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Campaign to rebuild Palestinian community in Umm al-Hiran begins

Jan. 28, 2017 6:42 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 29, 2017 11:24 P.M.)
NEGEV (Ma'an) -- Two donated mobile homes were delivered to the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the southern Negev region of Israel on Saturday afternoon, ten days after Israeli authorities demolished more than a dozen structures in the community belonging to Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Eight homes and seven agricultural structures were razed to the ground in Umm al-Hiran on Jan. 18, hours after locals, activists, and Palestinian members of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, gathered to resist the evacuation, sparking clashes with Israeli police that left two people killed under widely contested circumstances.

Leadership from Palestinian-majority villages in the Wadi Ara region in northern Israel donated one mobile home, while the other was donated by the Arab Lawyers Union after representatives of the union visited Umm al-Hiran and initiated a campaign on social media platform WhatsApp, raising 25,000 shekels (approximately $6,625), according to local sources.

A third mobile home donated by residents of the city of Jaffa in central Israel is also expected to arrive on Sunday.

The Steering Committee of Arabs in Negev had called for rebuilding the destroyed houses on Friday, reiterating calls made by High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel that announced it would raise the funds to rebuild homes in Umm al-Hiran, as well as for Palestinian homes demolished in the central Israeli city of Qalansawe earlier this month.

In the wake of the demolitions, protests have occurred throughout Israel and the occupied West Bank.

Bethlehem-based NGO BADIL has meanwhile argued in a report that the “oppressive measures” carried out in Umm al-Hiran were part of the same Israeli policy of forcible displacement carried out against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“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 said.

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 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.”

On Wednesday, leadership of the Palestinian community in Israel, including a number of Knesset members of the Arab Joint List coalition, met with with 28 ambassadors from European countries to discuss the "recent uptick in tension" between Palestinian citizens of Israel and the Israeli government in the wake of the demolitions.

Knesset member Yousif Jabareen, the head of the Joint List's International Relation Committee, said the meeting highlighted that the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens was planning an international day of support for the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, scheduled for the end of this month.

During the meeting, Palestinian leadership "emphasized discriminatory and alienating policies and practices directed towards Arab citizens," Jabareen wrote in a press release, when "They called on the (European) ambassadors to pressure the Israeli government to ensure equal rights for Arabs as citizens and as a national minority."

The European diplomats meanwhile vowed to bring these issues up in discussions with their home governments as well as in meetings with the Israeli government, according to Jabareen.
Israeli police raid Umm al-Hiran to carry out demolitions on Jan. 18
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