Next Steps After Violence in Umm al-Hiran

Last week, the deaths of Yakub Musa Abu al-Qian and Erez Levi rocked Israel. The government’s demolition of homes in the in the Negev Bedouin village Umm al-Hiran led to a confrontation. Amid the chaos of bulldozers, al-Qian was shot and subsequently crashed into Levi, a police officer. An initial autopsy of Abu al-Qian has suggested that he may have lost control of his vehicle after police shot him in the knee before he crashed into Levi, who was also killed. The autopsy also shows that al-Qian was allowed to bleed, unattended, for about 30 minutes, and that his life may have been saved if he had received immediate medical attention.

Since the 1980’s, NIF has been a consistent presence in the Bedouin struggle for recognition and for equal access to housing and physical and social infrastructure. And in the chronicles of Bedouin struggles, Umm al-Hiran evokes particular anguish: The government moved the residents to their current location in 1956 to prepare the western Negev for Jewish settlement. However, the new village never received official recognition and remains without access to water, proper education, and other necessities. Since 2003, the government has considered displacing residents, once again, to build the Jewish city of Hiran; and last March, the residents received a court order to evacuate their homes. Shatil has supported the community’s resistance to this process together with NIF grantees, such as Rabbis for Human Rights, Sikkuy and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

Following the violence in Umm al-Hiran, the NIF family is taking action on a variety of fronts. NIF grantee Adalah has called on the Justice Ministry to investigate allegations of police brutality after MK Ayman Odeh (leader of Hadash, and head of the Joint List) was injured. In a statement, Adalah and NIF grantee the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel said: “The acts described [in the groups’ complaint] raise the suspicion of illegal use of force and illegal use of firearms. The officers’ actions violated Israeli law and constitute an infringement of the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty.” Odeh says that he was pepper sprayed from point-blank range and hit in the head with sponge-tipped bullets.

The complaint also addresses false claims made by the police in the aftermath of the event: “Publicizing utterly baseless claims about MK Odeh’s injury from rock-throwing, or his involvement in or abetting of an [alleged] car-ramming terror attack, amounts to willful misleading of the public, and reaches the level of incitement.” Controversy also continues to surround the death of Yakub Musa Abu al-Qian.

Sikkuy, another NIF grantee, with the support of NIF, produced a short video highlighting the discrimination Israeli Arabs face when it comes to building homes. The film reports that since Israel’s founding, that five million dunams of land have been expropriated from Arabs; that 700 new Jewish towns have been established, but not a single Arab one; that there are 46 unrecognized Bedouin villages that lack basic infrastructure; and that most Israeli Arab towns have no master plan for building. Sikkuy is also planning a large demonstration on the issue in the coming days.

January 2017