the Magistrates' Court's order to evacuate the residents from their homes in the villages, with the knowledge that the state authorities intend to build a new Jewish town named "Hiran" on the same land. In denying the appeal, the District Court ruled that it did not have the authority to interfere in issues of constitutional and administrative law.
In the motion for appeal to the Supreme Court, Adalah argued that the District Court's decision would have illogical and unreasonable legal consequences, since it grants the state the authority to expel people who have been living in their village for over 55 years at any time and make them homeless, while using the same piece of land to house Jewish citizens of Israel. Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara submitted the appeal.
Atir–Umm al-Hieran was established by an order issued by the Israeli military governor in 1956, after the military had forcefully evicted the residents from their homes in the Wadi Zuballa area of the Naqab. This transfer was not the first time that the Arab Bedouin villagers have been 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, they were displaced for the third time to the area of Wadi Atir, where they live today. At the time, the residents received assurances from the military governor 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, 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-Qi'an tribe.
In evacuation lawsuits filed against the villagers, the state claimed that the village residents were breaking the law as they had "invaded" state territory and settled on it without the right to do so. From the magistrates' 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 depended 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 had invested in the village, building their homes and living their lives there for more than 55 years, which makes them the rightful owners of this land, as many legal precedents confirm.
The magistrates' court also rejected the argument that the villagers paid a heavy price for being forced to move from their village lands in 1948, and being uprooted from their villages several times until they finally settled in Umm al-Hieran.
Case Citation: Motion for Permission to Appeal 3094/11, Ibrahim Farhood Abu al-Qi'an et al. v. The State of Israel
The Appeal (in Hebrew)