Israeli Arabs planning ‘day of rage’ protests against demolition of Bedouin town for Jewish one

New protests planned prompted by Supreme Court’s ruling allowing state to demolish Umm al-Hiran in the northern Negev.

By Shirly Seidler and Jack Khoury | Haaretz | May 7, 2015 |

Israeli Arab activists are laying the groundwork for demonstrations against the Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this week that the unrecognized Bedouin community of Umm al-Hiran, in the northern Negev, can be demolished so a new Jewish town can be built in its place.

An activist in the south said that within the coming month there will be protests similar to the November 2013 ‘day of rage’ demonstrations against the Prawer Plan to relocate Negev Bedouin.

“This was a racist and destructive ruling against a weak population,” MK Talab Abu Arar of the Joint Arab List told Haaretz. “It proves that the judicial system has been mobilized to implement the decisions of the various governments, and it constitutes a serious blow to the faith of the Arab residents in the judicial system.”

The residents of Umm al-Hiran had placed their trust in the court, he said. “The residents live in this area [because] the state threw them off their lands in the 1950s. They’re being expelled twice under state auspices,” he said.

On Sunday, Abu Arar said, there would be a meeting of the Supreme Steering Committee of Negev Arabs, to be attended by MKs from his party, to decide on future steps. “We plan to be at the [Umm al-Hiran] families’ side,” he said.

“The court’s ruling comes at a time when the housing crisis is a major issue in the Arab community,” said political activist Majad Kiyal. “There is going to be a large demonstration on the housing issue in two weeks in Umm al-Fahm that will also address the issue of Umm al-Hiran. In the field we see that groups of young people and political parties are working in that direction.”

According to Kiyal, the court’s ruling was a fateful one. “You might even say this was a historic decision and a dangerous escalation with regard to the destruction of villages,” he said. “Groups that were active in the demonstrations against Prawer are returning to deal with it, and I believe that in addition to the demonstration in the north there will be other demonstrations. Because the case of Umm al-Hiran was complex, it was sometimes hard to understand the issue in depth, but after the court’s decision everything is clear. There will be no more appeals, only bulldozers.”

Organizing a mass demonstration will take a few weeks, he said, because of the need to coordinate various groups that have been operating independently to act toward one goal.

Haya Noach, executive director of the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, said the court’s decision stems from “establishment racism.”

“The state decided to build a new town, and only afterward checked and saw that there’s already a town there and they are going to harm them,” she said. “One can’t forget that these are people who came there on the order of the state, not on their own.”

The November 30, 2013 demonstrations against the Prawer plan drew thousands of protesters to several different locations. The largest protest, near the Bedouin town of Hura, turned violent; over 30 people were arrested, while 15 policemen and several demonstrators were lightly hurt.