Israeli diplomats protest poster claiming ethnic cleansing of Bedouin


(JTA) — Israeli diplomats protested the use of a poster accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing against the Bedouin that was featured at an event at the European Parliament.

“Stop Prawer-Begin Plan, no ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Bedouin” read the poster seen at a conference Oct. 17 in Brussels organized by the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, the European Parliament’s second largest bloc, on the Bedouin Arab minority in Israel.

The Israeli ambassador to the European Union, David Walzer, termed the poster “unacceptable” in a letter he sent to the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, who is a member of the Socialists and Democrats group.

“Europeans and Israelis are fully aware of the possible consequences of the irresponsible use of such words,” Walzer wrote.

The Bill on the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev, also known as the Prawer-Begin Plan, was drawn up by former Likud Knesset member Benny Begin and approved by the Cabinet in January.

It calls for Israel to officially recognize and register the vast majority of Bedouin settlements throughout its South, and compensate the residents of 35 unrecognized villages — some 30,000 to 40,000 people — who are to be moved off state-owned land into towns built by Israel for them.

The plan to remove the Bedouin has sparked protests in Israel and drawn condemnations from international bodies.

Organizers of the conference in Brussels “systematically rejected” requests to host Doron Almog, director of the Headquarters for Economic and Community Development of the Negev Bedouin in the Prime Minister’s Office, Walzer said in a statement Saturday.

Leaders of the Socialists and Democrats group were not available for comment.

David Saranga, the head of European Parliament Liaison Department at Israel’s mission to the European Union, said event organizers agreed only to give Almog the floor for five minutes during the debate.

“All this makes me fear that the real objective of this seminar is not to improve the living conditions of the Israeli Bedouin but rather to cynically exploit this crucial issue to bash again Israel,” Saranga said. “This is certainly not the best way to conduct a constructive dialogue.”

Almog and Kamel Abu Nadi, an Israeli Bedouin from the Negev, addressed the Delegation for Relations with Israel in the European Parliament the same day and provided firsthand information concerning the Prawer-Begin Bill and its ramifications.

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