In Israel, a bitter controversy has been raging for several weeks over the government’s decision—finally executed last week—to destroy homes built illegally in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev. Moshe Arens draws some parallels to other happenings in Israel, recent and less recent, and calls for a rethink:
Just connect the dots, from the destruction of the homes of the settlers in Gush Katif more than eleven years ago [during the withdrawal from Gaza] to the destruction of the homes of the Bedouin in Umm al-Hiran last week: destruction that is carried out in the name of the law, and yet causes great human tragedies. You can pencil in a dot if you like for Amona, [a West Bank settlement built in contravention of Israeli law and] destined for destruction by a ruling of the High Court of Justice.
The forcible uprooting of many families from the homes they have lived in for many years causes immeasurable grief, suffering, and sometimes even bloodshed, as was the case in Umm al-Hiran. And all this in the name of the law or a decision of the High Court of Justice, a decision that is at once both verdict and sentence: the homes must be destroyed, regardless of the consequences. . . .
The scenes from Gush Katif may already have receded from our memories, but they were brought back to mind last week. It does not matter that in Gush Katif, Jewish families were being uprooted from their homes while in Umm al-Hiran, it was Bedouin families who were left homeless. In both cases the people affected were Israeli citizens, and the human tragedy is the same. Is there no way to prevent a recurrence of such tragedies?
Possibly the Knesset should consider passing a law that would prevent the destruction of homes that have been occupied by a large number of families for longer than a certain number of years, regardless of land-ownership claims by the state or by individuals, making it mandatory that recognized individual claimants be compensated. This would leave to the courts the decision on recognizing the validity of the claims and the size of the compensation.