Jewish establishment stays silent on Israeli plan to forcibly displace Bedouins

ActivismIsrael/PalestineUS Politics
on 20 Comments
Jewish Voice for Peace members protest against the Prawer Plan in Boston. (Photo: JVP-Boston)

Jewish Voice for Peace members protest against the Prawer Plan in Boston. (Photo: JVP-Boston)

The heavy-hitters in the American Jewish community usually march in lockstep with the Israeli government. But many organizations that comprise the American Jewish establishment have gone silent over the Prawer Plan, the Israeli government’s initiative to uproot tens of thousands of Bedouin Arabs, relocate them to urban areas and build new Jewish areas on top of demolished villages.

The Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs have issued no statements on the Prawer Plan, in contrast to their numerous statements in support of Israel on the peace process and Iran. The major umbrella group representing American Jewish groups, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, has also not commented on the initiative. The silence has held even in the wake of major protests against the plan throughout Israel/Palestine, which thrust the issue into the mainstream and Jewish media in the U.S.

The Jewish Council on Public Affairs has had two phone briefings on the plan, though: one with Benny Begin, a government official responsible for pushing the plan forward, and another by members of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which opposes the plan. The Jewish Federations of North America has held events on the Negev, where the Bedouin villages slated to be demolished are located, and their partners have funded a variety of initiatives for the region, including efforts to promote Bedouin employment. The Anti-Defamation League has condemned racism against Bedouin Arabs.

But despite past statements on Bedouins in the Negev, requests for comment on the Prawer Plan were not returned by any of the main Jewish organizations. Many left-leaning Jewish groups, though, have publicly criticized the Prawer Plan, which has been called the largest land grab by Israel since at least 1967. In June, the legislation passed its first reading in the Knesset over the objections of Bedouin leaders and Palestinian citizens of Israel.

“The mainstream Jewish community’s silence around this is a cowardly response to an issue that gets to the core of what does it mean for Israel to claim to be both a Jewish state and a democracy,” said Rabbi Alissa Wise, a co-director of organizing at Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), which has come out strongly against the Prawer Plan.  The group has called it an “appalling” plan for “transfer based on nothing more than ethnic identity is even under consideration.” Wise speculated that reason behind the non-response was that it’s “bad PR, and they don’t want to come out criticizing the Israeli government publicly–most of those organizations, that’s not something they’re comfortable doing.”

JVP has been at the forefront of efforts to encourage Jews to register their dissent on the Prawer Plan. They’ve mobilized their members to register their anti-Prawer protest with Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer and have demonstrated in Boston. Most recently, they’ve encouraged members to pressure the Reform Jewish group Religious Action Center (RAC) to speak to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the Prawer Plan when he addresses the Union of Reform Judaism conference next week. The RAC, which is the political activist arm of the Union of Reform Judaism, came out against the Prawer Plan in June, though they had little to say about JVP’s calls to “hold Netanyahu accountable.”

“We welcome the feedback. We hope that all who wish to engage on issues of social justice are able to make their voices heard, and we appreciate their comments,” RAC spokesman Sean Thibault wrote in an e-mail.

Groups like the liberal Zionist Ameinu have also spoken up. And in November, Truah and Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel organized a letter signed by hundreds of Rabbinical leaders against the plan to uproot Bedouin. The letter criticized the Prawer initiative for “demolishing villages and dispossessing people of their land,” and also said that “implementing this plan will be a disaster for Israel’s public image.”

The liberal Zionist lobby group J Street, though, has issued no statement on the plan. “J Street has no response to the Prawer Plan, because it falls outside the scope of our work,” Jessica Rosenblum, a spokeswoman for the group, told me in an e-mail. “That said, many J Street supporters are concerned about the Prawer Plan and its implications for Israel’s democracy and they are expressing those concerns through their work with other organizations.”

Despite some liberal Zionist dissent, the Israeli government is pressing ahead on the Prawer Plan. The bill is expected to be taken up by the Knesset this winter for 2nd and 3rd readings on the plan. Once it gets final Knesset approval, the plan could be implemented. In the wake of the November 30th “Day of Rage” protests by Bedouins and their supporters throughout Israel and the occupied territories, Netanyahu vowed that the Prawer Plan will be put in place.

“Attempts by a loud and violent minority to deny a better future to a large and broad population are grave,” the prime minister said. “We will continue to advance the law for a better future for all residents of the Negev.”

