Israeli Bill Threatens to Evict Tens of Thousands of Bedouin

FIDH calls on the Israeli Knesset to suspend a vote on the Prawer-Begin bill to prevent the forced eviction of more than 40,000 Bedouin from their homes.

Last week, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, urged Israel to reconsider the Prawer-Begin Bill, condemning it as a discriminatory effort to legitimize the forcible displacement and dispossession of indigenous Bedouin communities in the Negev. FIDH echoes these calls, and urges the government of Israel to halt the bill’s passage through the Knesset until it has undertaken genuine consultations with the Bedouin communities in the Negev and address concerns that this bill will result in serious human rights violations.

The Prawer-Begin Bill, if adopted, will very likely lead to the displacement of an estimated 40,000 to 70,000 individuals from 35 unrecognized villages in the Negev, and forcibly relocate the residents into urbanized, government-designed townships. The bill stipulates that all Bedouin settlements in the Negev must comply with the Master Plan for Metropolitan Be’er Sheva, a plan that fails to respect the historic ties of the Bedouin to their land and plans for the destruction of around 20 existing Bedouin villages to make way for “development” projects and new Jewish settlements.

Bedouin communities reject the proposed bill, stating that their culture and traditional livelihoods will be destroyed if the bill is passed, and that they were not genuinely consulted in the drafting of this plan that fails to take into account the desires and needs of Bedouin communities in the Negev.

While the Prawer-Begin Bill recognizes that the Bedouin have historic ties to the land in the Negev, the bill still discriminates against Bedouin communities by refusing to recognize their villages according to the same criteria the government recognizes all other villages in Israel, said Karim Lahidji, President of FIDH.

Last month, FIDH conducted a fact-finding mission to investigate the potential impact of the bill on the Bedouin communities in the Negev. The delegation observed ongoing house demolitions and evictions in the unrecognized villages that effectively coerce the Bedouin residents into accepting ‘take it or leave it’ proposals for resettlement. The delegation noted that plans to build Jewish villages near or on the disputed Bedouin land calls into question the necessity of these evictions and forced displacements, as well as the Israeli government’s commitment to non-discrimination enshrined in the Basic Laws of Israel and international human rights law.

Despite the fact that Bedouin communities have submitted an alternative developmental plan to the government that takes into consideration the needs and concerns of their communities, to date they have not received any formal response, undermining their basic right to effectively participate in decisions that affect them. Instead, the government has forged ahead with the Prawer-Begin Plan; the bill has already passed a first reading in the Knesset and is expected to progress through the Knesset in the coming months.

FIDH urges the Israeli government to respect the human rights of the Bedouin citizens’ of the Negev, which includes the rights to non-discrimination, culturally acceptable housing, and genuine consultation, Lahidji said.The government should immediately suspend any voting on the Prawer-Begin Bill and take active measures, including the cessation of all house demolitions and evictions, to ensure the genuine participation of the Bedouin in the development of any plan that could permanently and adversely affect them.

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