The village of Atteer Um al-Hieran is considered an ‘unrecognized’ village by the Israeli government, and has experienced home demolitions in the past, in 2007. But this week, residents say, 600 Israeli officers came and “destroyed everything”.The village is home to around fifty people, half of them children. All of the residents are now homeless, with no accommodation made by the Israeli authorities who destroyed their homes.
One 18-year old resident of the village, Nour Abu al-Qian, told reporter Jillian Kestler D’Amours, “This time, they destroyed everything.” According to a report by Kestler D’Amour in ‘The Electronic Intifada’, Nour, who witnessed the demolition from beginning to end, said residents had no time to take their belongings out of their homes before the demolitions were carried out.
Kestler D’Amours continues, “Nour now sleeps in a makeshift tent with four of his siblings; inside the tent, thin mats and blankets were piled on cinderblocks, gathering dust as the wind swept through the village. ‘It’s very difficult. But we will rebuild the houses. We will remain here,’ he said.”
The Israeli government, since its creation in 1948, has refused to recognize the Bedouin villages that have been in place in the Negev desert for hundreds of years. Instead, the government has forcibly transferred tens of thousands of indigenous Palestinian Bedouins into government-run townships that are rife with poverty and disease, and have few basic services. One of the most well-known of these townships was constructed by the Israeli government adjacent to the city dump of Jerusalem.
According to Kestler D’Amours, “Some 200,000 Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel live in the country’s southern Naqab (Negev) desert region. Though they constitute approximately 30 percent of the area’s total population, the Bedouin live on just five percent of the land. Many have legal claims to their lands pending before Israeli courts.”
The Israeli government recently approved a plan to forcibly remove the remaining two dozen ‘unrecognized villages’ of Bedouins, along with a plan for housing developments, businesses and shopping centers in place of the villages.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated in January 2013, “The goal of this historic decision is to put an end to the spread of illegal building by Negev Bedouin and lead to the better integration of the Bedouin into Israeli society. This brave decision will facilitate the continued development and prosperity of the Negev, for the benefit of all its residents.”
But the residents of the so-called ‘unrecognized villages’ disagree with the Prime Minister’s plan for their future, and have pleaded on the Israeli government to allow them to remain in their homes. The plea has fallen on deaf ears, however, as the demolition of villages continues and Bedouin families like those living in Atir-Umm al-Hieran continue to be made homeless.