Israeli Supreme Court Hears Adalah’s Appeal against Evacuation of Unrecognized Bedouin Village of Umm el-Hieran to Build New Jewish Town on its Ruins


Adalah: Is it legal to uproot an Arab village in order to establish a Jewish town on its ruins?

The state: The new town is for the general public, so it is unsuitable for the Bedouin


On 20 November 2013, the Supreme Court of Israel heard an appeal filed by Adalah against the decision of the Be’er Sheva District Court to evacuate the unrecognized Arab Bedouin village of Umm el-Hieran in the Naqab/Negev. Hundreds of people from Umm el-Hieran, their supporters, activists and political leaders attended the hearing.

Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara, who has been representing the villagers for almost 10 years, emphasized to the court that there was no disagreement between the parties regarding the facts of the case. The state acknowledges that the residents were moved to the village by order of the state authorities, that they have been living on the land legally, and that they are not ‘trespassers on state land’, as some state representatives previously claimed.

At the hearing, Adalah’s attorneys raised several basic questions that the state evaded, including: Why was Umm el-Hieran not integrated into the new master plan for the area? Why must the villagers’ homes be demolished and their owners be (partially) compensated and relocated only to the state-planned Bedouin town of Hura, one of the poorest towns in the country? Is the state entitled to uproot Arab citizens in order to make room for new homes for Jewish citizens and pastures for livestock? Does this plan respect the basic principles of Israeli law and international human rights law?

The state’s representative stressed that its plan was to establish a town for the general public, and not a Bedouin town, as if Bedouin citizens were not also members of the general public. Therefore, the state claimed, the town would not be suitable for the people of Umm el-Hieran, and they must therefore be transferred to Hura. The state’s representative appeared to be surprised that the people of Umm el-Hieran were insistent on remaining on their land even though other members of their tribe are living in Hura, completely disregarding their right to choose where and how to live.

The Supreme Court justices focused their questions and notes on the procedural aspects of the case and not on the principle issue at hand: Was the decision to move the Bedouin citizens to Umm el-Hieran final, or can the state reverse it? Was the plan for Hiran put in place according to the rules of procedure? Does the state have the right to make plans on public land?

The court gave the parties until 15 December 2013 to submit additional arguments and documents, and decided that no changes should be made regarding the land until the court has issued its final decision on the case.

The Prawer Connection

On the same day, 20 November, the Knesset’s Interior Committee held a follow-up session to debate the draft Prawer-Begin Law,for the purpose of preparing it for its second and third readings in the Knesset plenum. If enacted, the law would allow the government to bypass the lengthy and complex judicial procedures of the kind involved in the case of Umm el-Hieran in forcibly displacing the unrecognized Arab Bedouin villages and their residents. It would severely restrict the rights of Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel to go to court, and would eliminate judicial review in favor of speedy administrative orders that cannot be challenged in court. The residents of the other unrecognized villages, all citizens of the State of Israel, would therefore be stripped of their basic rights to due process.

For more information on the history and background of Umm el-Hieran:

Read Adalah’s report,”Nomads Against Their Will: The Example of Atir-Umm el-Hieran”

Watch the video “Umm al-Hieran Unrecognized Village v. Hiran Settlement” by Adalah and the Negev Coexistence Forum

See Adalah’s updates and press releases on Umm el-Hieran

Read more about the Israeli government’s plan to forcibly displace thousands of Arab Bedouin citizens in the Naqab (Negev)
Read More: Umm el-Hieran, Naqab (Negev), Supreme Court, Unrecognized Arab Bedouin villages Cases: HCJ 3094/11, Ibrahim Abu al Qian et al. v. The State of Israel
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