Activists protest plan to ‘expel’ Beduin from Negev

Israeli-Arab party Balad calls on foreign countries to intervene and stop the demolition of Beduin homes.

May 28, 2013 01:03
4 minute read.
DEMONSTRATORS AGAINST Prawer-Begin plan outside Knesset, May 28, 2013

DEMONSTRATORS AGAINST Prawer-Begin plan outside Knesset 370. (photo credit: (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

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 delayed.

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 month.

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 periods.

“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 in 1948.

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 said.

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 parties.

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 possibly violence.”

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.

“Instead, they 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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