Beduin protest 311 R.
(photo credit: Amir Cohen/Reuters))
A delegation from the Beduin community will visit the United States next week to rally government
officials, religious congregations and members of the public against the Israeli
government’s cabinet-approved plan to relocate about 30,000 residents to
The visiting team of four will visit Chicago,
Washington and New York, and includes Dr. Thabet Abu Ras, director of the
Negev Project at Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel;
Rawia Abu Rabia, an attorney for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel;
Hanan Al-Sana from the Sidreh women’s weaving organization in Lakiya; and Michal
Rotem, from the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality.
two-week trip is sponsored entirely by the US nonprofit Telos Group and its
Project Engage, which seeks to educate Americans about the Middle East and bring
about a realistic peace in the region, Ras told The Jerusalem Post
“We will meet congressmen and also people from different fait
communities – churches, synagogues – and different media outlets,” Ras said. “We
are trying to influence the general public in the United States, mainly the
Jewish community, [in hopes that they will] influence the Israeli government to
stop the Prawer Plan and open a dialogue with the Beduin community.”
cabinet’s plan, which is based on two years of preparation by Ehud Prawer,
director of planning and policy in the Prime Minister’s Office, would transfer
approximately twothirds of the current rural Negev Beduin population to new
homes within the recognized Abu Basma Regional Council and to areas within the
Prawer became responsible for proposing an executable
plan based on previous recommendations concerning Beduin development made by
retired Supreme Court justice Eliezer Goldberg.
In addition to relocating
much of the population to new homes, the government would also be committed to
funding NIS 1.2 billion worth of economic growth in the Beduin
While the government has argued that the plans will bring
about a much smoother integration of the Beduin population into Israeli society,
many from the community itself have expressed extreme dissatisfaction,
particularly because they felt they were not involved in the process.
want to raise the awareness toward the status of the Beduin in the Negev and we
want Americans to know more about the way they are living and the discrimination
that they are facing by the government,” Rabia told the Post. “I would expect
that beyond raising awareness, we will also try and influence governmental
officials and others to know more about the Prawer Plan and the crucial issues
that Beduins face.”
Rabia said that while the four team members will be
targeting Jewish community leaders for support, they will also be visiting with
Arab-Americans and law school students, as well as members of
Rotem, who joined the Negev Coexistence Forum just over a year
ago, added that her organization has been a “key actor” in what she called an
ongoing “joint struggle.”
“My main motivation to participate in this
delegation is to further expose Americans to the Arab-Jewish joint struggle for
equality and justice that is currently happening in the Negev and across
Israel,” Rotem said. “It is important to me to emphasize the fact that it is not
only the Beduin who object to the Prawer Plan."
“A considerable number of
Jewish people stand in solidarity with the Beduin and are vehemently opposed to
the discriminatory and racist policies of this present government. As a
young Jewish activist fighting for equality in the Negev, I believe we should do
everything we can to prevent the Prawer Plan from being implemented.”
American-Jewish community will play a particularly important role in swaying the
Knesset against the cabinet’s decision, according to Ras.
“I think the
Jewish community can help us,” he said.
“Being a minority in the US has
made this community very sensitive, and the Jewish community is very involved in
politics. If they care about Israel they should stand for democratic
Israel more than anything else.”
To that effect, in addition to meeting
with Jewish religious leaders, the team will also be speaking with
representatives from J-Street, Ras explained.