UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] on Thursday urged [press release] Israel to reconsider a law [press release] that, if adopted, is likely to result in the demolition of up to 35 Bedouin villages in the Negev desert. The proposed Law for Regularizing Bedouin Habitation in the Negev (Prawer-Begin Bill) [text, PDF] seeks to offer Bedouins limited compensation [UN News Centre report] on the condition that they move to one of seven Bedouin townships the Israeli government has created. Regarding the law, Pillay stated, "[t]he Government must recognize and respect the specific rights of its Bedouin communities, including recognition of Bedouin land ownership claims." Amnesty International [advocacy website] also demanded that Israel halt the demolition [press release] of Arab Bedouin homes, after receiving news that the village of al-'Araqib was once again razed by authorities. The first reading of the proposed bill passed in June, and is expected to go through the second and third readings before the end of this month.
Israel [JURIST backgrounder] has received much attention from the UN in recent months. Last month the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories Richard Falk called on Israel [JURIST report] to end its blockade of the Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder]. The blockade, which restricts the flow of goods and people into the region through heavily-guarded border-crossings, has been devastating for the 1.75 million Palestinians living in the region. In May Falk also urged [JURIST report] Israel to stop construction of a highway that would cut off the local roads of Palestinian community Beit Safafa. In December Falk called on Israel [JURIST report] to fully implement and continue to support the recent conflict-ending ceasefire agreement with Palestinians in Gaza.