A general strike by Arab communities in Israel was announced today by the Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, a network of Arab political parties and non-governmental organizations.
The strike was called in protest against the Praer-Begin plan, a piece of legislation which seeks to regulate Arab settlements in the Negev, and which has already gained preliminary approval from the Knesset . It will affect around 40 thousand people, mostly of Bedouin-Arab origin, living in 36 villages. Thabet Abu Rass of Arab legal rights group Adalah , was quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying the Israeli government had " declared war on the Bedouin and Arab communities", and called for it to "freeze the plan for six months and start an open dialogue with the Bedouin". However Ari Briggs, International relations director of Regavim , an Israeli NGO that has worked on the proposal, told the Jerusalem Post that every year 2 thousand illegal structures were being built in the Negev, figures which were provided by the Interior Ministry. "The Bedouin and their supporters", he said, "are trying to use the 'indigenous' argument, even though they are not indigenous, in order to put them above the law. Each person should be judged by the law equally". Abu Rass of Adalah, whilst acknowledging "some Bedouin people are breaking the law', argued that "the police can take care of them- but you can't blame the entire community". In neighbouring Jordan, the Praer-Begin proposal has been heavily criticized, with legislators in Amman describing it as "another Nakba", and the country's Lower House calling on the international community to apply pressure on Israel to scrap the plan.