The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that the destruction of a Bedouin village can move forward and a Jewish town built in its place. The 800 villagers of Umm al-Hiran has been fighting for 13 years to prevent the destruction of their homes. The new town, to also be called Hiran, will have 2,500 homes designated for Israeli settlers.
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that the residents of Umm al-Hiran had no rights to their land. The villagers were left landless in 1948 after their original homes were destroyed by the Israeli army. Many villagers live in tents or tin shacks because all homes in the area are under orders to be destroyed.
Umm al-Hiran is one of 46 villages not recognized by Israel in the region. The villages contain nearly 100,000 Bedouin. The Bedouin residents have Israeli citizenship, but the villages have been denied connections to power grids, access roads, or water treatment plants and denied health clinics and schools. Tens of thousands of Bedouin are at risk of being forcibly moved into government-planned towns that are the most deprived communities in the country.
Opponents of the decision leveled criticisms at the “racist” government policies that led to the ruling. They accused the courts of focusing solely on the housing needs of Israel’s Jewish population and said that the decision sets a dangerous precedent that could result in tens of thousands of Bedouin being driven off their lands. They also claimed that the village’s destruction would be viewed as “a major assault on the rights of the Bedouin.”
In a separate court case, government officials demanded that families from the village of al-Araqib be billed $500,000 to cover the cost of repeatedly demolishing their homes. The villagers have rebuilt their homes more than 80 times over the past five years to resist government efforts to evict them.