Israeli Arabs to strike against Prawer-Begin plan

Protesters call on gov't to freeze plan, which seeks to regulate Arab settlement in the Negev, for six months.

Beduin women yelling 370 (photo credit: Amir Cohen/Reuters)
Beduin women yelling 370
(photo credit: Amir Cohen/Reuters)
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 entire community.”
Right-wing parties and the NGO Regavim, which has been active in the matter, “don’t want the Beduin to get anything,” he claimed.
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 continued.
“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 law equally.”
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.