The Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, which includes all Arab
political parties and NGOs working with the sector, announced a general strike
in Arab communities for Monday.
Thabet Abu Rass of Adalah, an Arab legal
rights group, told The Jerusalem Post that the strike had been called to protest
the Prawer-Begin plan, which seeks to regulate Arab settlement in the Negev by
legalizing 63 percent of claimed land. The bill has already passed its first
reading in the Knesset.
There will be a demonstration at 10:00 a.m.
outside the Beersheba offices of the committee for regulating the Beduin
villages. Protesters will march there from Ben-Gurion University, stated Haia
Noach, CEO of the Negev Coexistence Forum, which supports the Beduin, in a
statement to the Post.
Abu Rass, who heads Adalah’s Negev branch, told
the Post that “the government of Israel has declared a war on the Beduin and
Arab community.” The land issue “has the potential of inflaming Arab-Jewish
relations in Israel,” he said.
“We are calling on the government to
freeze the plan for six months and start an open dialogue with the Beduin,” he
added, charging that the whole point of the Prawer-Begin plan was to confiscate
Beduin land for Jewish use.
He described the government’s policy as that
of “apartheid,” stating that building Jewish towns on the ruins of Arab villages
was “racism and against Jewish values.”
Asked about illegal Beduin
settlement, Abu Rass acknowledged that there were “some Beduin people breaking
the law,” adding that “the police can take care of them, but you can’t blame the
Right-wing parties and the NGO Regavim, which has been
active in the matter, “don’t want the Beduin to get anything,” he
Ari Briggs, international relations director of Regavim, an NGO
that seeks to ensure responsible, legal and accountable use of Israel’s national
land, told the Post that it was time to bring the rule of law to the Negev. The
strike was just a way for the Beduin and their supporters to “ratchet up
internal pressure on Israel,” he said.
“At the same time they are
increasing their efforts overseas to apply external pressure on Israel,” Briggs
“Their goal – bring Israel to its knees and thus get 100% of
their illegitimate demands,” he said.
The Beduin and their supporters, he
went on, “are trying to use the ‘indigenous’ argument, even though they are not
indigenous, in order to put them above the law. Each person should be judged by the
Briggs added that 2,000 illegal structures were being built
each year in the Negev.
He said these figures were from the Interior
Ministry and had been backed up by Regavim’s research.