In 2013, when the government shelved a plan to displace thousands of Bedouin from their villages, we rejoiced. Now, less than two years on, it’s back on the table. And so is our struggle.
By Huda Abu Obeid
The following is what I wrote in December 2013, when then Minister Benny Begin suspended the Prawer Plan, a government-sponsored proposal to displace thousands of Bedouin citizens who live in “unrecognized” villages:
“Our feeling today is of great relief. It’s a victory nobody expected when we, a group of weak and disenfranchised people, faced up to one of the strongest countries in the world. We never dreamed of expecting a light at the end of the tunnel. The shelving of the Prawer Plan will no doubt strengthen the Bedouin society and prove that a joint effort pays off.”
I hoped these would be the last words I’d ever write about the plan. I knew that there’d be another one – whether better or worse remained to be seen – but it didn’t occur to me that the same plan would again be on the table.
Over the past week, I’ve come to realize that I and my fellow campaigners are facing great challenges ahead, now that the new government looks set to put the notorious Prawer Plan back on the table.
The thought of starting our struggle from scratch doesn’t make much sense, especially when taking into account the fact that the far-right Jewish Home party, who back in 2013 rejected the plan for being too generous to the Bedouin, is the one now insisting on including it in the new coalition agreements.
The only plausible explanation is that Jewish Home, who received the Agriculture portfolio (thus becoming effectively in charge of implementing the plan), reintroduced Prawer as a ploy to legitimize a tougher policy to “deal” with the Bedouin. Given that anti-Prawer protests swept the country, it remains to be seen how it will go down.
We, the Bedouin, hoped that this time a policy would be drafted in conjunction with our community, and would take our input into account. We still call on the government, whom we thought displayed a reasonable degree of good will, to take us up on our offer and come down to meet and negotiate with us, instead of deciding people’s fates in the comfort of their Jerusalem offices.
One thing is clear, though: The State of Israel has no intention to have a real dialogue with us, the Palestinian Arabs; it will continue its policy of land appropriation and house demolition. We therefore announce that we will continue, on our end, to struggle for our basic rights of living in dignity and owning land. I call on all those who were or planned to be our partners in the struggle, to turn up and continue to fight.
Huda Abu Obeid is a campaigner against the Prawer Plan and co-founder of Al Hirak al Shababi, an anti-Prawer action group. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.