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Realities and Repercussions of the Prawer Plan
27/06/2013 - 11:48

The Prawer Law affects the Arab population of the Naqab area (Negev). Also known as the Bedouins, they constitute a semi nomadic Arab population that had inhabited the southern desert of Israel long before Israel was established as a nation. Before 1948 there was 65,000 to 90,000 Bedouin living in the Naqab area currently there are approximately 40, 000 that will be displaced. This decrease in the population was mainly due to the high percentage (80 - 85%) of Bedouins that were deported after the war of 1948. On the map below, the green area represents the Naqab area.


The lifestyle of Bedouins was also drastically affected due to the deprivation of land and economic isolation that resulted from the creation of the Israeli state. Nowadays there are approximately 190,000 Bedouins, most of them living in unrecognized villages. This means that these villages are not on Israeli maps and are not a target of government concern. No schools infrastructures are built and some "unrecognized" villages do not have access to water nor electricity and the transportation system is very limited or non-existent.


Locals have informed us that on a legislative level this is the second law that is explicitly pertaining to Arab Bedouins and both are related to land confiscation. The first was after the peace treaty with Egypt. The law consisted of the relocation of military airbases from Sinai into the Naqab. At that time Israel confiscated about 80000 dunams and displaced more than 5000 citizens.


On a practical level previous attempts to isolate Bedouins have been made with flaw in the education corps and reduction on the amount of schools in the Bedouin villages in the Negev to raise the amount of repetition in schools and reduce the proportion of academics.
In addiction there is no connection to electricity and water in villages, which deprives them of
the basic needs as well as the lack of transportation in the villages.


Proposed in 2011, the purpose of the Prawer Law is to ‘make possible the development of the Negev for the benefit of all of its inhabitants’. It revolves around the idea that, where land is claimed as Bedouin property without any papers from the Ottoman or British Mandate Era, it is taken to have been stolen. The Bedouin inhabitants are therefore evicted and rehoused, and the land appropriated for the state. Exceptions do, however, exist. Where a Bedouin community had submitted a ‘claims memorandum’ prior to October 24th 1979, which would serve to demonstrate their original claim to the property, they would be entitled to up to 50% compensation for the land expropriated, payable in either land or money. Whether the form of the  compensation is land or monetary depends upon the condition of the land at the time of the original claim. IF the land was resided upon and in agricultural use at the time of the original claim, and IF the original claimant or his descendants still reside upon the land, then the compensation will be in the form of land, although the area of land given will be determined by the Israeli state. If the land is currently held by the state, then the form of compensation will be monetary. However there are forty-five Bedouin villages from which only eleven are recognized by the Israeli state (or are in the process of being recognized).  It is also important to notice that the money compensation does not correspond to the actual value of the land. Meaning that the money quantity that these people will receive will be minimal.


Consequences and Reactions

While debate on the passing of this law tends to focus on the political and legal aspects, the socio-psychological impact, particularly on children and young people, tends to be neglected.


In order to have access to the direct source of knowledge, we interviewed a few Bedouins (from both genders). It is general agreement that there is nothing positive about the Prawer Plan. According to Kweder, a 28 years old Bedouin, the Prawer Law "is an escalation of previously maintained policies of oppression and discrimination that are deeply rooted in Israel." This feeling of oppression and segregation is shared by many others who highlighted that the state of Israel is the only state in the world that is currently passing laws for specific ethic groups within its borders. It is commonly felt in the Arab population that within Israel "what really matters is not your civic status but your Jewishness or not, [which] is becoming bluntly salient and getting more and more legitimacy in Israeli public opinion and by policy makers. It is also the continuation of the notorious colonial attitudes of divide and conquer toward our people and an act of isolating the Naqab and the Arab Bedouins from their own people."


The facts are that the ultimate goal of Prawer Law is to agglomerate Bedouins in less land and build settlements in the area that connects the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. It is also a fact that the reallocation of the Bedouins to settlements goes against the semi-nomadic lifestyle of this population who does not want to be urbanised. It also increases the poverty rate due to the reduction of employment, animal husbandry and agriculture.  In sum, the adoption of this law will negatively affect the life of Bedouins in what is perceived as another attempt to erase their Arab identity.

The Protest March on June 13


On the past Thursday, June 13, a march from Be’er-Sheva Market to the City Government Center (Kiryat Hamemshala) took place to protest in a non-violent way, the discontentment with the Prawer project. Coming from different ethnic backgrounds, different genders and different ages, they came together and shown their disapproval for this bill. Even though approximately forty thousand Bedouins are going to be directly affected by the Prawer Law, it seemed that only two to three thousand participated in this manifestation.


The idea that a "positive side" of the law is that it will "improve" the social structure of native Bedouins is not at all shared by them. In defending their semi nomadic status, one of the Bedouins affirmed that if the pretence of the Prawer Plan is to provide services to the Bedouin population, then the state can provide them without concentrating the Bedouins in "destitute ghettos".


The manifestation lasted for three hours, without any incident registered.  Even though the vote on the Prawer Plan was postponed, yesterday, on the 25th June it was approved. However this law was only approved by a three votes difference in the Knesset.

The Prawer Law infograph




Author: Catarina Santos, BA International Relations at Queen Mary University of London.

Published by: Baladna, Association for Arab Youth - 27th June 2013.