Resisting Israel’s Prawer Plan

July 24, 2013

Patrick O. Strickland reports on Palestinian protests against an ugly new Israeli plan.

THOUSANDS OF Palestinians amassed across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories in mid-July to oppose the Prawer-Begin Bill, part of a broader Israeli assault popularly known as the "Prawer Plan."

Protests were staged in solidarity with Bedouin citizens of Israel from the Negev region, who are on the frontline of the latest assault on the Palestinian people. Huge rallies were held in Sakhnin, Haifa, Jaffa, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Be'er Sheva, and elsewhere, drawing the unified participation of Palestinians in the occupied territories as well as present-day Israel in defiance of the imposed colonial division of the indigenous population of historical Palestine.

Demonstrations were attacked either by Israeli police or occupation forces, depending on the locations. At the end of the day, at least 34 people were arrested, according to 972 Magazine. The report adds that police used excessive and unprovoked force under the false pretext that protesters had thrown stones.

Once fully implemented, the Adalah Legal Center estimates that the "Prawer Plan"--the latest phase of the forced takeover and ethnic cleansing of the Negev region--is projected to displace 70,000 people from 35 villages. The dispossessed will be relocated to Bantunistan-like townships in order to clear space for Jewish settlements, man-made forests, and military instillations.

Palestinian residents of Gaza protest the "Prawer Plan" in al-Jundi square
Palestinian residents of Gaza protest the "Prawer Plan" in al-Jundi square (Joe Catron)

The Israeli government, presently under the auspices of ultra-conservative Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, claims that these villages were illegally built and therefore must be demolished. In actuality, however, most residents were placed on the lands in question by the Israeli military after the 1948 "Nakba" (or "catastrophe") that resulted in the confiscation of their previous lands.

As Adalah notes, "This plan was completed without consultation from the local community, and is a gross violation of the rights of Arab Bedouin citizens to property, dignity, equality, adequate housing and freedom to choose their own residence."

Although to no avail, the disastrous plan has been denounced by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, and scrutinized by the UN Human Rights Committee and the European Union.

"UNRECOGNIZED" VILLAGES, as Israeli policy-makers crudely refer to them, are denied basic services: water, electricity, health care and education, among others. Vastly overcrowded and severely underfunded, the new townships displaced Bedouins are to be moved to don't fare much better.

One of the villages, al-Araqib, has been destroyed 53 times since July 2010, Ma'an News Agency reports. Despite the recurring tragedy, the villagers return and attempt to rebuild the village each time. Recently, several villagers were living in the graveyard as a desperate attempt to stay on their land by any means. It was not long before Israeli bulldozers demolished that as well, ensuring that the dispossession of Palestinians is not limited to the living.

Justifications for the plan are cloaked in the rhetoric of practicality or security, but expose a process of several-tiered citizenship based solely on ethnicity. As journalist and activist Ben White notes in Palestinians in Israel, "Small Jewish settlements of a few dozen families--or even single family farms--are not a problem; but a Bedouin village with a population of several hundred is 'impractical.'"

White also adds that, between June 1988 and 2008 over 3100 Bedouin homes in the Negev were demolished. As he tirelessly chronicles, Israeli officials employ explicitly racist rhetoric to justify these policies. Dr. Yitzhak Ravid of the Armament Development Authority, for instance, said, "the delivery rooms in Soroka Hospital in Be'er Sheva have turned in to a factory for the production of a backward population."

In 2009, former Housing Minister Ariel Atias said, "I see [it] as a national duty to prevent the spread of [the Arab] population."

Moshe Shohat, head of the Education Authority for Bedouins, said in 2001, "Bedouin are a bloodthirsty people who commit polygamy, have 30 children, and continue to expand their illegal settlements by taking over state lands. In their culture, they relieve themselves outdoors and don't even know how to use the toilet."

Despite their Israeli citizenship--which purportedly allots them all the same rights as their Jewish compatriots--their villages, homes, and lives are repeatedly demolished in operations that resemble military assaults. Hundreds of heavily armed "security" officers arrive in the dead of night, accompanied by armored bulldozers and helicopters, and proceed to reduce everything standing to ugly piles of jagged rubble and mangled steel.

As the mass dispossession of tens of thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel continues, alongside the expedited theft and settlement of occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, two stale myths are once again debunked: firstly, that occupation and colonization are simply necessary security measures, and secondly, that Arab citizens of Israel live as equals in a democratic state.

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