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.