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Israel's desert plan would uproot 30,000 Bedouin

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Israel's desert plan

Bulldozed by Israel more than two dozen times, a village known by Bedouin Arabs as Al-Arakib is one of many ramshackle desert communities whose names have never appeared on any official map.

If Israel's parliament adopts proposed new legislation, it never will.

The plan to demolish more Bedouin homes in the southern Negev region and move 30,000 people to government-authorized villages connected to power and water lines has been hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a "historic opportunity" to improve Bedouin lives.

But Israeli Arab leaders, who have long complained about discrimination against their community in the Jewish state, call it "ethnic cleansing," and aim to thwart the project with protests, a general strike and appeals to the United Nations to intervene.

"I will never leave here, I intend to stay until I die," said Abu-Madyam, 46, a farmer from al-Arakib.

He and his family of nine live in a makeshift plastic-sided shack in a cemetery near the ruins of their wooden home, razed by Israeli authorities last year.

The project is the most ambitious attempt in decades by the government to resettle Negev Bedouin and free up land in the largely open spaces of southern Israel for development and construction of military bases to replace facilities in the crowded center of the country.

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