Daily Israel Report

Israeli Arabs to Protest Approval of Bedouin Land Grab

Israeli Arabs called to wave PLO flags as they protest the Knesset's approval of a law legalizing pirate Bedouin settlement in the Negev.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 7/15/2013, 4:12 AM

Bedouin protest
Bedouin protest
Flash 90

The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab citizens of Israel has called for a general strike among Israeli Arabs on Monday, in protest over the approval of the law which legalizes pirate Bedouin settlement in the Negev.

The plan, which was proposed by former Minister Benny Begin just before the last elections, will add more Bedouin settlements to the list of those that will receive official recognition, and increase the amount of land that will be handed over to Bedouin as part of an agreement.

Begin, who met with about 600 Bedouins and with representatives of various leftist organizations that advocate in the Bedouins' favor, recommended allowing the Bedouin to receive ownership of about 180,000 dunams of land (45,000 acres) that is registered in the name of the State of Israel. In addition, they will be eligible for 62.5% of land that they claim is their own, but for which they have no proof of ownership. Instead of receiving financial compensation for land claimed by the state, they can be compensated with alternative land, according to Begin's offer.

The Arab MKs, however, are opposed to the plan because of one of its sections stipulates that Bedouins who have no proof of ownership of the land on which they built their homes will be forced to leave their homes. They will, however, be given alternative land.

The Follow-Up Committee said in a statement released on Sunday evening that Arabs throughout Israel will strike on Monday because of the approval of the law. The Committee called for Arabs across Israel to hold demonstrations against the law, wave PLO flags and hold up signs condemning the plan.

Last month, the Knesset approved the first reading of the bill that will legalize pirate Bedouin settlement in the Negev, but not before a heated debate during which the Arab MKs got up to the podium and tore up the bill.

MK Ahmed Tibi was not satisfied with the symbolic act of tearing up the proposal and also poured a glass of water on the torn paper. MK Afou Agbaria (Hadash) went even further and, over the Knesset podium, publicly called for an Intifada (violent uprising) because of the law.

Knesset Speaker MK Yuli Edelstein (Likud) has filed a complaint with the Knesset’s Ethics Committee over the Arab MKs behavior.

Edelstein told Arutz Sheva in an interview last week that he was “very disappointed” with the Arab MKs behavior regarding the Bedouin law. “That’s not how to protest in Parliament,” he said.

The plan is also opposed by nationalist MKs, who see it as giving the Bedouin a reward for their land grab and offering them far-reaching concessions.