JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.
The Israeli government is moving forward with plans to demolish 40 Palestinian Bedouin villages, displacing up to 70,000 of their residents. Known as the Prower plan, it was approved in June and will relocate the Bedouins to six townships already suffering from serious problems of unemployment, poverty, and drugs, freeing up the land for occupation by the Jewish National Fund.
Now joining us to talk more about this plan and what it means for the affected populations is Moe Diab. He’s a Palestinian-American human rights activist, writer. He’s finishing up his masters in public health. And he’s spoken about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict at numerous universities across the country, been on radio shows, and dialogs with peace activists such as Miko Peled. He also has his own blog, MoeDiab.com.
Thank you so much for being with us, Moe.
MOE DIAB, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST AND WRITER: Thank you so much for having me.
NOOR: So, Moe, what can you tell us about this plan and how it’s going to impact these Bedouin villagers, up to 70,000 of them?
DIAB: Well, first of all, the plan is completely a violation of human rights law, and it’s even a violation of Israeli law. And what this plan is set to do is to resolve the unrecognized villages issue in the south of the Negev, which is a vast area of desert where many villages of Bedouins have resided for generations predating the Israeli state. And the issue now is that Israel has created laws that have deemed these villages as illegal.
And the reason for this is–it goes back even to the Ottoman Empire absentee laws, but more specifically the 1965 Planning and Building Law. And what this law has approved and the reason for this issue now is that the law does not consider the Bedouin villages in any of the action plans. So the 1965 Building and Planning Law is in accordance with the master plan for the Negev, which doesn’t consider the village’s presence, and it gives the land and coordinates efforts with the JNF to build Jewish settlements, military infrastructure, and for afforestation in the area.
So although the Bedouin villages and Palestinian Bedouins have resided there for hundreds of years and have cultivated on the land for generations in their traditional lifestyle, they are being forced to be displaced into these urban townships. And by being forced into these urban townships, what it’s doing is it’s not allowing them to continue their traditional lifestyle of living off the land. And the areas that they’re being pushed into are very high in crime, drug abuse, low education, and resources. So it’s very similar, it’s analogous to the Native Americans in the United States and what happened to them when they were forced to be displaced from their native lands to areas like Oklahoma and put into reservations. And we all know the fate of the Native Americans. They were met with the highest drug abuse rate, disease rate, low life expectancy. So it’s a very similar–the situation’s very analogous, it’s very, very similar to what’s happened to the Native Americans.
NOOR: But don’t the defenders of Israel point to the treatment of the Palestinians in defense of the Jewish state, saying that they have equal rights, that Israel is a democracy? Does this sort of fly in the face of those claims?
DIAB: Well, that’s very ironic. During the inception of the Jewish state in 1948, about 90 percent of the Bedouins were displaced from the Negev. And around the 10 percent that was left to stay, they were given Israeli citizenship. However–now, this is a redundancy because these villages are considered unrecognized. So these Israeli citizens are not given basic needs. They aren’t given running water, electricity, sewage, and they’re not met with the quality that the constitutional rights are supposed to be giving citizens. So they offer them citizenship. They are is really Arab-Israeli citizens. However, they’re not given their basic needs and they’re not treated equally. And as an Israeli citizen, they have the right to petition the displacement and the demolishing of their land and their homes. And they’re not even given an option at this point to petition it. And their legal establishments there are also being questioned, too. So they’re actually going to be losing pretty much all of their rights.
NOOR: And so this issue of unrecognized, that goes to whether these houses and villages were built legally. Why don’t the Bedouins just build their houses legally if that’s the problem?
DIAB: The majority of the houses that are there and the unrecognized villages were there predating the inception of Israel. They have been there for many generations. It’s a misconception that the Palestinian Bedouins are nomadic. There are many villages of non-nomadic that Bedouins who have resided there, like I said, for many generations. So they have been there legally. They have never had an issue with proving their residency on the land.
However, the laws were created de facto. It’s not that the Bedouins moved in there and built illegally. It’s that the laws were made to create the situation to make all building and the presence of the Bedouins in the area an illegality. So, according to the 1965 Building and Planning Law and the master plan for the Negev, any building there is deemed illegal because the land is designated for Israeli infrastructure and afforestation and the building of military bases.
NOOR: And can you talk about some of the internal opposition to this bill? From my understanding, it was opposed by right-wing factions of the Israeli government because they said the government was offering too much compensation to these Bedouins. Can you talk more about that?
DIAB: It’s actually–it’s very ironic. I mean, this is just the continuance of the 1948 ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian Nakba. Everyone knows what their intentions are. Their intentions are to complete the Zionist objective of ethnically cleansing Palestine of all non-Jewish inhabitants. So, I mean, this is the main focus of this entire campaign, and they want to spend the fewest amount of resources on displacing this population.
When it comes to how much money they’re spending now, the compensation that was offered, it’s not a compensation that’s fair. And they’ve actually added last-minute addendums that implicate who gets compensated and how much they get compensated. So the original fund, which I believe was estimated at $3.2 billion, has now been cut down further. And now that money now, they haven’t even specified or provided maps of what was going to be considered an area of compensation, and also is that $3.2 billion, also considering infrastructure they’re planning on building in that area for the Israeli military, for the infrastructure and the afforestation of Jewish settlements.
So it’s almost been made–it’s been given a five-year time limit. And there are many factors that have to be met for them even to qualify for being compensated that they won’t be able to stay on the land. And that’s the end game for them.
NOOR: So the plan is opposed by Bedouins and other Palestinians in Israel. Talk about the actions that they are going to take to oppose the removal of these villages.
DIAB: From the Palestinian perspective, they’ve been dealing with this for years. And this isn’t the first time that they’ve proposed to demolish villages. They’ve actually demolished hundreds of homes in the last year. And some of the villages have been rebuilt up to 30 times. And what the Israeli government is doing is trying to make the living conditions so unbearable that they eventually move. They relocate to these townships. Many Bedouins have already relocated due to the constant threat of being demolished and being displaced. And the way that the Israeli government solves this is they say that this is better for them. They have more resources. However, that’s not considering their traditional lifestyle, which is–it’s not being considered at all, actually, because they live off the land and they have nothing to do with these townships.
So the opposition to this would be regional councils that have created alternate plans. And the regional council actually created, over the past few years, a plan which follows all of the government policies, and it follows a policy which consults with all of the villages. And it’s completely legal under the new legislation to keep the Bedouins there and just form a new type of organization that makes it legal for them, which follows all the laws for them to continue to live there. But the question obviously and the answer is that they don’t want them to stay there. They want that land to continue the ethnic cleansing and to build their infrastructure there and put the largest amount of concentrated Palestinians into these townships so they can continue their landgrab.
NOOR: Finally, Moe, does this plan contradict the idea of Israel as a democratic state?
DIAB: Absolutely it does. Like many of Israel’s actions violating human rights and showing impunity and not really at all following the constitutional rights of equality, by creating and passing laws and legislation that promotes racial discrimination towards citizens, between Israeli Arab-Israeli citizens and Jewish-Israeli citizens, it’s really contradicting the fundamental principles of a democracy. And these indigenous natives who are even Israeli citizens are facing the harshest punishment regardless of their constitutional rights.
NOOR: Moe Diab, thank you for so much for joining us, and we’ll certainly keep following this story.
DIAB: Thanks you so much for having me.
NOOR: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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