A government plan, called the Prawer Plan, to relocate 30 thousands of Bedouin is a gross injustice. The Prawer Plan would effectively extinguish the Bedouin’s land claims without adequate compensation. This plan would appropriate land where 30,000 Bedouin are living in villages that are not recognized by the state, and which do not receive government services, such as electric power, running water and other utilities.
Some of those Bedouin will be compensated for their losses, receiving either a cash payout or deed to another piece of real estate elsewhere in the country. But not all of the Bedouin who have land claims are able to produce documentation that meets the requirements laid out in the Prawer plan.
The wording of the government plan is as insulting as its terms. The language of it is sharp, as if they’re doing the Bedouin a big favor, which the Bedouin will never take. Most Bedouin are opposed to the plan.
Thousands of Bedouin men, women and children and their supporters protested the government plan in Be’er Sheva two weeks ago. That as the largest demonstration that the Bedouin have ever gotten together.
The Bedouin people have land claims. They are based on unwritten law. The Israeli legal system depends on written evidence of owenership. The Bedouin didn’t have it.
Israel Prize-winning sociologist and anthropologist Emanuel Marx, a professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University, agrees that the Prawer Plan is fundamentally unfair. “The Bedouin have been claiming ownership of the land for several generations, and the government has been doing everything to take away their land,” he says.
One strong argument in favor of Bedouin land claims, despite the lack of written evidence for it, says Marx, is that there are records of Bedouin payment of land taxes to the government of mandatory Palestine, pointing out that “you don’t pay taxes on land you don’t own.”