Socialist MEP from Belgium hold anti-Israel event over Beduin policy

Israeli diplomat slams panel for exploiting Beduin as a Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment tactic against Israel.

Seminar on Beduins in Brussels 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Seminar on Beduins in Brussels 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
BERLIN – The Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament on Thursday prevented an Israeli official from participating in panel discussion on the Israeli Beduin community, which degenerated into a anti-Israel hate festival, Israeli diplomats said.
Véronique De Keyser, a socialist MEP from Belgium, led the seminar sponsored by the group titled “Beduin in the Naqab/Negev: Dreams and Nightmare.”
David Saranga, head of Israel’s European Parliament Liaison Department Mission to the European Union in Brussels, told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday evening that during the event, organizers displayed a poster saying: “Stop Prawer-Begin Plan, no ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Beduin.”
He criticized the panel for exploiting the Beduin as a Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment tactic against Israel.
In a letter to European Parliament President Martin Schulz and Socialist group President Hannes Swoboda, Israeli Ambassador to the EU David Walzer wrote: “It is unacceptable that a poster accusing Israel of ‘ethnic cleansing’ toward the Beduin population in the Negev was used during the event hosted by the S&D Group. Europeans and Israelis are fully aware of the possible consequences of the irresponsible use of such words. I hope that you would agree with us that this is certainly not the best way to handle a constructive dialogue on ‘the state of play of the Prawer-Begin Plan.’” Israel plans to develop the Negev for new residential communities and military bases. The Prawer- Begin Plan seeks to regulate Arab settlement in the Negev by legalizing ownership to 63 percent of land claimed by Beduin, to compensate them with land and cash and work to improve their standard of living.
Schulz has not issued a response.
The S&D Group rejected the full participation in the seminar of Doron Almog, director of the Directorate for Economic and Community Development of the Negev Beduin in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Almog and Kamel Abu Nadi, a representative of the Bedouin community, addressed a separate panel on the same day sponsored by the Delegation for Relations with Israel in the European Parliament. They provided first-hand information concerning the Prawer-Begin bill and its ramifications.
Saranga told the Post, “Unfortunately, the organizers [of the Socialists’ seminar] systematically rejected our many requests to host an Israeli official as a speaker.
“They only agreed to give Mr. Almog the floor for five minutes during the debate. This is not certainly not the way to handle a dialogue.
All this makes me fear that the real objective of this seminar is not to improve the living conditions of the Israeli Beduin but rather to cynically exploit this crucial issue to bash again Israel. This is certainly not the best way to conduct a constructive dialogue,” Saranga said.
The overwhelming majority of Beduin support the plan and only a small percentage are against, he said.
Everyone who wanted to know the position of Israeli on Beduin came to the event organized by the Delegation for Relations with Israel, and the “number of MEPs and staff who attended our event was bigger” than for the discussion organized by De Keyser, Saranga said.
De Keyser, vice chairman of the S&D Group, was slammed by socialists in Belgium for her decision to visit President Bashar Assad in September. Belgium newspaper Le Soir quoted the spokesman of her party saying it in no way endorsed her trip. Meeting Assad granted him legitimacy and was incomprehensible, he added.