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MRG calls for immediate halt to Israeli plan to force tens of thousands of Arab Bedouin from their homes, new report

22 November 2011

Israel must immediately stop its plans to demolish homes and displace as many as 30,000 Arab Bedouin citizens, says Minority Rights Group International (MRG) in a new report that describes the government’s policy towards the Bedouin not only as discriminatory but also as a violation of international human rights law.

MRG calls on the government to develop an alternative plan in full consultation with Bedouin communities to resolve longstanding issues of land ownership in Israel’s Negev region.

‘Bedouin were not consulted while these plans were developed, but simply informed once they had been finalised. An alternative solution should be drawn up that recognizes Bedouin as an indigenous group and takes into account the communities’ historical ties to the land,’ says Mark Lattimer, MRG’s Executive Director.

The report, Israel’s denial of the Bedouin , based on MRG’s recent field research in Negev, says that Bedouin have long been subject to a series of discriminatory policies targeted at them, undermining their ethnic and indigenous identity.

Successive Israeli governments have confiscated Bedouin lands and attempted to move them into specific planned towns. In this process tens of thousands of Bedouin have lost their lands and been forced out of their homes.

The country’s government has pursued a slow and steady process of depriving the Bedouin of their human rights by not recognising their villages, and holding back basic facilities such as water, electricity, transport and access to schools and healthcare, says MRG.

The report describes the harsh conditions of Bedouin villages and documents how hundreds of families have had to watch helplessly as Israeli armed forces bulldoze their homes. House demolitions have steadily increased from 96 incidents in 2006 to 700 in 2010. Women and children are particularly vulnerable in these situations and affected families risk being charged for the cost of the demolitions.

Meanwhile, the government supports the growth of settlements for the Jewish majority population on Bedouin lands. These developments do not face the same restriction and are given many more options on how and where building can take place, the report adds.

The new proposal, known as the Prawer plan, involves demolishing homes, moving Bedouin into townships and the award of some form of compensation, which falls far short of the communities’ demands.

‘This plan is discriminatory, violates the rights of an entire community and could lead to future conflict. The authorities must offer Bedouin the same protections afforded to other Israeli citizens and accord them the full range of rights provided to indigenous people under international law,’ says Farah Mihlar, the report’s author.

About 200,000 Bedouin live in the Negev. Almost half live in the 7 government authorised towns, 25 percent live in 11 villages that have recently been recognised by the state and 35 percent live in 35 ‘unrecognised villages’.

The report is also based on fieldwork concerning the Bedouin in the West Bank, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, who face a similar fate. There are currently 30,000 Arab Bedouin living in displaced camps and villages in Area C, which is the Israeli-controlled and administered area of the West Bank.

The Israeli authorities are developing plans to relocate Bedouin from Area C in early 2012, according to a legal centre for Arab minority rights, Adalah. Initially 2,300 people will be relocated to a site bordering Jerusalem’s biggest rubbish dump.

Unlike the Bedouin of the Negev, those in the West Bank are not Israeli citizens, but as the territory they live in is administered and controlled by the Israeli government, Israel also has obligations to this community under international human rights and humanitarian law.

Notes to Editors

  • Interview opportunities:
  • The report, Israel’s denial of the Bedouin, is available to download here
  • Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non-governmental organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide.

For more information, a copy of the report or photos, or to arrange interviews please contact the MRG Press Office on [email protected].