Sunday, July 14, 2013

When I look at the Prawer Plan, I see another Nakba’

+972 speaks with Suhad Bishara, of Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, about the challenges of fighting for Palestinian rights in Israel and deciding when not to take legal action in Israeli courts – if doing so would undermine the Palestinian narrative

Bedouin woman looks over remains of her home

When looking at Israel’s Prawer-Begin Plan to evict tens of thousands of Bedouin in order to free land for Jewish development, attorney Suhad Bishara sees a second Nakba coming.

Bishara, 42, is Adalah’s acting executive director and the organization’s director of land and planning rights. Originally from Tarshiha, a village in the northern Galilee near the Lebanese border, Bishara has lived in Haifa since she graduated with a bachelors of law from Hebrew University, and has worked with Adalah since receiving a masters of law from New York University in 2001.

These days, she and Adalah are focusing their efforts on stopping the Prawer-Begin Plan. Sitting down with +972 in her Haifa office last week, Bishara discussed the intricacies of running a Palestinian human rights organization in Israel, and how in each case she must weigh how taking it to court might inadvertently undermine Palestinian rights.

This interview is one in a series of profiles on difference makers in the Israeli and Palestinian human rights community (edited for length). Click here to read parts one and two.

Are the land and planning rights of Arabs in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories more or less protected today compared to 2001 when you joined Adalah?

Generally speaking, they’re less protected. On one level, the Supreme Court has set precedents that disallow land restitution for Palestinian citizens of Israel whose lands were confiscated in the 1950s and 1960s, and were not used for the public purposes of the confiscation. There are also laws that restrict the right of restitution, restrict planning and development rights of Arab communities and procedures that limit the accessibility of land distributed by the state to its Palestinian citizens. Also, there’s master planning, which restricts the development of Palestinian towns and villages on a large-scale, and the massive attempts to displace tens of thousands of Palestinians in the northern Naqab (Negev).

(Click here for +972′s full coverage of the Prawer-Begin Plan)

In regards to land rights, what case concerns you most right now?

It’s basically the Prawer-Begin bill, which the Knesset is trying to enact in the next few months. It aims to evict dozens of Palestinian Bedouin villages in the Naqab, which has about 70,000 citizens, in order to “free” the land for the development of Israeli state interests, either to bring Jewish citizens to the area or develop it for industry or the army. More