Thursday, July 09, 2020

Negev desert: Tribe in Umm al Hieran displaced again

By James Knoop - December 10, 2012
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [forced transfer] [Displacement] [Naqab] [Negev Desert] [Umm il Heiran]

The fate of the Arab Bedouin living in the Naqab (Negev) desert has been no different than the rest of the Palestinian population since the time of the Nakba, where over half of the indigenous Palestinian population was ethnically cleansed in 1948.

Facing discrimination, expulsion and displacement the Bedouin communities have suffered as they search for a place to cultivate crops and live a simple life.

Perhaps no case demonstrates this better than the tiny tribe of Abu al Qi-an who live in a village in the Naqab desert called Umm al Hieran.

Facing their fourth expulsion order since 1948, the 1,000 or so members of this tribe were told by the Israeli Land Administration that they must now move to a “specially-designated reservation-like” town, while 10,000 Jewish residents plan to take over their home.

The Abu al Qi-an tribe used to live in a village called Khirbet Zubaleh where they lived a settled lifestyle cultivating crops and working the land.  After being displaced, they moved several times until they finally found their current home in 1956.

“It was a desert, with no roads, houses or services,” said Sheikh Khalil Farhoud before an Israeli planning committee.  “We built the village.  We invested in the houses, the roads and the water pipes.”

“The tribe has suffered,” continued Farhoud. “Life has been tough.  But I worked hard to deal with this situation and the residents have developed this place into a beautiful and wonderful village.”

Now, like many Arab Bedouin living in the Naqab, they are being forced to live in government designated towns that comprise just 1% of the area of the district.  These “specially-designated reservation-like towns” however are not pleasant.  They are crowded, have poor infrastructure and retain the highest unemployment and poverty rates in the country.

In fact, the latest slight by the Israeli government is just the last in a series.  Just five years after they tribe moved to its current location, the Jewish National Fund began annexing the territory piece by piece in order to undergo a forestation program.

After years of having their petitions denied returning to their original lands, in 1980 the lease process for their current home was officially cancelled.

When the current plan to evict them from their homes surfaced they were not even informed by the government but instead heard about it through rumours surfacing in the area.  When the tribe took the state to court, the land regulators stated they felt there was no one to give the information too.

A Palestinian-Israeli civil rights group named Adalah has taken up the case before the courts and lost. The court ruled that the tribe was to be classified as squatters and trespassers.

As such, they were considered to be living on the land free of charge and thus the state has the right to cancel their use of the land at any time.

A statement by Adalah says, “With this decision, the court paved the way for the [Israeli] state to create a new generation of internationally displaced people based on the view that the Arab Bedouin citizen that disregards their unbroken presence on their land over the course of decades.”

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