Ha’aretz has reported today [Wednesday] that a steering committee in Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office has approved “a five-year economic development plan for Israeli Bedouin”.
This is another step along the road to the implementation of the Prawer recommendations, which are presented as a “development plan” for the “improvement of living conditions” for all citizens of the Negev – but with the mass expulsion of the Bedouin Palestinian citizens at the heart of the proposal.
The exact number of ‘unrecognised villages’ to be destroyed is unclear. While a commonly cited estimate for the anticipated number of displaced is 30,000, an advisor to Shimon Peres told US officials in 2005 that the “development of the Negev” would mean “relocation of some 65,000 Bedouin living in unrecognized villages” (which, taking into account natural population growth, is roughly the total number of Bedouin citizens living in all unrecognized villages).
The person that Netanyahu’s government has appointed as “chief of staff in charge of implementing the relocation” is Doron Almog, a Major General (res.) in the Israel Defence Forces. The name may be familiar, as in 2005, Almog escaped arrest on war crimes charges by staying on his plane at Heathrow following a tip-off.
Giving responsibility for the “relocation” to a military man is consistent with the way in which the non-Jewish population is viewed as a ‘threat’ – particularly when it comes to territorial control and contiguous settlement.
It’s the kind of systematic racism recently denounced by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), who commented specifically on the Prawer plan, saying:
“the State party should withdraw the 2012 discriminatory proposed Law for the Regulation of the Bedouin Settlement in the Negev, which would legalize the ongoing policy of home demolitions and forced displacement of the indigenous Bedouin communities’.
Objections can be heard until April 1, but after that, MK Benny Begin has the task of finalising the draft law before it moves down the normal route for enactment. The clock is ticking on another wave of ethnic cleansing by the Middle East’s ‘only democracy’.
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Ben White is a freelance journalist, writer and activist, specialising in Palestine/Israel.
His articles have been widely published in the likes of The Guardian‘s Comment is free, Al Jazeera, Electronic Intifada, New Statesman, and many others. He is the author of ‘Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide’ (2009, Pluto Press), and his second book, ‘Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination & Democracy’, will be published this December.