Students tell Israel to stop Bedouin ‘eviction’

Jewish youth and students in Britain have protested to Israeli leaders over a proposed Knesset bill to relocate Bedouin families who live in the Negev desert.

The Union of Jewish Students, the Progressive Zionist movement Pro Zion and four youth movements — Habonim, LJY-Netzer, RSY-Netzer and Noam Masorti — urged Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid to put a halt to the legislation.

In a letter, they wrote: “As Zionist organisations who care about the state of Israel, we cannot allow the expulsion of 40,000 Bedouin, and deny the Bedouin a fair opportunity to hold on to their ancestral lands.”

Israel’s image and standing in the world would be “significantly eroded” if the bill went ahead.

They called on the government to give official recognition to all existing Bedouin villages and accept land ownership claims made over the past 40 years.

“The Bedouin community constitutes 30 per cent of the Negev population, and their demands involve only 5.4 per cent of its land,” the groups stated.

“There has never been a fair process for examining their demands, and most of the land claims the government invited the Bedouin to submit in the 1970s were never processed, one way or the other.

“Evicting 40,000 people from their ancestral homes; cutting them off from their sources of income and destroying their social fabric and way of life will only increase problems.”

Sam Cohen, movement worker for the Liberal LJY-Netzer, said that all the signatories were members of the UK Task Force on Issues Relating to Arab Citizens of Israel.

“We all passionately believe in the Jewish homeland and believe that Israel should be a land which acts on Jewish principles of justice,” he said.

Last updated: 6:45pm, May 9 2013