Neve Gordon

The residents of the unrecognised Bedouin village Umm Al-Hiram, in the Israeli Negev, have finally accepted defeat. Within a couple of months, they will give up their land and move to a nearby Bedouin town. After their houses are demolished, West Bank settlers will establish a new Jewish-only village in their place.

Several houses in Umm Al-Hiran have already been destroyed and a villager was killed by Israeli police during one demolition last year. So the inhabitants understood that the government meant business when it notified them in March that all of their houses would be razed to the ground if they did not relocate by the end of April. After a fifteen-year struggle, the residents grudgingly gave in and signed a relocation agreement similar to the one they had rejected for over a decade.

On 11 April, the Authority for Development and Settlement of the Bedouin in the Negev, which operates under Israel’s minister of agriculture and rural development, published an announcement on Facebook:

Agreement Reached: Umm Al-Hiran Residents Will Leave Voluntarily

An agreement was signed between the Bedouin Development and Settlement Authority in the Negev and the residents of Umm al-Hiran, according to which they will voluntarily move to neighbourhood 12 in Hura [a Bedouin town] … About 170 residents (adults) signed a voluntary evacuation agreement in the last 24 hours, as determined by the High Court of Justice and in accordance with its instructions, and will move … to the lots in neighbourhood 12 in Hura, which is intended for voluntary evacuees …

The director general of the Bedouin Development and Settlement Authority, Yair Maayan, praised the agreement and said: 'I congratulate the residents of Umm al-Hiran who have lived in this location for decades and praise the leaders of Umm al-Hiran who have exhibited responsible behaviour that will benefit all of the residents. The voluntary evacuation agreement and the relocation of the residents to neighbourhood 12 in Hura, that was developed specifically for them, will enable them to continue living together and to enjoy the new neighbourhood’s high-quality infrastructure and quality of living.'

The voluntary evacuation of the residents of Umm al-Hiran is expected to begin soon and to be completed by August this year.

The incessant repetition of the word 'voluntary' undoubtedly reflects a certain anxiety, but it also exposes how Zionism writes its own history.

At school, I was taught that during the 1948 war the estimated 750,000 Palestinians who either fled or were forced across international borders, and whose descendants are still living in refugee camps, did so at the bidding of Arab leaders, willingly. There were no mass evictions, no ethnic cleansing, no violence, only volunteers. Not much has changed under the sun. Even as Palestinians commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Nakba this month, mass evictions are still being framed as the relocation of the willing.


  • 2 May 2018 at 3:08am
    Fred Skolnik says:
    Israel’s attempts to urbanize a semi-nomadic Bedouin population that traditonally does not respect boundaries and poaches wherever it wants to, on both state and private land, is no different from the effort being made by Arab countries throughout the Middle East to solve the problem. How wisely Israel deals with specific cases may be debated but there is certainly nothing as nefarious about it as your writer wishes to make it seem. We’ll see what a hero he is when they set up their tents in his back yard.

  • 2 May 2018 at 3:12am
    Fred Skolnik says:
    He would also like to make it appear that all 700,000 Arabs were expelled in 1948 and that none fled, whether encouraged by their leaders or in an effort to escape the war zone. This is of course a falsehood and he knows it:

    1. Research reported by the Arab-sponsored Institute for Palestine Studies in Beirut. . . .“the majority” of the Arab refugees in 1948 “were not expelled,” and “68%” left without seeing an Israeli soldier.”

    2. Report in Jaffa newspaper Ash Sha’ab, January 30, 1948.“The first of our fifth column consists of those who abandon their houses and businesses and go to live elsewhere….At the first signs of trouble they take to their heels to escape sharing the burden of struggle.”

    3. Jamal Husseini, Acting Chairman of the Palestine Arab Higher Committee, speaking to the United Nations Security Council. Quoted in the UNSC Official Records (N. 62), April 23, 1948, p. 14.”The Arabs did not want to submit to a truce they rather preferred to abandon their homes, their belongings and everything they possessed in the world and leave the town. This is in fact what they did.”

    4. From a memorandum by The Arab National Committee in Haifa to the Arab League Governments. 27 April 1948.”… when the delegation entered the conference room it proudly refused to sign the truce and asked that the evacuation of the Arab population and their transfer to neighboring Arab countries be facilitated.”

    5. Jordanian daily newspaper Falistin, Feb 19, 1949.”The Arab states which had encouraged the Palestinian Arabs to leave their homes temporarily in order to be out of the way of the Arab invasion armies, have failed to keep their promise to help these refugees.”

  • 2 May 2018 at 3:19am
    Fred Skolnik says:
    And a few more examples:

    Radio broadcast by the Near East Arabic Broadcasting Station, Cyprus. April 3 1949.”It must not be forgotten that the Arab Higher Committee encouraged the refugees’ flight from their homes in Jaffa, Haifa, and Jerusalem.”

