U.N. urges Israel to reconsider legislation

July 25, 2013 at 2:04 PM

JERUSALEM, July 25 (UPI) -- The United Nations Thursday urged Israel to reconsider legislation that would result in the demolition of as many as 35 Bedouin villages, displacing thousands.

The proposed law, known as the Prawer-Begin Bill, was passed by Israel's Knesset Wednesday by a small margin and will likely go through the second and third readings before the end of July, the United Nations said in a release.

"As citizens of Israel, the Arab Bedouins are entitled to the same rights to property, housing and public services as any other group in Israel," High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said. "The government must recognize and respect the specific rights of its Bedouin communities, including recognition of Bedouin land ownership claims."

About 40,000 Bedouins would be displaced should the bill be passed, the United Nations said. Under the bill, those displaced would receive little compensation, as long as they move to one of the seven officially recognized Bedouin townships in Israel.

"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," Pillay said. "Respect for the legitimate rights of minorities is a fundamental tenet of democracy."

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