Residents of Umm al-Hiran, an unrecognized Bedouin village in the northeastern Negev, have signed an agreement to dismantle their homes and move to Hura, a permanent Bedouin town of 20,000 people located adjacent to their current location.
According to Israel’s Kan public broadcaster, each household or single adult will receive a 700 square meter plot of land and NIS 200,000 in compensation. Some 170 residents signed the deal; the rest are expected to be removed forcibly.
The agreement comes more than a year after an Israel Police officer, Sergeant Major Erez Levi, and local resident Ya’akub Musa Abu al-Qi’an, were killed during riots during an operation to demolish several illegally built structures in the village. Security officials initially accused al-Qi’an of being a member of ISIS, but the claim was ultimately proven to be false.
In addition, several residents, police officers and protesters were injured, including MK Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint Arab List Knesset faction.
The deal is also the latest in a half-century string of legal battles between the village and the Israeli government.
The site was founded by the Abu al-Qian family in 1956 after being resettled to the area by the IDF and the military government at the time.
According to Itamar Radai, an expert in the Arab-Israeli conflict at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, the village was settled on state lands in 1956.
However, most of the clan’s members moved to Hura after the city was established in 1980. Regavim, an NGO that monitors population growth and illegal building in the Arab sector in Israel, says there were approximately 50 residents in the original settlement; Israel’s Kan public broadcaster says there are currently 370 residents.
In 2015 a Supreme Court panel of judges ruled 2-1 that the village should be demolished.
“They (the Israeli government) thought this issue could be solved with violence,” said Ra’ed Abu al-Qian, a resident of Umm al-Hiran. “But as we have seen, this led only to losses, tears and pain for everybody involved. When we (realized we were) out of options, we went for a deal that would be good for our next generation.”
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who oversees the Bedouin Housing Authority in the Negev, praised the agreement, calling it a “good blend of determination by law enforcement and a generous offer by the state.”
MK Dov Khenin (Joint List), who participated last week in a demonstration to save the village from demolition, said he would continue to support the residents of Umm al-Hiran to ensure that the promises made to them are fulfilled.
“The residents are being forced to leave their homes because of a government that insists that the village should be torn down to make room for a Jews-only settlement. A terrible spirit is blowing from the direction of the government toward the Arab public.
“We will also continue to demand a fundamental solution to the problem of unrecognized Arab-Bedouin villages throughout the Negev,” Khenin added.