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Saturday, October 25, 2014

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Writers urge Israel to abandon relocation plans

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Yann Martel was among 70 signatories to a July 8 letter.

Yann Martel, Alberto Manguel and Michael Ondaatje were among 70 prominent Canadian writers who penned a July 8 open letter to Israeli and Canadian leaders urging Israel to halt the implementation of two Israeli government plans.

The first is to evict 1,000 Palestinians from south Hebron in the West Bank to make room for an Israeli military “firing zone,” while the second involves relocating tens of thousands of Bedouin Israeli citizens, beginning in August.

However, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) said the Israeli bid to move the Bedouins, known as the Begin-Prawer plan, has the support of the “vast majority” of Bedouins.

The open letter, an initiative of the Montreal-based group Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), echoes concerns also voiced in Israel by 25 writers, including such venerable figures as David Grossman, Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua.

“These Palestinian villagers have inhabited their homes for centuries,” the CJMPE letter states. “Evicting them would violate international law and cause extreme hardship.”

The other plan to move the Bedouins, now before the Knesset, “would result in the forced relocation of between 20,000 and 70,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel from their homes in the Negev,” the letter states, and would destroy 35 “unrecognized’ Bedouin villages.”

The letter concludes: “The actions planned are manifestly unjust, and will gravely damage Israel’s international reputation.”

Regarding the two plans, Israel has said it’s moving the West Bank Palestinians to ensure their safety because of the firing zone and contends its relocation of the Bedouins according to the Begin-Prawer plan will help settle old land disputes and bring water and electricity to Bedouins in established townships.

CIJA head Shimon Fogel told Postmedia News that the Begin-Prawer plan “is a very well-thought-out approach that endeavours to balance traditional needs with a better life for the Bedouins.”

The European Parliament has also called on Israel to abandon the plan to move the Bedouin, and the CJMPE also wants the Canadian government to urge Israel to abandon it.

The next print edition of The CJN is Aug. 1.

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