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Knesset passes "racist" bill restricting Arab presence in Negev Desert

February 13, 2014 at 2:56 am

The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, has approved a “racist” bill which will lead to the eviction of “illegal” Palestinian Bedouin communities from the Negev Desert occupied in 1948 by Israel, newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth has reported. Known as the “Praver Bill”, the new legislation will allow the Israeli authorities to “relocate” around 200,000 Palestinians from their historic lands.

Although the Bedouins are not to be expelled from the Negev, they are to be concentrated in designated areas. Such nomadic communities depend mainly on breeding animals and the new law deprives them of access to grazing lands.

The bill was passed at the first reading by 43 to 40 votes, despite verbal clashes between Arab and Jewish MKs. Mohammed Barakeh MK slammed the bill, calling it “racist and obscene”. His fellow MK Ibrahim Sarsour said that he hoped that such a bill would not be approved. “This bill is unfair, immoral, unjust and inhumane,” he told the Knesset. “It is a bill that treats a large section of the population as numbers and does not consider their opinion. It is a bill that declares war on the Arab public.” When he tore up a draft of the bill in the Knesset chamber, Sarsour was removed by security officials. As he was being taken out, he shouted, “This will not pass. You are liars, frauds and thieves.”

Other Arab MKs were also scathing about the new law; some poured water on the draft on the podium, declaring that it “belongs to the rubbish bin of history”. They too were removed by the Knesset Speaker, who only allowed them back in after the vote had been taken.

Yedioth Ahronoth said that the bill was submitted by the government based on conclusions drawn from a committee headed by retired Justice Eliezer Goldberg, following an examination by former minister Benny Begin.