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European Parliament condemns Israel's policy toward Bedouin population

Human rights group hail resolution as unprecedented; European Parliament calls on Israel to withdraw government-approved plan to regulate Bedouin communities in Negev

By Jack Khouri         8 July 2012

Bedouin children of the Jahalin tribe near the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim(seen in the background), June 16 2012.                         photo by Reuters

The European Parliament passed a resolution on Thursday condemning Israel's policy toward the Bedouin communities living in unrecognized settlements in the Negev Desert. Human rights groups have called the resolution, which passed 291 to 274 with 39 abstaining, unprecedented.

The European Parliament called on Israel to withdraw its government-approved Prawer plan to regulate the Bedouin communities in the Negev. The resolution was brought to a vote by the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats in the European Parliament and was based on work done by the European Parliament's Working Group on the Middle East, which held consultations with representatives of human rights groups including Attorney Suhad Bishara of Adalah - The Legal Center for the Arab Minority Rights in Israel, who briefed working group on the legal ramifications of the plan, and its relations to Israeli and international law.

The situation of the Bedouin citizens of Israel has never before been addressed by the European Parliament. The Director of Adalah’s Negev bureau, the geographer Dr. Thabet Abu Rass commented on the decision saying that “achieving recognition by the European Parliament that the Israeli government practices the same policies of displacement and dispossession against Palestinian citizens of Israel as it does against Palestinians living under occupation is a tremendous step forward.”

Last march, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called on Israel not to implement the Prawer program.

"Whereas Arab Bedouins are indigenous people leading a sedentary and traditionally agricultural life on their ancestral lands and are seeking formal and permanent recognition of their unique situation and status," The resolution stated. "whereas Arab Bedouin communities, threatened by Israeli policies undermining their livelihoods and including forced transfer, are a particularly vulnerable population both in the occupied Palestinian Territory and in the Negev."

In another relevant clause the resolution said: "The European Parliament Calls for the protection of the Bedouin communities of the West Bank and in the Negev, and for their rights to be fully respected by the Israeli authorities, and condemns any violations (e.g. house demolitions, forced displacements, public service limitations); calls also, in this context, for the withdrawal of the Prawer Plan by the Israeli Government."


UN panel urges Israel to shelve 'racist' Bedouin relocation plan

UN committee says Law for the Regulation of the Bedouin Settlement in the Negev is discriminatory and would legalize racist practices.    

By Dana Weiler-Polak  March 26, 2012 
Bedouin boys ride bicycles in the Negev Desert in 2010                 Photo by AP

A United Nations committee has called on for the withdrawal of an Israeli draft law that would move 30,000 Bedouin living in the Negev to permanent, existing Bedouin communities.

According to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Law for the Regulation of the Bedouin Settlement in the Negev is discriminatory and would legalize racist practices.

The bill is based on the Prawer Report, which was approved by the cabinet in September. It calls for moving 30,000 Negev Bedouin to communities such as Rahat, Kseifa and Hura. The plan - drafted in response to recommendations made by the Goldberg committee - envisions land exchanges and compensation payments, and comes with an estimated price tag of NIS 6.8 billion.

The UN committee said the law "would legalize the ongoing policy of demolitions and forced displacement of the indigenous Bedouin communities."

It expressed concern "about the current situation of Bedouin communities, particularly with regard to the policy of demolitions, notably of homes and other structures, and the increasing difficulties faced by members of these communities in gaining access on a basis of equality with Jewish inhabitants to land, housing, education, employment and public health."

The UN body reviews official reports from member states as well as counter-reports filed by nongovernment organizations in these countries pertaining to issues of discrimination. Its recommendations are binding.

Dr. Thabet Abu Rass, director of the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Right's office in Naqab, accused the government of "declaring war against" the Bedouin in the town.

"The government has declared war against the Bedouin in the Naqab.  The Prawer Plan was written without consultation with the Bedouin community, whose lives are going to be ruined by this plan," he said.

In January the committee received a report from the Negev Coexistence Forum For Civil Equality that presumably influenced its position.

A representative of the forum said the bill would be deleterious to the Negev Bedouin and called on the government to withdraw the draft law.