Israel’s Bedouin evictions law to re-launch, as
hundreds more homes bulldozed
On 15th March 2014 Hilary and Philip wrote:
We have just returned from a week spent in Israel trying to find out the current position for the Bedouin in the Negev since the so-called “shelving” of the Prawer-Begin plan in December.
We are greatly concerned at what we have learned and it seems imperative at this stage to increase awareness of the situation and bring pressure on the UK Govt to express our concerns, as well as taking whatever action we can to register our awareness and concern direct with Israel or its Embassy in the UK.
Basically we understand that although the Prawer Bill of 2013 may be shelved, the essence of Prawer is forging ahead on the ground with a high number of home demolitions (over 900 a year). The new Minister who has taken over from Begin (the hardliner, Yair Shamir) appears to be preparing a fresh version of policy and law which could be unveiled as early as May when the summer Knesset session begins. Lobbying now while plans are at the formative stage would have the best chance of affecting the situation. It will be too late when the formulated plans are revealed, and indeed a revised Bill could be passed very quickly. The new version of Prawer could easily be worse for the Bedouin than the 2013 Bill.
We spoke with Negev Coexistence Forum in Beersheba and visited a number of Bedouin villages including Al Araqib, Wadi El Naam, Um El Heiran, Alsira, Khasham Zaneh, plus driving through other locations. We had conversations about demolitions, provision of schools, the inadequacy of any consultation process with the authorities, and the history of where the tribes had lived. They explained why they were opposed to moving off the land from their agricultural lifestyle into the proposed townships, and the problems caused by the townships including the detrimental effects on the women, who because of cultural restrictions become virtual prisoners in their homes.
We spoke with Bimkom (Planners for Planning Rights) who in consultation with RCUV (Regional Council for the Unrecognised Villages) and Sidreh (a women’s organization) published in 2012 an alternative plan describing how recognition of the Bedouin villages in their current positions could be achieved. This report has also been endorsed by RHR (Rabbis for Human Rights) but there is no sign of the Israeli authorities being interested to consider it.
The countrywide “Days of Protest” on 30 Nov and 19 Dec 2013 showed the depth of Bedouin/Arab feeling about the discriminatory Prawer Plan and were something of a shock to the authorities, who dealt with them brutally. Land Day – Sun 30 March – may bring the next call for action worldwide?
The UK Foreign Office has said it knows about the Bimkom report and that it continually encourages dialogue between the authorities and the Bedouin. It claims to keep in touch with activists and NGOs, but we have met plenty of representatives who do not have contact, and would be keen to meet with British Embassy staff and brief them (preferably in the Negev, but some would travel to Tel Aviv) .
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