20 Responses

  1. Walker
    December 7, 2013, 9:42 am

    “Attempts by a loud and violent minority to deny a better future to a large and broad population are grave,” the prime minister said. “We will continue to advance the law for a better future for all residents of the Negev.”

    Man. This says far more about Israel’s actual attitude towards apartheid than all of Peres’ gassy statements on the death of Mandela.

  2. American
    December 7, 2013, 9:44 am

    Official: Israel interested in Las Vegas-style casino in Negev Desert …
    http://www.reviewjournal.com/…/official-israel-interested-las-vegas-style-casin…‎

    1 day ago – A developing tourism mecca in the heart of the Negev Desert could be a potential casino site, an Israeli official told the Review-Journal on …

    Official: Israel interested in casino gaming and its … – Got News Wire
    lasvegas.gotnewswire.com/…/official-israel-interested-in-casino-gaming-…‎

    2 days ago – Official: Israel interested in casino gaming and its own Las Vegas in the Negev Desert. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval held discussions with……

    • Citizen
      December 8, 2013, 5:21 pm

      @ American
      Heh. Casino. Sheldon Adelson. He probably already has ads in his local paper over there. Maybe the local nomads will get to work there instead of living their barbaric life style. No unions though; more like casino with nearby company town nodules. Just makin’ the desert bloom glitz n glamour instead of random camel turds.

  3. seafoid
    December 7, 2013, 10:18 am

    Another generation, another lost cohort of Jewish ‘leaders’. Very hard to change a system that benefits so many, wven if it is evil. Jewish morality never had a chance against the Landwahn. Land madness.

    • Mooser
      August 31, 2014, 1:30 pm

      “Jewish morality never had a chance against the Landwahn.”

      Funny, isn’t it, how all of us talk about “Jewish morality” as if it is something which exists outside ourselves, and over which we have no control. We are like two kids with a lemonade stand talking about how they can’t try selling new flavor with out corporate approval, a board meeting, and a proxy vote.

  4. Hostage
    December 7, 2013, 10:25 am

    the Prawer Plan, the Israeli government’s initiative to uproot tens of thousands of Bedouin Arabs, relocate them to urban areas and build new Jewish areas on top of demolished villages.

    It really entails the planned expulsion of Bedouins from 90 percent of their former territory into a restricted geographical area in the eastern Negev called the Siyag region on the grounds of their ethnicity. It will have to be carried out by force using armored bulldozers. The whole process mirrors the carrot and stick statutes and pogroms employed by Czarist Russia to establish and maintain the Jewish Pale of Settlement.

    Let’s be honest. The major Jewish organizations have partnered with their Zionist comrades in Israel in facilitating the perpetration of this crime and many others committed against the indigenous Arab Palestinian population.

    • Hostage
      December 7, 2013, 10:37 am

      P.S. The Day of Rage demonstrations have caused the usual hard liners to reconsider the portions of the plan that would formally recognize Bedouin ownership of a fraction of their territory:

      The plan gives Negev Bedouin 180,000 dunams (45,000 acres) of state land for free, additionally granting them “compensation” for the state land many Bedouin are currently squatting on. Arab and left-wing opposition to the bill focuses on it moving 30,000-40,000 Bedouins from illegal outposts and villages, and demolishing 40 illegal settlements

      On Wednesday MK Zevulun Kalfa, one of the agreement’s initiators, sent a letter to Knesset Chairman Yuli Edelstein asking for the freeze of debates around the law.

      “It is unthinkable that a debate so important and strategic on such a national issue is being held, and Committee members discussing the law are not revealing (and are perhaps knowingly departmentalizing) all of the relevant information related to the law,” wrote Kalfa.

      The agreement between the two parties, on the heels of moves against the Prawer Plan from the Opposition, could signal the death blow of the bill which has been termed in Knesset “Benny Begin’s personal project.”

      Liberman said the Bedouin are just interested in getting benefits from the Plan without any obligations, and “therefore, it is imperative to examine all of the plan anew and to weigh a plan with far-reaching consequences that will also cancel the benefits the Bedouin were supposed to receive. If there is no full agreement, there are no benefits.”

