On the evening of Tuesday, April 10th residents of the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran signed an agreement with Israeli authorities to leave their homes and move to the town of Hura. The residents reluctantly accepted the Israeli government’s plan to turn the area into a Jewish only town after the residents’ demand to stay on their land was continuously rejected by the authorities and Israeli Supreme Courts gave final approval of the eviction orders.
The residents of Umm al-Hiran have been battling against the demolition of their homes for the last 15 years. They were previously expelled by the Israeli government from their land in Khirbet Zubaleh. After their initial forced expulsion they demanded to either be allowed to return to their original home and obtain a permanent recognized agricultural village, or be granted official recognition in their current place of residence, Umm al-Hiran.
The police arrived on Tuesday April 10th to prepare for the eviction that had been ordered for April 23. Following negotiations, which took place without the presence of Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel that had been legally representing the residents of Umm al-Hiran, the families agreed to relocate to the village of Hura with the condition that they would not be evicted again.
The struggle of Umm al-Hiran differs from the struggle of al-Araqib and other unrecognized villages in the Naqab on the basis of land ownership. The people of Umm al-Hiran were resettled to their current location in under IDF orders in 1956. It is important to note that Israeli authorities are solely responsible for the transfer of the people to this area after they were evicted from their homes. Despite being re-settled by the government they never received official recognition. The intention to transfer the people to a new area again represents a continuation of the state´s policy to force Palestinian-Arab residents of the Naqab to be displaced at the state’s discretion. The struggle of most unrecognized villages, such as Al-Araqib, on the other hand is a struggle for the land on which their families have lived and worked on for generations.
Jafar Farah, Director of the Mossawa Center, made the following statements about the role of the courts which have rejected the requests of the residents and Adalah: “The Israeli courts have repeatedly shown their unwillingness to help the people of the Naqab and we must understand that any legal battle must be accompanied by political advocacy and popular struggle.”
The case of Umm al-Hiran has received international attention due to the continuous resistance of its people and the killing of the Yacoub Abu al-Qayan during forcible eviction of Umm al-Hiran in January 2017. The plan to construct a Jewish only village on the ruins of Umm al-Hiran has caused international pressure on the Israeli government. In March this year Mossawa together with Arab MKs organized a fact-finding mission to the Naqab and visit to Umm al-Hiran with a group of S&D members from the European Parliament.