Israel accused of violating the rights of Arab BedouinsListen /
Nearly 40,000 Arab Bedouins are threatened with eviction and forcible displacement should the Israeli parliament adopt a draft law calling for the demolition of up to 35 Bedouin villages in the Negev Desert, according to the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR).
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay says the legislation was an affront to the rights of minority groups in Israel, adding that it was yet another pointer to Israel's continued pursuant of discriminatory policies against its own Arab citizens.
Ms Pillay says if the Israeli parliament adopts the proposed legislation, Bedouins will be forced to give up their homes, they will be denied their rights to land ownership, and their traditional cultural and social life will be decimated in the name of development.
The High Commissioner is calling for the reconsideration of the draft law to allow for a genuinely consultative and participatory process that involves all representatives of Bedouin communities in the Negev.
Rupert Colville is the spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office.
"There was some consultation, but in our view and I think in many Bedouin views and many of the NGO's who are taking over this issue, it was not fully participatory consultations and the Bedouins own views are not being taken into account. This is being driven by other interests. The Arab Bedouins in the Negev are Israeli citizens and they have rights like any other Israeli citizens and that should include specific rights to land ownership in areas that they have lived for a very long time. And they should also receive the respect and consultations and be listened to in the same way as you would expect any other segment of Israeli society to be listened to."
The High Commissioner says the proposed law goes against recommendations made in 2008 by a commission appointed by the Israeli government, and which called for the recognition of Bedouins as equal citizens of Israel and as the legitimate residents of the Negev desert region in Southern Israel.
Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.