      – See Liberman and Bennett Unite to Torpedo Prawer Plan link to israelnationalnews.com

      • Citizen
        December 8, 2013, 5:27 pm

        RE: “It is unthinkable that a debate so important and strategic on such a national issue is being held, and Committee members discussing the law are not revealing (and are perhaps knowingly departmentalizing) all of the relevant information related to the law,” wrote Kalfa.

        Like ACA which involves one-sixth of the US economy. “We have to pass the law before we can see what’s in it.”–Nancy Pelosi

        Unthinkable…

    • Shingo
      December 8, 2013, 8:31 pm

      I’m waiting for MY1 to chime in and tell us how this is in the best interests of the bedoins.

  5. The Hasbara Buster
    December 7, 2013, 12:12 pm

    That these Jewish organizations are keeping quiet on the Prawer Plan is a positive development. We finally see them embarassed by an Israeli policy to the point of not defending it.

    • Hostage
      December 7, 2013, 4:15 pm

      That these Jewish organizations are keeping quiet on the Prawer Plan is a positive development. We finally see them embarassed by an Israeli policy to the point of not defending it.

      If you subscribe to their mailing lists, then you’d know that they are full time partners in the Judaization of the Galilee and the Negev. The Threepenny Opera reminds us that even highway robbers are intelligent enough to keep their jack-knives out of sight.

      • Citizen
        December 8, 2013, 5:31 pm

        @ Hostage

        One, two, three, four, two, two, three, four

        Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear
        And it shows them pearly white
        Just a jackknife has old [Incomprehensible], where’s MacHeath, babe?
        And he keeps it out of sight

  6. amigo
    December 7, 2013, 12:20 pm

    We hear the Zio propagandists telling everyone how this “plan” will allow the Bedouins to lead normal lives and live in modern housing with state of the art services blah blah blah and they do this so blithely skipping over the part about them not being allowed to live in the same community as their fellow Israelis.

    And yet the idiots here , hophead/Oleg yrn et al get their gander up when we suggest “Apartheid”.

    • Ecru
      December 8, 2013, 6:32 am

      Well obviously – it’s true and they know it. Nothing annoys a Zionist like the truth.

  7. William Burns
    December 7, 2013, 1:06 pm

    OTOH, the alternative to “Jewish establishment stays silent on Prawer Plan” is probably “Jewish establishment loudly cheers on Prawer Plan, suggests opponents hate Jews” so maybe this is actually a sign of progress.

  8. Citizen
    December 7, 2013, 1:28 pm

    Meanwhile, Dick and Jane remain totally ignorant of all this use of their taxes in endlessly fungible US aid to Israel.

  9. ritzl
    December 8, 2013, 12:36 am

    Possibly OT, but CBS had a tribute to Mandela on tonight (Sat). I had to stop watching it because the glowing, yet wistfully tragic, “if only we could have stopped it sooner” tone of the piece describing the RSA’s violent suppression of the ANC and equal rights is directly transferable to Palestine and Palestinians. Only more violent and completely separate (Hafrada).

    It went to the Koppel interview, questioning, and forcing of Mandela to spend 30 minutes disclaiming/allaying Jewish “political” concerns. Like that was the main point.

    On the down side, what will it take for reporters to pull their heads out of their backsides and see the obvious opportunity to be proactive, as opposed to wistfully hindsight-ish.

    On the up side, imagine 30 years from now when the Palestinian justice issue is resolved, mostly, a glowing retrospective piece like this being aired.

    At the risk of being completely OT, I just finished “Goliath,” and am starting “Fast Times” on Audible (great narrations, btw), and coupled with Kate’s litanies (meant in a good way in terms of ongoing exposure) here, the overlooked yet repetitious malicious banality of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians at every level of daily and political life resonates personally. It will resonate broadly in time.

  10. dbroncos
    December 8, 2013, 12:39 am

    Obama and Kerry finger their lutes while Palestine continues to be wiped off the map.
    Bastards!

  11. Ecru
    December 8, 2013, 6:31 am

    Of COURSE the Jewish establishment stays silent – they condone it but know it’s a bit of a hard-sell to the Goyim. The “establishment’s” attitude, and that of ALL Zionists, is if it’s not happening to a Jew there’s no problem, and if it’s Jewish people doing it to non-Jews then the Jews are heroes.

    • Citizen
      December 8, 2013, 5:39 pm

      We can’t air our dirty linen in public because we don’t trust it; anti-semites are always looking for dirt.

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