Bedouin activists call for general strike, protests to meet MK Miri Regev and Knesset Interior Committee as they tour areas that will be affected by the Prawer-Begin Plan.
Text by Michael Omer-Man
Photos by Oren Ziv and Yotam Ronen / Activestills.org
(Correction amended below)
As part of its discussions aimed at advancing the Prawer-Begin Plan that would result in the mass displacement of Israel’s Bedouin citizens, the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee toured the Negev desert on Sunday. In formulating the Prawer plan, the Bedouin community was not consulted and an alternative formulated by Bedouin leaders was not considered.
In response, the High Steering Committee of the Arabs of Negev called for a general strike and a protest against Likud MK Miri Regev and the committee she chairs on their tour.
Bedouin and Jewish activists staged a protest at one of the committee’s stops, with some managing to approach and argue with MK Regev. Additionally, stores in the city of Rahat responded to the call for a general strike, shutting their doors for the day, according to activists.
The Prawer-Begin Plan, which passed its first of three readings in the Knesset earlier this year and could become law in the coming months.
Under the plan, the state will evict tens of thousands of Bedouin from their homes and demolish their villages. The displaced citizens will be forcefully resettled in planned towns and cities, many of which are among Israel’s poorest.
In at least one location, Jewish settlers are literally waiting in the woods until they can build their own towns on the ruins of the soon-to-be-demolished Bedouin villages. The Israeli cabinet approved that plan earlier this month.
Bedouin, Arab Israeli and Palestinian community leaders have vowed to resist the Prawer Plan’s implementation, which would be the largest displacement of a Palestinian population by Israel in decades.
On Saturday, activists are planning a ‘day of rage’ against the plan, with demonstrations and marches scheduled to take place across Israel, Palestine, the Middle East and in cities across the world. A similar ‘day of rage’ took place in early August.
Many of the Bedouin who are at risk of expulsion settled in their current locations after they were expelled from other, more fertile locations in the Negev in the late 1940s and early 50s. Jewish Israelis established towns and kibbutzim on those locations, mostly in the western Negev.
Others were settled in their currently location by Israeli military orders.
Ahead of the Interior Committee tour on Sunday, Chairperson of the Unrecognized Villages Regional Council Atia al-Aasam reiterated, “We reject the Prawer bill entirely and we cannot agree to accept such a law that will transfer us from our land and our villages.”
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‘When I look at the Prawer Plan, I see another Nakba’
Correction & amendment:
A previous version of this article stated that MK Regev’s tour did not meet with any Bedouin residents or representatives. A photo and message posted by MK Regev at the end of her tour Sunday evening showed her posing with several Bedouin men. The message, however, attacked Arab MKs by questioning whether they represent the Bedouin population and did not suggest that she sought any input from the Bedouin citizens she met with. The Prawer Plan was formulated without the meaningful input of the Bedouin community or leadership and an alternative plan, proposed by the Bedouin leadership, was not considered by the Israeli government.