UN panel urges Israel to shelve 'racist' Bedouin relocation plan
UN committee says Law for the Regulation of the Bedouin Settlement in the Negev is discriminatory and would legalize racist practices.
A United Nations committee has called on for the withdrawal of an Israeli draft law that would move 30,000 Bedouin living in the Negev to permanent, existing Bedouin communities.
According to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Law for the Regulation of the Bedouin Settlement in the Negev is discriminatory and would legalize racist practices.
The bill is based on the Prawer Report, which was approved by the cabinet in September. It calls for moving 30,000 Negev Bedouin to communities such as Rahat, Kseifa and Hura. The plan - drafted in response to recommendations made by the Goldberg committee - envisions land exchanges and compensation payments, and comes with an estimated price tag of NIS 6.8 billion.
The UN committee said the law "would legalize the ongoing policy of demolitions and forced displacement of the indigenous Bedouin communities."
It expressed concern "about the current situation of Bedouin communities, particularly with regard to the policy of demolitions, notably of homes and other structures, and the increasing difficulties faced by members of these communities in gaining access on a basis of equality with Jewish inhabitants to land, housing, education, employment and public health."
The UN body reviews official reports from member states as well as counter-reports filed by nongovernment organizations in these countries pertaining to issues of discrimination. Its recommendations are binding.
Dr. Thabet Abu Rass, director of the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Right's office in Naqab, accused the government of "declaring war against" the Bedouin in the town.
"The government has declared war against the Bedouin in the Naqab. The Prawer Plan was written without consultation with the Bedouin community, whose lives are going to be ruined by this plan," he said.
In January the committee received a report from the Negev Coexistence Forum For Civil Equality that presumably influenced its position.
A representative of the forum said the bill would be deleterious to the Negev Bedouin and called on the government to withdraw the draft law.
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