Israel scraps Prawer Plan to evict 40,000 Bedouins
13th December 2013
Israel's Knesset has withdrawn a controversial Bill that would have expelled over 40,000 Bedouion citizens of Israel from their homes in the Negev desert.
Dozens of Bedouin villages remain unrecognized by the Israeli government, lacking basic infrastructure such as water, sewage, and electricity.
Former minister Benny Begin, a co-architect of the plan with Ehud Prawer, has announced that "the prime minister accepted my advice to delay bringing the Bill on the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev to a Knesset vote ...
"Several days ago, the chairman of the Knesset coalition announced that there is not a majority supporting the bill in its present form."
The surprise move follows worldwide criticism of the Plan which has widely been branded as "racist" against Israel's Arab minority.
Its effect would have been to forcibly displace tens of thousands of Bedouin citizens living in 'unrecognized villages' in the Negev desert in the south of Israel, and move them into specially built towns. The land would then have been made available for occupation by Jewish settlers.
According to an Avaaz petition against the Plan which gained 15,000 signatures, the Bill would have dispossessed the Bedouin of their property and historical rights to the land, destroyed the social fabric of their communities, and condemned thousands of families to lives of poverty and chronic unemployment.
The petition also calls on Israel to "recognize the Arab Bedouin 'unrecognized' villages and ancestral land claims, cease home demolitions, provide basic services, and engage in meaningful dialogue with the Arab Bedouin community and the Arab political leadership."
Some protests against the Bill have turned violent. At one 'Bedouin Day of Rage' demonstration of 1,500 people at Hura junction in the Negev two weeks ago, 15 police officers were injured and 40 protestors were arrested amid credible accusations of extreme police brutality.
Alissa Wise of Jewish Voice for Peace, once of the organizations opposing the Prawer Plan, said: "The recent demonstrations on both sides of the Green Line, and throughout the world, succeeded in raising enough doubt about this plan to help take it off the table." But she warns that the Bill's withdrawal does not yet represent a victory.
"This does not mean the Bedouin communities in the Negev will be treated as equal citizens, or hooked up to the basic services they require, or have their ancestral land claims will be recognized.
"Dozens of Bedouin villages remain unrecognized by the Israeli government, lacking basic infrastructure such as water, sewage, and electricity, and Bedouins continue to be forbidden from building, buying or selling a home, receiving full government services, or running for or voting in local government elections.
"Many Bedouin homes and villages are still slated for demolition - and the village of Al-Araqib has already been demolished over 60 times."
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