Image: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org
775 Rabbinic Leaders Urge Fair Treatment of Bedouin and Withdrawal of Legislation that Would Lead to Forced Relocation of 30,000-40,000 Citizens
Rabbis to Deliver Biblical Message of Human Rights in Public Letter and Testimony to Knesset Committee Hearing on Bill on the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev
NEW YORK, NY-NOVEMBER 6, 2013- Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights delivered a plea from hundreds of rabbinic leaders today urging the withdrawal of the “Bill on the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev,” also known as the Prawer-Begin Plan Bill, at the beginning of Knesset’s Interior Affairs Committee hearings on the legislation. The Prawer-Begin Plan is expected to lead to the displacement of an estimated 30,000-40,000 Israeli citizens from their homes and the demolition of Bedouin villages.
“In 1920, the Zionist Movement registered 2.6 million dunams as belonging to Bedouin in the Negev. The Ottomans and British also recognized Bedouin ownership,” said Rabbi Arik Ascherman, President of RHR, in his testimony before the Knesset Interior Committee. “However, the notion that the Bedouin have no legitimate land claims remains at the fundamental core of the Bill on the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev. If we start from the premise that the Bedouin land claims are legitimate, and are willing to sit down with the Bedouin as equals, many things are possible.”
RHR and T’ruah presented Committee Members with a copy of a public letter signed by more than 775 rabbis, cantors, rabbinical students, and cantorial students urging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reconsider the Prawer-Begin Plan.
“Demolishing homes and forcing people off their land contradicts the moral values of Judaism, on which the State of Israel was founded,” said Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Executive Director of T’ruah. “Jewish values and laws protect non-Jewish residents and prohibit expulsions and the destruction of a person’s livelihood.”
While the government claims that population transfers will only involve moving people short distances, Bedouin residents and allies say that the government is only offering highly concentrated impoverished urbanized options that undermine their traditional clan structure and agrarian way of life.
The rabbinic letter, signed by more than 775 rabbis, cantors, rabbinical students, and cantorial students, urges Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government to “treat Israel’s Bedouin population as equal citizens, involve community members in policy decisions that affect their future, and work together to develop zoning plans that meet their needs.
“The ‘Prawer-Begin Plan’ violates basic human rights,” said Rabbi Anna Boswell-Levy, Co-Chair of T’ruah. “Furthermore, uprooting Bedouin communities and destroying their homes and villages does absolutely nothing to increase Israel’s security or further the cause of peace.”
Signatories include such high profile American rabbis as:
Rabbi Sharon Brous of IKAR in Los Angeles
Rabbi Arthur Green of Hebrew College in Boston
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in NYC
Rabbi David Ellenson of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
Rabbi Laura Geller of Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills, CA
Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon of B’nai Jeshurun in NYC
Rabbi Rachel Cowan of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality in NYC
Rabbi Burton Visotzky of the Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC
Rabbi Sally J. Priesand, emerita of Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls, NJ
Rabbi David Ingber of Romemu in NYC
Rabbi Amy Eilberg of Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning in St. Paul, MN
Rabbi Sid Schwarz of Clal: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership in the Greater Washington, DC area
Rabbi Denise Eger of Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood, CA
Rabbi Mordechai Liebling of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, PA
Rabbi Ellen Lippmann of Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of Our Lives in Brooklyn, NY
To view the letter and the full list of signatories, visit: http://bit.ly/BedouinRabbis .
Jewish Organizations Meet with White House National Security Council and State Department Officials on Israeli Government Plan
T’ruah, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association Urge Knesset to Reconsider Plan that Threatens to Dispossess Bedouin
Reform Movement Urges Netanyahu to Suspend Plan for Negev Bedouin
OHALAH Board Statement on Bedouin Settlement in the Negev
Background Brief on the Prawer-Begin Plan from RHR
About Rabbis for Human Rights: Rabbis for Human Rights is the rabbinic voice of conscience in Israel, defending human rights of marginalized communities within Israel and the Occupied Territories. The organization was founded in 1988, and today has over 100 members-all Israelis and all ordained Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Renewal rabbis as well as some rabbinical students. Our work expresses the view that as Jews, we are obligated to protest against every injustice enacted against any other person, a view based on the belief that was all human beings are created in God’s Image. RHR’s mandate is to inform the Israeli public about human rights violations, pressure State institutions to fix these injustices, and Introduce RHR’s understanding of Judaism and Zionism into the intellectual universe of fellow Israelis. RHR is the recipient of the Speaker of the Knesset’s Prize for contributions to Israeli society, and has been endorsed in North America by the rabbinic bodies of the Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Renewal movements. -Read more at: http://rhr.org.il/eng/
About T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights: T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights is an organization led by rabbis from all streams of Judaism that acts on the Jewish imperative to respect and protect the human rights of all people. Grounded in Torah and our Jewish historical experience and guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we advocate for human rights in Israel and North America. T’ruah continues the historic work of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, which was founded in 2002 and renamed T’ruah in January 2013. – Read more at: http://www.truah.org