Ellwood dismisses demolition of Arab village as ‘planning matter’

Israeli Arabs in the Negev were dismayed last week when the threatened demolition of their village was described in the Commons as a “planning matter”.
“It is a planning matter that we have raised concerns about, “ Middle East Minister Toby Ellwood said at Foreign Office questions.
The Israeli government plans to demolish the entire village of Um Al Hiran so they can build a Jewish village on the same site – possibly as early as next Monday, the day of the Israeli elections.
The minister drew a distinction between the  demolition of Bedouin villlages in the West Bank which was “contrary to international law” and the demolition of villages inside Israel like Um Al Hiran which was “a different matter”.
MPs including Jim Cunningham (Lab), Andy Slaughter (Lab) and Sir Bob Russell (LD) urged him to ask the Israelis to raise the matter before the end of this week.
A court in the Israeli city of Beersheba agreed that the demolition and eviction orders on 500 villagers can go ahead from March 17th.
Village leaders have said that the Israeli settlers are welcome to move to a nearby site and live with them as neighbours, as there is plenty of land in the Negev.
Jim Cunningham MP asked the minister to urge Israel to drop the demolitions and instead let the two villages co-exist side by side in the spirit of peace.
Andy Slaughter MP wrote to the minister asking him to reconsider his answer:  “Replacing an Arab village with a Jewish village is not a planning matter.  The new village of Hiran will occupy exactly the same land as the existing village of Umm Al Hiran. There is no proposed change of use.  The only difference will be that the residents are Jewish and not Arab.”
He pointed out the Israeli government often tries to justify the demolition of Arab villages by saying the land is needed for an army firing range or a forest or a road – which are deliberately located so that Arab villages will need to be demolished.
“What is unusual about Umm Al Hiran is that they plan to put the Jewish settlement in exactly the same spot as an existing Arab village and they even plan to use the same name.  This makes it transparent that there is no genuine planning issue.  It is simply a part of the clearances of Arab villages to make way for Jewish settlements.”
MPs who voted for the motion to recognise Palestine are shown in blue-green, those who did not vote are shown in brown and ministers who were under instructions not to vote in black.
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