The international community has finally taken notice of the Israel government's plan to evict 40,000 Bedouin citizens from their ancestral land in the Negev desert--and they're not taking it lightly.
On 24 June, the Israeli Knesset (legislature) held its first reading for the controversial "Bill on the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev,” a piece of legislation that outlines the framework for implementing the equally controversial Prawer-Begin plan.
Mirroring the original Prawer Plan, the Prawer-Begin plan aims to solve the so-called "Bedouin problem" in the Negev desert by stripping the Bedouin population of their historical land rights and their property rights, and forcibly relocating them to official government-supported village areas.
"Like Prawer, the Begin Plan is also based on an erroneous assumption that views the Bedouin as “squatters,” ignoring the fact that most of the villages have been in existence in their current location since before the establishment of the State of Israel," comments the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI). "Other villages were established by coercive transfer during the period of martial law. Like its precursor, the current plan also seeks to restrict the Bedouin to a specific area and to forcibly apply this policy."
Despite the Begin Plan's clear violation of the Bedouin's basic rights, the proposed bill passed its first reading by a majority of 43 to 40.
During the Knesset reading, some Arab ministers tore up copies of the proposed bill to demonstrate their opposition.
Since then, global opposition to both the Begin Plan and the new Bill has grown exponentially, with dozens of organizations speaking out against the legislative assault, from the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign to The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) in Brussels to Independent Jewish Voices Canada.
Jewish Voice for Peace organized an online campaign urging Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren to use his “influence to warn Knesset members from taking further steps forward, while there is still time to avoid this human rights catastrophe.” Since doing so, more than 15,000 emails have been sent to Ambassador Oren.
The UK Parliament spoke out in support of the Bedouin as well, along with Jordan's House of Representatives which described the Prawer-Begin Plan as "another Nakba [catastrophe]".
It was also announced yesterday that an official complaint against the Plan has been sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon by Palestinian authorities.
With most of this taking place over the last few days, opposition to the proposed legislation is expected to continue growing until the State of Israel abandons the legislative plan.
It is hoped, however, that the State will take things even further by formally recognizing the basic rights of all Bedouin men, women and children.
As recommended by the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, "the state should be making a concerted effort to settle the land claims and recognize the Bedouin’s historic rights to their lands", rather than trying to advance such a problematic bill.
"Instead of unilaterally imposing an arrangement, the community’s needs must be fully taken into account so as to ensure that their rights to property and equality are fully protected, and in order to ensure an appropriate and just relationship between the Arab citizens of the state and the state institutions – as well as Israeli society on the whole.
"In addition, the unique agricultural nature of the villages must be take into account, along with the Bedouin’s patterns for settlement, land ownership and family and social customs."
That's all the Bedouin want.