    Statement by the Arab National Committee of Haifa in memorandum to the Arab States, April 27, 1950. Cited by Peter Dodd and Halim Barakat, “River Without Bridges. – A Study of the Exodus of the 1967Arab Palestinian Refugees”. Beirut 1969. p. 43.”The removal of the Arab inhabitants … was voluntary and was carried out at our request … The Arab delegation proudly asked for the evacuation of the Arabs and their removal to the neighboring Arab countries…. We are very glad to state that the Arabs guarded their honour and traditions with pride and greatness.”

    Report by Habib Issa in Lebanese newspaper, Al Hoda, June 8, 1951.”The Secretary-General of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, assured the Arab peoples that the occupation of Palestine and Tel Aviv would be as simple as a military promenade. He pointed out that they were already on the frontiers and that all the millions the Jews had spent on land and economic development would be easy booty, for it would be a simple matter to throw Jews into the Mediterranean.“Brotherly advice was given to the Arabs of Palestine to leave their land, homes and property and to stay temporarily in neighboring fraternal states, lest the guns of the invading Arab armies mow them down.”

    Nimr el Hawari, the Commander of the Palestine Arab Youth Organization, in his book Sir Am Nakbah (The Secret Behind the Disaster, published in Nazareth in 1955), quoted the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Said as saying”We will smash the country with our guns and obliterate every place the Jews seek shelter in. The Arabs should conduct their wives and children to safe areas until the fighting has died down.”

    Not to mention the fact that an equal number of Jews were displaced from Arab countries in the war period and lost everything they had.

  • 2 May 2018 at 8:52am
    Graucho says:
    Three pieces from Fred ? I think Mr. Gordon has touched a nerve.
    "We’ll see what a hero he is when they set up their tents in his back yard." Never mind tents, how about a whole settlement town in one's backyard.

    • 2 May 2018 at 9:04am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Graucho
      Slander and gratuitous vilification always touch a nerve. You never have anything of substance to say, do you. Just snide comebacks. I have addressed the settlement issue more than once but I'll gladly give you another three pieces if that's what you want.

    • 2 May 2018 at 11:20am
      Joe Morison says: @ Fred Skolnik
      “Slander and gratuitous vilification always touch a nerve” quite, but earlier you wrote of “a semi-nomadic Bedouin population that traditonally does not respect boundaries and poaches wherever it wants to”. That certainly sounds like slander and gratuitous vilification to me. Who set the boundaries that the Bedouin ‘traditionally’ ignore? Who determined that taking game from traditional hunting grounds is suddenly theft?

    • 2 May 2018 at 11:38am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Joe Morison
      Sovereign states set the boundaries and privately owned livestock is not game, nor is stealing it legal. You are confusing the Bedouin with the American Indians. Bedouin are not hunters and they don't have hunting grounds. Negev Bedouin are citizens of Israel and have to abide by its laws. In actual fact, Israel is making great efforts to solve an acute problem and accommodating the Bedouin as much as possible.

    • 2 May 2018 at 6:24pm
      Fantome says: @ Fred Skolnik
      "In actual fact, Israel is making great efforts to solve an acute problem and accommodating the Bedouin as much as possible."

      The JNF, who planted more than two-thirds of its celebrated forests on top of demolished Palestinian villages, have spent much of the last few years campaigning for mass relocation of the Negev Bedouin. Letting a state do your thinking for you is pretty inadvisable regardless of the state in question.

    • 2 May 2018 at 7:23pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Fantome
      I've already explained the necessity of regulating Bedouin settlement in the Negev.

    • 3 May 2018 at 5:37am
      Joe Morison says: @ Fred Skolnik
      My mistake. Who was it who decided that the lands they traditionally grazed their herds on were no longer available for them to use? Who was it who decided that they are now 'citizens of Israel' and have to abide by her laws? You paint them as outlaws. They see you as interlopers who have stolen their land. They have the continuity of possession, you have the promises of a fictional being; who has the most right on their side?

      I absolutely defend Israel's right to exist. Its creation may have been a crime, but no more so than the creation of any other state and a lot less so than most (it is its recentness that makes it feel so sore). However, it is actions like this that make decent people around the world hate the policies of this Israeli government, which in far too many cases becomes hatred of Israel itself; your mealy-mouthed defence which so casually denigrates the Bedouin and so easily dismisses their grievances only makes the problem worse. You think you're defending Israel but you're only stoking the anger against her.

    • 3 May 2018 at 6:41am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Joe Morison
      You're still a little mixed up. Everyone has to obey the laws of the country they live in, whether citizens or not, and it is the Bedouin themselves who opted to become citizens of Israel and also receive all its benefits, such as medical coverage, welfare payments, etc.

