A call by Construction Minister Yoav Galant to “concentrate” Arab-Bedouin citizens into “permitted areas” is raising fears of further demolition operations to follow the January 18 police action in Umm al-Hiran that destroyed 10 houses and left a policeman and an Arab-Bedouin teacher dead.
Galant’s remarks Tuesday, January 31, came two weeks after a court-sanctioned demolition operation was carried out under cover of darkness by 480 police in Umm al-Hiran. That action aimed to force the approximately 400 Arab-Bedouin there to evict to the nearby township of Hura, under state terms, so a new Jewish town, named “Hiran” can be built in place of the unrecognized village. It is the second time the families are being displaced. In 1956 they were forcibly moved by state authorities from the Wadi Zbala area of the Negev to their present location. Galant backed up the Umm al-Hiran operation, which has evoked calls on the Communist Party of Israel and Hadash for an independent commission of inquiry into government and police actions.
“He is construction minister but he speaks of construction only for Jews,” said to Jerusalem Post, Hadash MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List). “For Arab Bedouin he speaks of the need to concentrate them in specific areas, which means to demolish homes and houses in areas the government is not willing to recognize.” MK Jabareen criticized Galant’s remarks saying, “They are a source of worry.”
“When he speaks of the need to take care of and develop Jewish settlements, he is basically stating that he prefers Jewish settlement and needs at the expense of the housing and land rights of the Bedouin-Arab community in the south,” Jabareen agree. “He’s referring to Arab-Bedouin in a negative way, reinforcing prejudices about them, while advocating for the advancement of the Jewish community. If you take this same statement and replace the word ‘Arabs’ with ‘Jews’ in France or Europe or the US, it would rightly be characterized as an anti-Semitic statement.”
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