Predictably, the Theo Bikel op-ed article posted at the JTA’s website, has attracted highly critical comments. These include several comments from one Paul Jesser, who also embeds a counter-video in which two Bedouin sheikhs praise Benny Begin and express their support for his efforts. As Theo acknowledges in his article, Begin did include measures intended to improve the Bedouins’ situation, but this is not the entire story. I posted a reply, which I include below, along with an additional point that I bracket:
If the views of these two Bedouin sheikhs were representative of the inhabitants of the unrecognized villages, Prawer-Begin would not have been problematic. But one of them even acknowledges that he’s never seen the final plan, in accord with what Benny Begin himself has said, that he did not consult the Bedouin on the actual legislation.
Part of the problem is that what was actually offered the Bedouin from the State of Israel was never made specific enough. In general, the Bedouin don’t want to give up their homes and their claims without knowing what they get in return. This is why the Council of Unrecognized Bedouin Villages (more representative of Bedouin opinion than these two gentlemen) has been adamant in opposing Prawer-Begin.
But even these sheikhs emphasize that they want land to maintain their villages as agricultural settlements. [One of them even insists that they should remain in the very same place where they are — not promised them in Prawer-Begin.] The Bedouin need a plan that allows them to freely decide on where they will live and will not force them into the townships. Both Prawer-Begin and legislation which may follow, seem to threaten the Bedouin with mass relocation and urbanization, against their will.
As Theodore Bikel suggests, surely a better solution can be found with the involvement and approval of the Bedouin citizens of Israel who are most affected.
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