New York Jews Challenge Michael Oren to Halt Bedouin Displacement at Park Place Synagogue in New York
Petition of 18,000 signatures delivered to former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren to Stop the Prawer Plan.
[October 2, 2013, New York City] Members of Jewish Voice for Peace attempted to deliver a petition October 1st to former Ambassador Oren, less than 24 hours after he stepped down from his post, urging him to use his extensive influence with the Israeli government to take action to halt an impending human rights catastrophe. When approached, the Ambassador asked what the Prawer Plan was, before refusing to accept the petitions.
"I was surprised that he didn't know what I was talking about," said Carolyn Klaasen, who delivered the petition. "It's disappointing that someone whose job for four years was to facilitate communication between Americans and Israelis cares so little for the opinions of so many people on this important issue."
“Former Israeli Ambassador Oren has referred to the Bedouins in Israel as an example of Israel’s respect for its non-Jewish citizens, going so far as repeating that one of his son’s best friends is a Bedouin. And yet, he seems to have little concern for the fate of 70,000 Bedouins set to be displaced from their homes and villages against their will,” said Ari Wohlfeiler, staff member at Jewish Voice for Peace.
On June 14, 2013, the Israeli Knesset passed the first of three votes approving the Prawer Plan. Under the plan, the Israeli government would seize Bedouin-owned land for new military bases, industrial sites, and communities for Jewish Israelis, forcibly moving 70,000 Bedouin people to government-sanctioned settlements.
The Prawer Plan has sparked protests throughout Israel, Palestine and the world; United Nations Human Rights Chief, Navi Pillay stated that “if this bill becomes law, it will accelerate the demolition of entire Bedouin communities, forcing them to give up their homes, denying them their rights to land ownership, and decimating their traditional cultural and social life in the name of development.”
This petition delivery follows up on actions across the country in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and the South Bay, protesting the Prawer Plan and Israel’s expulsion of Bedouin people. Concerned activists worldwide--including the Jewish organization T’ruah, the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights--are pressuring the Israeli government to stop the Prawer Plan and associated human rights violations.
Rabbi Alissa Wise, of Jewish Voice for Peace, met with Sheikh Abu Aziz and other residents of the Bedouin village of Al Araqib a few years ago, after their homes had been razed 50 times. The village is just one of many where some 70,000 Bedouins face permanent displacement because of the Prawer Plan. Wise says “This decision to approve the Prawer plan must not be mistaken for a fluke by an otherwise moral Israel. The displacement of the Bedouin population of the Negev is a moral crisis that is part and parcel of the moral crisis that has existed since before 1948, within and over the Green Line.”
While Bedouins are citizens of the state of Israel, they have consistently been denied housing and other basic rights guaranteed Jewish Israelis. No date has yet been set for the second reading of the proposed legislation, but activists in the Negev/Naqab and around the world have vowed to escalate protests until the plan is defeated.
Jewish Voice for Peace has over 125,000 supporters, 35 chapters throughout the country, a youth wing, a Rabbinic Cabinet and an Advisory Board made up of leading U.S. intellectuals and artists, including Tony Kushner, Naomi Klein, Eve Ensler, and Noam Chomsky.###