Letter from Rabbi Alissa Wise
I was in 5th grade when I learned about the Trail of Tears and the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of Native Americans. I’m not sure what Mrs. Gary, my teacher, expected us to think or feel – but the lessons I learned were about unthinkable horror, injustice, and sadness.
Those reactions are a big part of what made me an activist.
In 2013, history is repeating itself in Israel, with the aid of US tax dollars. Last Monday, the Israeli Knesset approved the first reading of the Prawer Plan – the first legislative step toward removing 40,000 indigenous Bedouin people from their ancestral homeland in the Negev/al-Naqab.
9,000 JVP supporters already stepped up and sent a clear message to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren: the Prawer Plan is unacceptable.
That’s an amazing response for barely 24 hours of organizing. But we’re going to have to do more.
Here’s why it matters:
- The Prawer Plan essentially provides government approval for the Jewish National Fund’s $4 billion “Blueprint Negev” to transform the Negev/al-Naqab into a majority-Jewish area, despite the centuries that Bedouin people have been living there.
- Unlike Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza, the Bedouin are citizens of the State of Israel. However, they are cut off from basic services, denied quality education, and restricted in the purchase of land for personal or commercial use.
- Thousands of Bedouin have already been transferred, similarly to other Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line whose villages have been destroyed. This is a direct continuation of the ongoing Nakba which began in 1947.
The bottom line is this:
Ethnic and religious identity are being used as the sole criteria for forced removal. That’s unacceptable – and it calls the very idea of democratic governance into question.
For those of us in the US, Ambassador Oren is our formal link to the Israeli government. With the legislative process moving forward in early July, we need to pressure him now to stand for democracy.
Rabbi Alissa Wise
Director of Campaigns