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'New tactics, same policy of forcible displacement' underway in Umm al-Hiran

Jan. 21, 2017 8:59 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 23, 2017 7:46 P.M.)
A Palestinian man sits outside his tent in the southern West Bank village of Susiya. (AFP/Hazem Bader, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- In the wake of the demolition of dozens of homes belonging to Palestinian citizens of Israel in Umm al-Hiran and Qalansawe over the past two weeks, a Palestinian rights group has argued that the “oppressive measures” were part of the same Israeli policy of forcible displacement also carried out against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The Bethlehem-based NGO BADIL said in a report Thursday titled "Umm al-Hiran: new tactics, same policy of forcible displacement," that the "oppressive measures by the Israeli authorities on both sides of the Green Line represent different manifestations of the same policy.”

BADIL explained that Wednesday’s evacuation of a Bedouin community in Umm al-Hiran -- that sparked clashes and resulted in the killing of two people -- came as the result of a 2015 Israeli Supreme Court decision allowing for Israel to forcibly displace residents who had lived there for decades, in order to establish a new Jewish-Israeli town called “Hiran” on the village’s ruins.

The community had already been forcibly transferred by an Israeli military order in 1956 after they were expelled from their original lands during the creation of the state of Israel.

The 2015 ruling was based on the fact that since the residents were placed in Umm al-Hiran by Israel, Israeli authorities could then relocate the residents again if they wanted to, according to BADIL.

As a result, Israeli authorities demolished eight homes and seven agricultural buildings in Umm al-Hiran on Wednesday.

BADIL noted in their report that the Supreme Court’s ruling over Umm al-Hiran was issued the the same day the court refused to freeze demolition orders for the Bedouin village of Susiya in the occupied West Bank, effectively allowing for the forcible displacement all of its 350 Palestinian residents.

While Susiya’s residents have been locked in a legal battle with Israel ever since the court ruling and have remained on their land, BADIL warned that the demolitions “could happen at any moment.”

Meanwhile, a week prior to the evacuation of Umm al-Hiran, Israel demolished 11 Palestinian homes in the city of Qalansawe in central Israel, leaving many Palestinian families homeless.

The legal justification for displacing Palestinians there came after Israeli authorities refused to accept the city’s master plan, following decades of effort by municipality officials to formalize the town, as residents were meanwhile forced to build their homes without permits. As a result of the demolitions, the mayor of Qalansawe resigned from office.

BADIL also pointed to plans by Israel to forcibly displace Palestinians in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabbir, in this case as a punitive reaction to a deadly truck attack that was carried out by one the neighborhood's residents earlier this month.

In the wake of the attack, the Israeli Minister of Interior decided to revoke the residencies of 12 members slain attacker’s family, and delivered demolition notices to 81 houses in Jabal al-Mukabbir under the pretext that they were built without permits.

“Other punitive collective measures have unlawfully been targeting the entire population of Jabal al-Mukabbir, which include the closure of main roads resulting in the disruption of the movement of people and public transport,” the report noted.

“While 2016 witnessed a record number of home demolitions by Israel in the (occupied Palestinian territory), with 1,089 Palestinian-owned structures being demolished displacing 1,593 Palestinians, this increase has also taken place inside Israel itself,” the group highlighted.

“All these oppressive measures by the Israeli authorities on both sides of the Green Line represent different manifestations of the same policy. In Umm al-Hiran the pretext was its status as an 'unrecognized' village; in Qalansawe, Susiya, and Jabal al-Mukabbir they were administrative home demolitions due to lack of building permits, with Jabal al-Mukabbir facing punitive home demolitions as well.”

BADIL went on to argue that “Israel is using different tactics that serve the same purpose of realizing the Zionist goal of ‘maximum amount of land with minimum number of Palestinians.’”

The reported further argued that the recent demolitions in Umm al-Hiran and Qalansawe laid bare “connections between the oppressive Israeli policies against Palestinians living in both the (occupied Palestinian territory) and Israel."

BADIL cautioned that the international community “rarely stressed” the forcible population transfer of Palestinians in both areas, despite the "daily manifestations" of the displacement of Palestinians, regardless of their status as residents of the occupied West Bank or East Jerusalem, or as citizens of Israel.

The group demanded that the international community and relevant United Nations agencies “scrutinize Israel's policies and practices of forced displacement and dispossession of Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line, and to take necessary action in order to put an end to these ongoing violations of the basic rights of Palestinians and central tenets of international law.”
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