      There is obviously going to be a cultural clash between a modern, organized state and a traditional tribal society. I have made it very clear what the problem is. How Israel deals with the problem is not precisely what "stokes anger" because all the countries in the Middle East are dealing with the problem in the same way and no one cares, so what you are saying is just a load of crap.

  • 2 May 2018 at 10:10am
    Graucho says:
    "You never have anything of substance to say", Substance ? The bricks and mortar the Likud have put down and continue to put down in order to cement their grip on power are substantial enough.

    • 2 May 2018 at 10:50am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Graucho
      You're not being coherent. Metaphors aren't going to get the Palestinians a state, and neither are people like yourself.

    • 2 May 2018 at 12:10pm
      Graucho says: @ Fred Skolnik
      Actions speak louder than words, certainly louder than the various quotes that appear in your contributions. The actions of the Likud speak to the fact that the last thing they want is a Palestinian state. Their policies are all too coherent. Personally I have no interest in whether the Palestinians get a state or not, only in challenging spurious self justifications for bad behaviour.

    • 2 May 2018 at 12:26pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Graucho
      But you are not challenging anything. You are just popping up from time to time with a quip or two that has absolutely nothing behind it. I am here and I am observing the Likud a little more closely and a little more knowledgeably than you are capable of, and I can say that nothing has been done or undone that would prevent the Palestinians from returning to the negotiating table along general lines that have been understood by everyone for 25 years now. You are confusing rhetoric and English-language newspaper headlines with reality.

    • 2 May 2018 at 12:38pm
      Graucho says: @ Fred Skolnik
      So East Jerusalem is going to be handed back? I missed that. Nothing has been done to prevent the Palestinians returning to the negotiating table, everything has been done to make it a complete waste of their time.

    • 2 May 2018 at 12:44pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Graucho
      What you missed is that the issue is not East Jerusalem but the Old City. In negotiations, each side can state its positions and that is what will be negotiated. Your evaluation of what is possible or worthwhile has very little meaning or value.

    • 2 May 2018 at 5:18pm
      Graucho says: @ Fred Skolnik
      Each time you try to make the case for Israel, the Likud does something to undo it. Shooting demonstrators with live ammunition is just the latest in a long series of actions that keep losing Israel friends and sympathy.

    • 2 May 2018 at 7:14pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Graucho
      Uninformed eople who have never seen an Arab mob in action but hate the State of Israel, if not worse, are eager to buy into the idyllic fiction that the Gaza demonstrators are flower children quietly singing antiwar songs with a few oldtime spirituals thrown in as well. The Gaza demonstrations were organized by Hamas with the declared aim of overrunning the border and marching on Jerusalem. Most of the demonstrators are Hamas activists. The demonstrations have been accompanied by rock throwing, Molotov cocktails, gunfire, and attempts to lay explosive charges at the security fence and even to fly burning kites into Israel to set fields on fire. 30-40,000 hysterical Arabs allowed to advance on soldiers or civilians is an immediate danger to life and limb and reason enough for Israeli soldiers to use live ammunition to stop them, because if they didn't, anyone in their path would be torn to pieces. If Israel was firing indiscriminately, hundreds if not thousands would already be dead. The fire is directed at the Hamas ringleaders and other hotheads in the vanguard of the demonstrations. It is inevitable that "innocent" or unarmed individuals are going to be hit. The remedy is to keep their distance within the parameters laid down by Israel. In the meanwhile, Hamas has made the "mistake" of posting photos of its fighters in full battle dress who were killed in the clashes, and duly rebuked by its supporters for giving the game away.

    • 2 May 2018 at 11:03pm
      Graucho says: @ Fred Skolnik
      Last time I looked 45 demonstrators had been killed and a large number seriously injured. On the other hand, to my knowledge, no Israelis were killed. If it's all the same to you I'll stay informed by the data and you can stay informed by Likud's spin. Anyway, the point of the blog was that use of the word volunteer by the Likud is disingeneous to say the least. Given their bloody and ruthless record in dealing with non Jews who get in their way the author is spot on.

    • 3 May 2018 at 3:44am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Graucho
      No Israelis were killed precisely because the Israeli army prevented the demonstrators from going on a rampage. And by the way, the Likud doesn't tell the army how to contain riots. And whatever the point of the blog, it's you who get onto another track Whenever one of your uninformed assertions explodes in your face. You've now jumped from Bedouin in the Negev to East Jerusalem to demonstrations in Gaza.

  • 3 May 2018 at 7:22am
    Graucho says:
    So, I am informed by Fred, if the Bedouin had protested they would have been faced with an army given carte blanche.

    • 3 May 2018 at 7:46am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Graucho
      You're talking nonsense. They did protest and no one gives the army carte blanche.

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