Month: February 2015

The Arab village that Israel plans to demolish

Villagers say: ‘Why evict us when we can both live here? There’s plenty of space.’

This is the village that the Israelis plan to demolish in its entirety anytime after the middle of March and replace with a new village on the same site with the same name – Hiran – but with Jewish inhabitants instead of Arabs.

The 500 Arab residents of the village have lived in the village for nearly 60 years and were in fact ordered to move there by the Israeli military commander of the Negev who gave them a lease to build a village, farm the land and graze their sheep.

The village leaders say there is no need to evict them as the Jewish settlers can move onto a site nextdoor. “We are not against them living here, but we want to stay here too and live together with them as neighbours,” says Atwa Abu Alkia’n.

They point out that there is plenty of space – 3¼ million acres – in the Negev and the settlers don’t need to move to the one small acre of land where they have been living since 1956.

Thirty Jewish settler families are currently living in portakabins a couple of kilometers away waiting for the new houses to be built so they can move in.

The Israeli state has made it clear that the new village is for Jewish residents only and the Arabs must move out.

They have put demolition orders on every house in the village and the courts have fixed the middle of March as the date when the demolition orders take effect.

That means the demolition could coincide with the date of the Israeli election on March 17th.

See the village on YouTube:

Only international protest will save the villagers from being evicted

Villagers say only international protests can stop the Israelis from demolishing the village.  While Israelis are focused on the March 17 election, who will stop the bulldozers from demolishing the village of Umm Al Hiran?

This village is in Israel, not the Palestinian Territories. Its residents are full citizens of Israel.  Yet they are treated as though they had no rights, no importance.

At the time of Israel’s war of independence in 1948 the villagers were thrown out of their ancestral village in a more fertile area in the Western Negev to make way for a Jewish kibbutz as part of the drive to “make the desert bloom”.

Eight years later they were forcibly moved again to their present location in the Atir valley in the less fertile northern Negev where they rebuilt their village and called it Um Al Hiran.

“It was a desert with no roads, water, houses or services. We built the village. We invested in the houses, the roads and the water pipes. Life has been tough, but we worked hard to develop this place into a beautiful and wonderful village,” said the village sheikh.

Like all the other “unrecognised” villages in the Negev, they are provided with no mains electricity, no paved roads, no water, no sanitation.  They have to do their best buying water from tankers and using solar panels for intermittent power.

This is not because it is remote. On the contrary, the Jewish owner of a dog-kennel only 800 metres away is provided with all mod cons. The Israelis do this solely to make life difficult for Arab villagers so they will move.

And it is not a question of money. Often if the villagers try to pave the roads, army bulldozers break them up; if they install water pipes, they are disconnected; if they build stone houses, they are demolished. The Israelis want the buildings to look temporary, ramshackle, worthless.

This makes it easier for the Israelis to sustain the myth that the villagers are Bedouin nomads who originate from other countries. In fact, while they are all proud of their Bedouin heritage, it is historically verifiable that their families have lived in the Negev for hundreds of years.

And while a few of the villagers are still engaged in the traditional Bedouin occupation of sheep-farming, Umm Al Hiran also has lawyers, teachers and doctors among its 500 residents.

A few weeks ago the leader of the Jewish settlers came and drank coffee with the villagers to ask them, disingenuously, why they were trying to block plans for the new Jewish village in the courts.

Salim Abu Alkia’n, Atwa’s brother, explained patiently: “To all the Jewish people who want to live in this town I say that people are already living in this town. We have been living here for 60 years and, even if they demolish our homes, we will stay here forever.”

Israelis can be excused for not knowing about the village, as it does not appear on Israeli maps.  Even when the National Council for Planning and Building approved plans for a new Jewish town on the site in 2010, they submitted a map to the planning committee that made no reference to the fact that there was already an Arab village on the land.

When they applied for demolition orders, they claimed the buildings “had been discovered” by an inspection patrol and they had been “unable to identify or reach the people who owned the houses”.

When they applied for eviction orders, they described the villagers as “trespassers” squatting illegally on state land and the magistrate had to point out that they had lived on the land for years with the state’s knowledge and consent.


