Press Release: Home Demolitions in Umm al-Hiran Commence with Police Violence
Nazareth — A Palestinian Arab community member was killed today as Israeli forces began demolishing the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Naqab. The HRA strongly condemns the home demolitions in Umm al-Hiran and the use of lethal force and live ammunition by policemen against community members, as both demolitions and the use of violence against Arabs signify that the Israeli government and police still regard Arabs to be “enemies of the state.” Furthermore, the HRA holds the Israeli government and police responsible for the killings that occurred today, given that the government’s policy of demolitions and inflammatory rhetoric has incited and escalated violence against the Palestinian Arab minority and given the police free reign to engage in violent repression tactics.
The residents of Umm al-Hiran were originally moved to their land in the 1950s by an Israeli military order, yet Umm al-Hiran has since been regarded as an “unrecognized Bedouin village” by the Israeli government. After Israeli authorities decided to demolish the village in 2012, the residents of Umm al-Hiran – with the help of Adalah – filed a petition to save their homes. Yet in one of the most racist and discriminatory Supreme Court decisions to date, Justice Elyakim Rubinstein wrote that “the state is the owner of the lands in dispute” and that “the residents have acquired no rights to the land,” without mentioning that the villagers were originally evacuated from their indigenous lands in 1948 and relocated to Umm al-Hiran, where they have lived for 60 years. This decision has legitimized an escalation of arbitrary and racist home demolitions targeting the Palestinian Arab minority and has provided moral cover to a government and populace that is steadily becoming more racist and discriminatory.
The demolitions today in Umm al-Hiran come only a week after 11 house demolitions in Qalansawe, an Arab city in the “Triangle” region of Israel. The increased use of demolitions against the Arab minority is indicative of a new political strategy of Israeli government officials. After the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the dismantling of the illegal Israeli settlement of Amona, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised settlers a renewed commitment to “enforcing laws” on “illegal construction,” and he justified the demolitions by arguing that “home demolitions must be egalitarian.” Likewise, Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan noted that the demolitions “reflect equal law enforcement in Israeli as it should be.” Israeli government leaders are using the rhetorical moral cover of “equality” to legitimize the destruction of Palestinian Arab homes and communities – even those that were established by the state itself, such as Umm al-Hiran.
The HRA views the escalation of demolitions, police violence, and racist rhetoric as an effective declaration of war against the Palestinian Arab minority. The HRA demands an immediate investigation into the police brutality and killing that occurred today in Umm al-Hiran, and the ceasing of all demolitions and racist incitement by government officials. Furthermore, the HRA calls on the international community, including embassies, foreign diplomats, and international human rights defenders and organizations, to do what is necessary to protect the human rights of the Palestinian minority via all available diplomacy channels.