Accompanied by representatives of the Jewish National Fund and a special police unit known as Yassam, Israeli interior ministry officials raided Bir Hadaj at 9.30am on Thursday 11 October. The officials then handed out demolition orders against four houses, according to eyewitnesses.
Under the jurisdiction of the Abu Basma Regional Council, Bir Hadaj is the largest village in the Abu Basma district, with a population of over 5,000. Despite formal recognition, Bir Haddaj hasn’t been spared the home demolition woes which haunt hundreds of “unrecognized” Bedouin villages in the Naqab.
Angry at the most recent raid, some of the village’s youth burned tyres in protest soon after. Ayesh Abu Assa, an eyewitness, said that an extremely high number of police officers then invaded the village firing tear-gas, rubber bullets and some live ammunition.
The police also broke into the village’s elementary school, terrorizing children and firing tear-gas in the school’s vicinity. The police left the village at 12:30 pm after arresting three residents and injuring several others.
A spokesperson for the Israeli interior ministry said in a statement that the response of the police was proportional and blamed “political groups” for “inciting residents against the authorities and fomenting violence.”
This was not the first time that Bir Hadaj had received home demolition orders, nor will it be the last. Israel’s planning and construction authorities publicly threatened that hundreds of homes will follow.
Typically, the legal pretext for the demolition orders is that the houses were built without permit. The Israeli authorities pay no heed to the fact that it is virtually impossible for local people to get permits, so they have no alternative than to build without them.
Atiya al-Aassam, head of Abu Basma Regional Council, told The Electronic Intifada that since the recognition of Bir Hadaj, the Israeli authorities have “systematically turned down residents’ applications for building permits, completely ignoring the community’s needs and natural growth. This policy particularly affects young couples.”
Following these events, the High Steering Committee of the Arabs of the Naqab — a broad coalition of community groups and political organizations — called for a public strike across the Naqab on 18 October and a mass protest outside the Israeli interior ministry’s offices in the town of Bir al-Saba (Beersheva). In addition, residents of Bir Hadaj set up a protest tent in the village to call for an end to Israel’s policy of home demolitions.
Only a night before the planned protest and public strike, Israeli police stormed the village of Bir Hadaj and arrested a dozen of the village’s youth, accusing them of involvement in the riots. The night raid was akin to those carried out routinely by Israel in the occupied West Bank.
Undeterred, thousands of Palestinians from the Naqab flocked to Bir al-Saba to participate in the 18 October demonstration, where The Electronic Intifada talked to eyewitnesses. Several Palestinian political leaders, including Palestinian members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, attended the protest.
“We are fully aware that this demonstration is not enough. We are braced for a long battle,” said Suleiman Ibn Humeid, a member of the Bir Hadaj popular committee, after the protest. “The turnout and the energy were encouraging. We are against violence, but we are adamant to do everything in our power to protect our homes and land.”
The home demolitions hovering over Bir Hadaj should be seen in the wider context of the Prawer Plan, an Israeli government initiative to displace 70,000 Bedouins from the Naqab. Israel has also recently threatened to wipe the entire village of Umm Hiran off the map (“‘Turning Bedouin village into Jewish settlement is racist’,” Ynet News, 29 September).
The Naqab’s Palestinian residents and leaders will have to overcome the internal rifts, divisions and power struggles that have plagued them for years and allowed the Israeli occupation authorities to divide and rule over a beleaguered community.
The urgency of mobilizing to defend Palestinian Bedouins was highlighted by another crime committed by Israel in the Naqab shortly after the 18 October protest. For the 43rd time in the past two years, Israeli bulldozers invaded the village of al-Araqib and demolished it once again.
Budour Hassan is a Palestinian anarchist and a law graduate based in occupied Jerusalem.
This article indicates Israel's ethnic cleansing policies in the removal of Bedouin from their ancestral land. Bedouin were moved from most of the Negev and confined to small area called the "Siyag" in exchange.What Israel declares is 'state land" was in fact farmed by Bedouin, and in many cases registered under the British Mandate -but Israel refuses to acknowldedge this and now wishes, once and for all , to move all Bedouin, under the Prawer Law, into substandard townships, so that huge settlements and a Jewish-only new city Hiran, can be built precisley on the site of the 'unrecognised' as well as the recognised villages. This is clearly apartheid in action, and denying the Bedouin traditional way of life. (Ed)
'Turning Bedouin village into Jewish settlement is racist'
Government's decision to convert Umm al-Hiran into Jewish settlement enrages Bedouin residents; 'You can’t just take an Arab and put a Jew in his place. This is Nakba of 2012,' they say
Ilana Curiel 29 September 2012
"We will continue fighting. We will not leave our land," residents of Umm al-Hiran, an unrecognized Bedouin village in the Negev slated for demolition, said. The government intends to build a new Jewish settlement called Hiran in place of the village.
"They say they want to evict us because of illegal construction," Salim Abu Al-Kian, 53, told Ynet. "We are ready to reach a settlement on the matter. We're willing to get permits for homes that have yet to receive them. Unfortunately, the state does not want to help us. They want to expel us from our land. We have no value to them," he said.
After a stretched out legal battle, the National Council for Planning and Construction rejected the motion submitted by the Bimkom organization and Adala, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and approved the government's plans to establish a new Jewish village in northern Negev.
Umm al-Hiran village in the Negev (Photo: Hertzel Yosef)
The new village will be built in place of the Bedouin village which currently houses 500 people.
Amna Abu Al-Kian said that she would be willing to die before leaving her home. "I have six children and we have nowhere else to go to."
"Instead of the state helping us, we are thrown out to the street like animals," she exclaimed.
'We can live alongside Jews'
Other residents of the Bedouin village could not understand the council's decision and offered an alternative solution. "We wouldn't mind living alongside Jews. I wouldn't object to us being neighbors," said Salim Abu Al-Kian.
"You can’t just take an Arab and put a Jew in his place. This is racism. This is the Nakba of 2012," he added.
Another Bedouin resident said "we're citizens of the state of Israel. Israel claims to be a democratic country but it has neglected its citizens for decades. Why not recognize our rights? We have been the most loyal to Israel since its establishment. They can't keep pushing us into a corner."
Attorney Suhad Bshara from the Adala Center said that the "government's decision coincides with Israel's policy to expel the Bedouin residents from their lands and destroy their homes in order to clear the land for Jewish settlements."
The authority charged with regulating Bedouin towns in the Negev said that many of the residents have already found a solution – they are to move to the nearby newly-constructed Bedouin village of Horah.
Hassan Shaalan contributed to this report