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Israeli Bedouins lash at relocation plan


09:01, June 26, 2013

JERUSALEM, June 25 (Xinhua) -- Bedouin community leaders in Israel on Tuesday called for national strikes, after a bill to relocate more than 30,000 Bedouins in the south of the country passed a first reading in the parliament a day ago.

The Prawer-Begin bill narrowly passed in the Knesset by 43 to 40 votes, raising the ire of Arab Israeli Knesset members who tore the document to show their disagreement.

The bill still has two more readings to go before becoming a law, and it could also be modified by a committee appointed to study the issue.

As part of the draft legislation, some 30,000 Bedouins would be relocated to recognized villages in the south and receive monetary compensations as well as land plots, as proposed by the government. But Arab Israeli and Bedouin leaders reject it, accusing the government of trying to confiscate land that belongs to the current dwellers.

"I think the reason behind this plan is ideological, the Israeli government wants to take this land because it's still a big reserve of land in the hands of Arabs," said Mohammed Barakeh, a member of Knesset and leader of the Hadash party.

"This plan is not based on any legal principles and we believe the government has to respect the human rights. The best for the Bedouins is to recognize that they exist in legal villages, some of which exist before the creation of the state of Israel," said Barakeh, who was one of the parliamentarians that tore the bill on Monday.

The plan is racist, he noted, adding that "I am talking to other Arab legislators and Bedouin leaders to call for a general strike among the Arab Israeli citizens to protest the bill."

The Prawer-Begin plan sees the relocation of this community to existing villages like Rahat, Khura and Ksayfe due to sanitary and health issues and to avoid having scattered dwellings in the middle of the desert.

"What they want is to have the Bedouin community under control, " Hanan al Sanah, deputy director of Sedeh, an NGO advocating for Bedouin women's issues, told Xinhua.

"They don't understand that we are used to the camps and the tents and working in agriculture, and that for many families, relocation will mean the destruction of their ancestral lifestyle and the core of their identity," said al Sanah.

She also pointed out that relocating the Bedouins to towns would not be easy and could be met by force.

"They will never leave their houses willingly, it is the land of their ancestors and the Israeli government is being greedy and racist. Because they say that these dwellings cannot exist due to poor living conditions, but they never ever bothered to put plumbing or electricity, whereas in the West Bank, the moment some Jewish settlers put a few houses, they give them everything," al Sanah said.

"We will join the strike and advocate in the Knesset for the cancellation of this bill, we will not sit idly by and let them take our land," she said.

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Email|Print|Comments(Editor:LiangJun、Zhang Qian)

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