The Ministerial Committee on Legislations in the Israeli Cabinet approved last night a draft law which would displace 30 thousands of the Arab Bedouins of the Negev Desert. This draft law is known as the Prawer-Begin law, after the two Israeli cabinet members who drafted it. It calls for the forced destruction of up to 35 “unrecognized” Bedouin villages with approximately thirty thousand inhabitants and their forced relocation into other areas. There are approximately seventy and ninety thousand Arab Bedouins living in what is so called unrecognized communities in the Negev Desert, because the state refuses to recognize them. All their villages have been in existence before 1948, the year that witnessed the creation of the apartheid Zionist State. These villages have been neglected by the successive Israeli governments and were denied basic services such as electricity and running water, in spite of the cooperation of their inhabitants with the Zionist state and their acceptance to serve in the Israeli army. This new piece of apartheid legislation, once approved by the Knesset and become a law would destroy a deep-rooted community and its social fabric and the confiscation of this community’s long-held land properties. It is not ironic that the apartheid government in Israel intends to make more space for the construction of new Jewish settlements on the ruins of the villages it plans to destroy, because the Zionist doctrine is predicated on the supremacy of the Jews to the non-Jews in “Arretz Israel”.
This draft law went through several readings and some committee members registered three reservations before the legislation can be brought to a vote in the Knesset. First, the government must determine the exact location where the displaced Bedouin communities would be moved to, and to decrease the amount of land compensations given to them. The government must show a specific and detailed map of this matter. Secondly, the government must shorten the period of the implementation of the plan from five to three years. Finally, the appointment of the Minister of Housing and Construction, Uri Ariel, who is a Jewish Settler living in one of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank to oversee the implementation of this law.
Adalah, the Arab-Israeli organization for the defense of the legal rights of Arabs in Israel criticized this draft legislation as racist for its targeting a specific area and a specific non-Jewish community based on this community’s ethnic and religious affiliation. The draft law was written without consulting with the Bedouin communities. The draft law also refused to discuss the alternative proposals of the people whose lives would be disturbed once this becomes a law and put into effect.
It is important to remind the readers of this blog that this Israeli attitude is consistent with the Zionist practices since the creation of Israel. In the early 1950’s, the Israeli government, under security pretexts forcibly removed thousands of Palestinian families in the Galilee, and other locations close to the armistice lines into other areas. Using the claims of consolidation of Arab properties, the government put the Palestinian populations it forcibly removed in isolated communities and with huge losses in acreage of their land during the process of determining land compensation. Many Jewish settlements were established on the ruins of the Palestinian communities who had just been removed. For the Arab Bedouins of the Negev Desert the situation is even worse. Most of the villages do not have written documentations to prove their ownership of the land. Most of their transactions before the creation of Israel in 1948, during the periods of the Ottoman rule of Palestine and the subsequent British Mandate were done through oral agreements. The Bedouin communities who have deep roots in the area and clear traditions and customs to mediate disputes, honored their oral commitments, knew the boundaries of their properties, and recognized each other’s spheres. However, the Israeli government does not recognize the legal validity of oral transactions and is using the absence of written documentation of ownership as an excuse to confiscate their land.