November 30, 2013
Across the UK Britons are to take to the streets to protest an Israeli plan to forcibly remove 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins from their homes. The proposal has triggered accusations of “ethnic cleansing” and “discrimination” from activists groups.
The Prawer Plan will see between 40,000 and 70,000 Bedouin citizens removed from their homes in South Israel. The Israeli government has said the Bedouins will be re-homed and granted compensation for the move. However, UK-based charity the Palestine Solidarity Campaign says the plan heralds “the forced displacement of Palestinians from their homes and land, and systematic discrimination and separation.”
The group published a letter in the Guardian on November 29 condemning the plan and urging the UK government to act. The letter contains the signatures of 50 public figures supporting the cause.
The document calls for immediate action from the British government, urging harsh measures rather than the usual diplomatic rhetoric.
“There can be no ‘business as usual’ with a state which is preparing to ethnically cleanse 70,000 people. It’s time to start challenging Israel’s racism and apartheid policies,” the activist group wrote in the letter.
In support of the letter mass protests have been planned across the United Kingdom on Saturday. The “Day of Rage” demonstrations will be held in Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Lambeth, as well as a number of locations in central London. In addition, Palestinians in Israel are staging mass demonstrations against the Prawer Plan to draw international attention.
Despite opposition to the plan, the Israeli government is pushing ahead and is expected to vote on the initiative before the end of the year.
Some Israeli media has also condemned the plan on the basis that the Bedouins are Israel citizens who were granted citizenship in the 1950s.
“These are Israeli citizens – citizens in a ‘democratic’ state, some of whom have even served the country militarily – who are now having their homes destroyed,” David Harris-Gershon wrote in his blog for the Tikkun Daily.
“The plan [is] to regularize Bedouin settlement in the Negev’, but it does nothing to solve problems and regularize our settlements – it stipulates only destruction,” said Fadi El-Obra, a 29-year-old from Rahat, speaking against the Prawer Plan to the International Solidarity Movement.
The UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon issued a statement on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People calling for Israel to call off plans to expand building in the settlements. Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed to restart peace talks this summer after a three-year diplomatic stalemate. In spite of the revival of negotiations, very little headway has been made on some of the most pressing issues obstructing a peace agreement.
The Palestinian Authority has slammed Israel’s plans to continue expanding settlements, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused the Palestinian side of purposely “inciting artificial crises.”
Israel “will not be subjected to any restrictions concerning settlement,” Netanyahu recently vowed at a meeting with the Israeli right-wing Likud bloc, stressing that the Palestinians are well aware of that.