The Knesset Committee for Interior Affairs and Environmental Protection discussed Monday the law regulating Bedouin settlement in the Negev, prompting discussion about the role of Leftist group Rabbis for Human Rights in the controversy.
During the meeting, MK Zevulun Kalfa (Jewish Home) asked committee chairman MK Miri Regev to rescind the group's right to free speech, alleging that the organization has been involved in distributing anti-Semitic propaganda in the wake of the new regulations.
Kalfa cited a video posted to the organization's website which compares the forced deportation of Jews in the Former Soviet Union to the decisions made by the Prawer plan, which regulates Bedouin construction in the Negev. The plan is set to legalize some Bedouin communities in the region, and relocate and give compensation to others, in an attempt to monitor what many have claimed is a widespread land-grabbing effort on the part of the Bedouin community.
Arab and Bedouin organizations have accused the government of racism over the plan, which they argue will lead to “forced displacement” of Bedouin and “dispossession of their historical lands.” Many Bedouin communities argue historic rights to land in the Negev, which they say was traditionally considered Bedouin territory despite the lack of permanent settlement in the area. But opponents counter that as nomadic tribes, the Bedouin by definition never held ownership over any land, migrating back and forth throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
Kalfa fired that the "comparison of the deportation and murder of Jews at the beginning of the century with the legal regulation of Bedouin settlement is an outrageous comparison, which is inappropriate and tainted by anti-Semitism."
This is not the first time Rabbis for Human Rights has been accused with being involved in anti-Semitic activities. In 2011, a protest gathered outside director and Reform Rabbi Arik Ascherman's home after allegations surfaced of systemic discrimination by the group against both Arabs and Jews in Judea and Samaria.