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As state nears Bedouin relocation plan, protests in Israel, West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem

ActivismIsrael/Palestine
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Palestinians and Israelis protesting in Beersheva against the Prawer-Begin Plan, which will transfer 30,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel to other villages in the Negev. (Photo: Allison Deger)

From the onset there was opposition to the Prawer Plan. When it first sank into law by a narrow vote, the plan to remove Bedouin-Palestinians from the Negev region of Israel brought national contention. If just a handful of Knesset members had cast their ballots against this measure, which is decried by Arab rights’ groups as a catastrophic cleansing of Bedouins from the desert, or a second “nakba,” the program would have been abandoned. Yet the first comprehensive state blueprint to wipe out “unrecognized” villages in the south was approved, affecting an area inhabited by 70,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel.

So the bill became law in late 2012. Then it was sent to the Knesset for modification in January 2013, the first of three readings before implementation. There was a showdown. Palestinian members of government were kicked out of the parliament floor.

And that tone of outrage has continued since the beginning of the year, now echoed by Palestinian groups beyond the Israeli Knesset.

On Monday things came to a head when protests were coordinated in Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem with marches and a general strike. In Israel the main march took place in Beersheva near the affected Bedouin localities with additional demonstrations in Jaffa and the northern cities of Sakhnin and Umm el-Fahem. The latter two escalated into clashes with Israeli border police. Twenty-eight protesters were arrested, 14 from Beersheva alone.

A city with biblical roots, modern day Beersheva is an early outpost of the Zionist movement. Its pioneer quality seeps through today, community after community, with 1950s communist era concrete apartment buildings that look like photocopies from former Yugoslavia. On the drive between Tel Aviv and Beersheva the landscape is separated by Jewish National Fund planted trees, living artifacts of the “make the desert bloom” slogan.

In this same historical period of rapid Jewish-Israeli development, tens of thousands of Bedouin desert dwellers were forcibly moved by the Israeli military to an area surrounding Beersheva, as Israel’s Arab citizens were under formal military law. The government never handed out titles to the places where the Bedouin were transferred, and today they along with several other villages that pre-date the state of Israel (but were never registered during the early years of statehood) are considered illegal construction, or “unrecognized villages.” This predicament for the state, villages without permits in a system where no permits means pre-approval for home demolition, will finally be wiped out in one swoop with the Prawer-Begin Plan (as it is known now). No longer will places like al-Arakib be demolished over 50 times with the residents squatting in the towns cemetery, the only location where the bulldozers do not go.

And as implementation day for the Prawer-Begin Plan moves closer, outcry against it is gurgling.

“It’s not very well defined,” said Knesset member and former city planner civil servant Dr. Hana Sweid (Hadash) who protested the relocation in front of Ben-Gurion University Monday. “The Prawer Plan is not deterministic. It leaves a huge space for maneuvers and unexpected actions taken by the government, which are disastrous for the whole Arab community.” Dr. Sweid said the entire land registry and population transfer will be carried out over a five-year period.

As of now, Dr. Sweid continued, there is some indication that the state will legalize five of the 25 villages in the region marked by the Prawer-Begin Plan. “What is clear is that they intend to move them into townships,” reservations-like communities that would congregate Bedouins from the areas expected to be declared unlawful. Bedouins would not be removed whole-sale from the Negev. The plan will condense them into other localities that have no infrastructure to handle thousands of new villagers. These communities are small and with 30,000 people split into five already full villages, an image of a ghetto comes to mind.

The Knesset calculates the Prawer-Begin Plan will relocate some 30,000 Bedouins. But twice as many Bedouin will have to submit property claims in compliance with the plan. Everyone in the scheme’s demarcation zone will be required to file proof of ownership to maintain their properties. With the use of archival aerial photographs, a special government committee will either approve the claim and regularize 50% of the property with compensation for the other 50%, or regularize 25% of the village for a partial claim, and also give compensation–according to the Prawer-Begin Plan guidelines.

But if a claim is not supported by an archival photograph, which the petitioner, i.e. the Bedouin villager,  is not allowed to see because of government rules, all of the residents in that area will be evicted along with every structure demolished. “Thus far in court no one has gotten any claims honored,” said Dr. Sweid.

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Beersheva.
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Beersheva.
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Beersheva.
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Beersheva.
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Beersheva.
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Jaffa.
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Jaffa.
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Jaffa.
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Jaffa.

All photographs were takevn by the author on July 15, 2013.

Allison Deger
About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Mondoweiss.net. Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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One Response

  1. annie
    annie
    July 17, 2013, 7:37 pm

    killer photos.

    With the use of archival aerial photographs, a special government committee will either approve the claim and regularize 50% of the property with compensation for the other 50%, or regularize 25% of the village for a partial claim, and also give compensation–according to the Prawer-Begin Plan guidelines.

    But if a claim is not supported by an archival photograph, which the petitioner, i.e. the Bedouin villager, is not allowed to see because of government rules, all of the residents in that area will be evicted along with every structure demolished.

    so this is a punishment for all the residents of an area where there is one petitioner. and residents are not allowed access to government archival photography. it’s so cruel.

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