Most recently Activestills has been documenting the violent clashes that followed the destruction of Bedouin houses in the unrecognised village of Umm al-Hiran, in the Negev. The residents of the village are originally from Wadi Zubala – a site on which Kibbutz Shoval now sits – but were ordered to move to their current location during the Military Regime era (1948-66). Now, after years of claiming it’s too complicated to connect the village to infrastructure networks (as with 35 other unrecognised Bedouin villages in the south), the government is forcing them to relocate to one of the new townships that have been built to contain them. The move is urgent because the land has already been designated for the establishment of a religious Jewish village, to be named ‘Hiran’, which will, of course, be well connected to electricity, water and transportation. The anger of the local Bedouin population led to clashes with Israeli police, who arrived in great numbers for the eviction, and resulted in two dead: an Israeli policeman and a Bedouin man. The latter, a 47-year-old maths teacher, was shot by police, and then quickly accused of a car-ramming attack and – because they can say whatever they want – membership of IS. Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List alliance (the coalition which represents the vast majority of the Arab community in the Knesset), came to support the local population and was shot in the face and back with ‘sponge coat’ bullets. The Israeli public security minister later accused him of having the blood of the dead policeman ‘on your hands’. According to the police, he was hit by a stone thrown by the demonstrators.
Activestills has documented injustices in the unrecognised villages for almost a decade. On this occasion, photographers spent all night in Umm Al-Hiran. Their pictures tell a very different story to the one given by the Israeli government. They show Odeh bleeding on the ground, Bedouins weeping in front of their destroyed houses, and the disproportionate might of the well-armed police forces. They are keeping their cameras trained on the Israeli administration.