Statement on Violence in Umm al-Hiran, an Avoidable Tragedy

RELEASE DATE: January 18, 2017

While we still await a full investigation and clarification of what transpired today, we are nonetheless saddened by the preventable loss of life today in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran. The demolition of “unrecognized” Bedouin villages in the Negev and forced displacement of tens of thousands of Israeli Bedouin from their land is a situation rife with peril for both Bedouin citizens and Israeli law enforcement officers who are tasked with enforcing laws that deny people basic human rights. We join the Bedouin and Jewish Israeli communities in mourning the loss of police officer Erez Levy and Umm al-Hiran resident Yaqub Musa Abu Qi’an.


Bedouin Israeli citizens were moved to their current lands by the Israeli government in the 1950s and have never been given access to the same basic services as Jewish Israelis–services such as electricity and running water. For years,  these villages have unsuccessfully sought legal recognition through the courts.


The demolition of Umm al-Hiran is underway in order to make room for the new Jewish town of Hiran.


Today’s tragedies in Umm al-Hiran would have been avoided if the Israeli Minister of Agriculture had implemented the Alternative Master Plan for the Negev, which was designed by Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights four years ago after extensive interviews and research in Bedouin communities.


Knesset member MK Ayman Odeh is one of a few policymakers who have consistently called for justice for the Bedouin community. That a Knesset member and other unarmed protesters would be shot in the face with rubber bullets is shocking. We support a thorough investigation so that all the facts can be transparently shared with the public.


The Prophet Micah warned about abusive power that illegally seizes property and the impact it can have on a people: “And they covet fields, and seize them; and [they covet] houses, and take them away; thus they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.” As a nation of people that know all too well what it means to be an oppressed minority, Israel has a moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable within its midst.