Israeli Arabs and supporters of the Beduin community protested in front of the
Knesset on Monday in opposition to the Prawer-Begin plan, which was scheduled to
be presented for its first reading.
The vote ended up being
Israeli-Arab party Balad sent a letter to the ambassadors of
foreign countries calling on them to intervene and stop the demolition of Beduin
homes and the implementation of the government’s Prawer-Begin plan, which seeks
a compromise by legalizing 63 percent of Beduin-claimed land and regulating
their settlement in the Negev.
The letter calls for their governments to
put pressure on the Israeli government to stop “the demolitions and land
confiscations” and to recognize their “ownership of the land.” Balad sent the
missive last week, requesting urgent intervention following the demolition of 18
Beduin structures in Atir-Umm al- Hiran by the government earlier this
According to Balad, the aim of the Prawer-Begin plan is “to expel
our people from their land in the Negev.” The letter states that Atir is one of
the 35 villages in the Negev that the Israeli government refuses to recognize
and that existed before the establishment of the state. In addition, these
villages lack basic services such as water, electricity, schools and medical
clinics, the letter stated.
The Israeli-Arab MKs claimed that the
government intends to replace the confiscated land with Jewish settlements, and
to expand the metropolitan area of Beersheba at the expense of the surrounding
Arab citizens. Their letter also stated that international organizations and the
European Parliament oppose the plan.
Balad MK Haneen Zoabi, in an
interview with The Jerusalem Post, said, “This is not how a normal state or even
a dictatorship treats its citizens because it is very obvious that the aim of
this plan is to expel the Palestinian citizens from their land and develop the
land for the Jewish population.
“This state thinks that the Palestinians
don’t own anything, that they don’t know history. The state acts like we weren’t
here before the state,” she claimed.
Zoabi went on to explain that the
state knows that Arabs own the land and that formal ownership was not normally
practiced before 1948 and during the British Mandate and Ottoman
“We didn’t immigrate to Israel, it was Israel that immigrated to
us,” she said, adding that “it is humiliating” that she now has to prove that
she owns the land. Zoabi further alleged that, despite paying taxes, Arabs are
not receiving services such as water and electricity, and that Israel wants to
expel the Beduin.
According to the Balad MK, this would be the second
such expulsion by the state, as, according to her, it similarly expelled Arabs
Asked by the Post if a compromise is possible, Zoabi replied,
“We can’t compromise. It is about stolen property.”
In response to
a question regarding what will happen if no solution is found and the state
decides to demolish more structures, she retorted, “I don’t think the state is
interested in a massive popular demonstration; [the state] will recalculate its
policies the minute it realizes they are raising the political awareness and
massive popular resistance.
“This is our only option,” she
Sami al-Ali, Balad’s spokesman, told the Post that there were
around 200 people at the protest in front of the Knesset, adding that activities
to support the Beduin are ongoing as they work together with NGOs and other Arab
Ali said that the state needed to negotiate directly with the
Beduin and if the plan is implemented by force, “it will create chaos and
The southern region director of the Regavim
nongovernmental organization, Amichai Yogev, told the Post that the Europeans,
instead of dealing with their own land disputes, are picking on Israel, which he
touted as the most democratic country in the Middle East.
should deal with Syria, Somalia and Rwanda, where people are being killed,” said
Amichai adding, “but what is important for them, whether the Beduin in Israel
get more land.”
Yogev said that Europe's attitude and its funding of NGOs that work against Israel, represented an attack on the legitimacy of the state.
According to him, the Bedouin that are in
Israel expelled other Beduin who were here before them. Therefore, he asked, if
they want the land, why do they not give it back to those tribes who were here
beforehand? “If the land is theirs, why haven’t any of them bought their land?
How come they are the only people in the world who can take land without buying
it?” he asserted.
Since the grandfather of his grandfather arrived in
Israel in 1808, and he lived in Safed and Jerusalem, Yogev concluded by asking
“why [he] can’t today go and claim land there as well?”
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