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UN Criticizes Israel's Plan To Displace Bedouins

By Countercurrents.org

27 July 2013

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has criticized an Israeli plan to demolish dozens of Bedouin villages in the Negev Desert in southern Israel and move up to 40,000 Arab residents to Israeli-built settlements

Media reports said:

Navi Pillay said a bill working its way through the Knesset would wipe out legitimate land claims for the Bedouins. Pillay said: "As citizens of Israel, the Arab Bedouins are entitled to the same rights to property, housing and public services as any other group in Israel. The government must recognize and respect the specific rights of its Bedouin communities, including recognition of Bedouin land ownership claims."

"If this bill becomes law, it will accelerate the demolition of entire Bedouin communities, forcing them to give up their homes, denying them their rights to land ownership, and decimating their traditional cultural and social life in the name of development," said Pillay.

The bill, introduced on July 24, 2013, could pass by the end of July. The bill offers Bedouins limited compensation on the condition that they move to one of seven officially recognized urban Bedouin townships the Israeli government has created. The resettlement plan was approved by the government in January and by the parliament in a first reading in June. Two more votes are expected.

The Negev Desert Bedouins are estimated to number some 170,000, out of 250,000 Israeli Bedouin. The Bedouin make up 12 percent of the Israeli Arab citizenry. Israel built seven official townships for the Bedouin from 1968 to 1989, and about half the Bedouin relocated to them. But about half still live in unrecognized villages and claim land rights to an area of about 60,000 hectares (230 square miles). When Bedouin land claims make it to the Israeli courts, they are usually rejected because the nomadic Bedouin lack documentation and clear title to the land. The Israeli plan call for the relocation of 30,000-40,000 Bedouin, the demolition of about 40 villages and the confiscation of 70,000 hectares of land in the Negev.

Israel says the moves are necessary to provide basic services that many nomadic Bedouins lack. The scattered, unrecognized villages do not have electric, water or sewer hookups, roads are bad and many Bedouins are illiterate. The government has said it would "as much as possible" grant legal status to Negev villages that are currently unrecognized by the authorities if they met minimum population criteria. But those criteria have never been stated.
A cabinet statement has said "most" residents -- who do not currently receive government or municipal services -- would be able to continue living in their homes after the villages are granted legal status.

Earlier, an AFP report said:

Israel police arrested 15 Bedouin at anti-resettlement demonstrators in mid-July. Organizers said the number of protesters in Beersheeba, the southern Negev desert region, Galilee in the north and Jaffa near Tel Aviv could have been in the thousands.

Hundreds of the tribesmen and women marched in the city of Beersheba to protest a government plan to resettle them.

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, which represents Arab communities in Israel, had called for a day of "angry strikes" including demonstrations in 15 cities to denounce the plan.

"We called for a peaceful protest in which more than 1,000 people took part but the police used force. They tried to beat a girl with clubs but when I tried to protect her they beat me up as well," Arab Israeli MP Jamal Zahalka told AFP.

A police official said: "The protesters attacked policemen and three of them were slightly injured".

On the protest, Palestine's Ma’an News Agency said:

Palestinians took to the streets inside the Green Line to demonstrate against Israel’s Prawer Plan. Protesters blocked a key road to Ben Gurion University before being removed by Israeli security forces.

Electronic Intifada, a Palestinian website, mentioned:

The Prawer plan, approved in the Knesset in June, aims to expropriate more than 800,000 pieces of land and expel 30,000 to 50,000 Bedouins from the Negev desert,

“Thirty-five unrecognized villages would also be demolished, culminating in an unnervingly blatant ethnic cleansing campaign that will occur under the nose of the international community. These Palestinian Bedouins will be expelled to one percent of the land,” it added.

Bedouin advocate Khalil Alamour calls the plan a "catastrophe." "They will rip me out of my community," he said.




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