Statement on 25th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release

Time to free Palestine’s Marwan Barghouthi, the new Mandela, after 20 years in jail

On this day we should remember Nelson Mandela who was released from prison 25 years ago on February 11th 1990.
We should also remember Marwan Barghouthi, the Palestinian leader who has been held in Israeli jails for 20 years.  Like Mandela, he is the leader who could come out of prison, unite all the factions, win the presidency, negotiate a peace settlement, put it to his people, win their support and then preside over a process of truth and reconciliation in a newly independent country.
Instead he sits in Cell 28 of Hadarim Prison near the Mediterranean resort of Herzliya knowing that his release can only be the result of the kind of international campaign that succeeded, all those years ago, in freeing Nelson Mandela.
We appeal to all supporters of an independent Palestinian state to support the International Campaign to Free Marwan Barghouthi and All Palestinian Prisoners ( and join with campaigns in France, Italy and other European countries to mark the anniversary of his abduction and arrest on April 15th 2015.

Time to remember Mandela’s release and demand Marwan’s freedom

by Ahmed Kathrada, who spent 26 years in apartheid jails, Founder of the Free Mandela Campaign, & Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, former political prisoner under the dictatorship in Argentina

On this day, 25 years ago, the world finally saw Mandela’s smile and his defiant fist raised to the skies. Free at last…free at last. Mandela’s release marked the start of a new era and was the first real sign that apartheid was close to its end.
There was still everything to do, but the apartheid government signaled through the release of Mandela and other anti-apartheid prisoners its readiness to engage in serious dialogue towards freedom, peace, reconciliation and coexistence.
While we celebrate this historical event that changed durably the face of South Africa and the world, we are reminded of the fate of another symbol of freedom: Marwan Barghouthi. Marwan’s path tremendously resembles Mandela’s. They both founded the youth branch of their political movements, drew their legitimacy from their activism on the ground and their central role in building a mass uprising against oppression.
They both were leaders at the moment of their arrest, and transformed into national and universal symbols while in detention. They both boycotted their courts and pleaded the case of their people rather than their own. While insisting on the right of their people to resist oppression, including through armed struggle, they both strongly advocated mass popular peaceful resistance to achieve freedom. They also both demonstrated an unbelievable capacity to be unitarian figures among their own, while engaging in dialogue with the other.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Mandela’s release, and the 20th year that Marwan spends behind bars, including the last 13 years consecutively. In October 2013, an international campaign was launched from Nelson Mandela’s cell on Robben Island for the freedom of Marwan and all Palestinian political prisoners. We decided to set up, on this occasion, an International High Level Committee for the release of Marwan and all prisoners, as we ourselves, have experienced international solidarity in support of our freedom, and the freedom of our companions in struggle. Such international campaigns send a powerful message: our imprisonment entails a significant political and moral cost for the forces of oppression.
When we talk of political imprisonment, the Palestinian example is clearly the most significant and shocking of all. 800 000 Palestinians have been imprisoned at some point of their lives. Many Palestinians have spent over 25 or 30 years in prison. No one is immune; children, women, MPs and human rights defenders continue to languish in Israeli jails.
The anti-apartheid struggle became an emblematic reflection of the battle for freedom and human rights worldwide. Apartheid was considered as one of the worst manifestations of oppression and injustice. What conflict can today symbolise the struggle for freedom against oppression, of right over might, of justice against impunity, more than the Palestinian struggle? Israel’s colonial and discriminatory policies, both in the occupied territory, and within its own borders, are a clear demonstration that we are witnessing the rebirth of apartheid, a prospect none of us should tolerate.
By launching the Free Marwan and all Palestinian Prisoners campaign, inspired by the Free Mandela campaign, we are not only taking a strong stance against this occupation and what it inflicts upon the Palestinian people, but we are also testifying our belief that the Palestinian struggle is the legitimate prolongation of the anti-apartheid struggle and that the freedom of Marwan and of all Palestinian prisoners is the necessary prelude to the freedom of the Palestinian people.
We will one day celebrate the release of Marwan. And the world will discover his smile, and his defying fist, which will transform into an open hand ready to shake the hand of the future and work for peace, as soon as Israel manifests its intention to end its occupation, not further entrench it. All our victories over oppression, racism, discrimination, segregation and apartheid must combine to ensure the triumph of freedom and dignity in Palestine, and peace based on international law.
Note: The International Committee for the freedom of Marwan Barghouthi and all Palestinian prisoners regroups Nobel Peace Prize laureates, former political leaders, human rights figures and former political prisoners including the signatories of this text and Angela Davis, US civil rights movement icon, as well as the late U Win Tin, leader of the struggle for freedom in Burma. See more at
Marwan Barghouthi



Barghouthi’s tribute to Mandela; Robben Island Declaration; Foreword by Yahya
Idris; Marwan’s Story as told by Fadwa Barghouthi to Martin Linton; 32pp

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Palestine Briefing
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