Bedouins living in Israel's southern Negev region protest against government plans to confiscate their land. Photograph: Amir Cohen/Reuters
"Mark Regev, spokesman for Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said the aim of the government was to assist the Bedouin minority by assimilating them into wider Israeli society. "The Bedouin community has a lower standard of health care and education than the rest of Israel, they live in substandard conditions. We are investing 1.2bn shekels [£210m] to move them into the mainstream, to reduce that gap."
Comment from the Campaign for Bedouin-Jewish Justice:
This is Orwellian double-speak: if the Israeli govt wants to improve the living conditions of the Negev Bedouin, let them honor their wishes and develop and modernize the villages in which they live, without forcing tens of thousands of them off their land with brutal violence as they have at Al-Arakib and other villages, and concentrating them in urban townships in which they do not want to live. The bottom line: the Netanyahu govt covets Negev Bedouin land for developing new Jewish settlements and JNF forests.
The govt's plan is designed to confine the Bedouin into reservations to free up their land for "Jewish development." This is an immoral policy that discriminates against non-Jewish Israelis in favor of Jewish Israelis and sabotages democracy and equal citizenship in Israel. It empties of meaning the "democratic" in Netanyahu's and Lieberman's demands that Israel be recognized by the Palestinians as a "democratic Jewish state," and insures that it will be seen as an undemocratic Jewish state which oppresses its minority non-Jewish Arab and Palestinian citizens. Why would the Palestinians recognize a Jewish state that mistreats and discriminates against its Palestinian and Arab citizens?
The article follows:
Six Arab-Israeli towns in Israel's southern Negev region have ground to a halt in protest at government plans to confiscate swathes of land from the Bedouin community. If the proposal passes through the Knesset, Israel's parliament, unopposed, 30,000 people could be forced from their homes within 60 days.
Schools, shops and municipal offices across the region closed for the day allowing more than 8,000 people to stage a demonstration in Beersheba rejecting the plan – the largest civil protest in the city's history. Arab-Israeli MP Jamal Zahalka said they were united against the proposal.