Israel’s Beersheba Plan*

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Israel’s Beersheba Plan*

By Sam Gilbert

Thousands demonstrated in Beersheba this Thursday to protest the Prawer Plan and the continued demolitions and displacement of the Bedouins in the Negev.  The government sponsored Prawer Plan, if fully implemented, would uproot some 40,000 Palestinian Arab Bedouins living in the 35 unrecognized villages in the area and “relocate” them to one of the seven government-planned townships.

Palestinians with Israeli citizenship gathered in the center of Beersheba and marched to the government offices in the southern Israeli city.  Protestors waved Palestinian flags and chanted slogans. Media reports state nearly 3000 people came out to protest the plan, accompanied be a large Israeli police presence.

The rally was organized by the “Higher Guidance Committee of the Arab Residents in the Negev.”   A number of prominent Arab Knesset members took part in the protest, including Jamal Zahalqa, Ahmad Tibi, Ibrahim Sarsour and Talab Abu Arara, according to Ma’an News.  Abu Arara described the plan as a “racist apartheid” law.  According to Al-Akhbar English, the rally was accompanied by a community-wide general strike, which saw some 85,000 Bedouin children stay home from school.

The Prawer Plan

The Prawer Plan is an extension of Israeli policy, in place since 1950, to minimize the land inhabited by Bedouins and concentrate the traditional herding communities in areas that would not be detrimental to the interest of new coming Israeli settlers (1).

The Plan, first approved in 2011, utilizes the discriminatory land laws that operate in both the West Bank and Israel to relinquish property from Palestinians to the state and to Jewish Israeli Citizens.  In the Negev, there are a variety of laws (the Land Ordinance Law, Land Acquisition Law, and Absentee Property Law to name a few) that Israeli courts use to legitimize State dispossession.  Most important in regards to the case of the Bedouin is the courts’ manipulation of Ottoman law, whereby Israel has declared that all desert land belongs to the state by virtue of its “mawat” (dead) categorization (3).

According to the Israeli national planning regime, the 35 unrecognized Bedouin villages are located on state land and all structures therein are subject to demolition (2).

Of the nearly 160,000 Bedouin that live in the Negev, roughly half live in one the 35 villages to which the Israeli government denies basic services, such as water, health care, education and sanitation. Many of these communities at risk of displacement were established prior to the creation of Israel. The Bedouin presence in the Negev dates back to the 7th century.

Source*

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