Jemima Khan is among several high-profile personalities who have written an open letter criticising Israeli plans to evict Palestinian Bedouins from their land. (Reuters)
Jemima Khan is among several high-profile personalities who have written an open letter criticising Israeli plans to evict Palestinian Bedouins from their land (Reuters)

Over 50 high-profile British artists, writers and musicians have written an open letter to the Israeli government protesting against plans to forcibly remove up to 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins from their historic desert land.

Artist Anthony Gormley, activist Jemima Khan and film director Mike Leigh are among the signatories to the letter which was published in The Guardian on Friday and condemns the "systematic discrimination and separation" of the Palestinian Bedouin community from their homes.

The letter says that the so-called Prawer-Begin plan, which is expected to get final approval by the end of this year, will result in "the destruction of more than 35 Palestinian towns and villages in Al-Naqab (Negev) in the south of Israel and the expulsion and confinement of up to 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins".  

"The Israeli government is pushing ahead with this plan despite the Palestinian Bedouin community's complete rejection of the plan and condemnation from human rights groups," the letter reads.

"Palestinians are holding mass demonstrations in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territory to oppose the Prawer plan and urge international governments to take action capable of pressuring Israel to abandon the plan."

An Israeli policeman detains a protester during a demonstration in solidarity with Palestinian Bedouins. (Reuters)
An Israeli policeman detains a protester during a demonstration in solidarity with Palestinian Bedouins (Reuters)

The signatories also criticise the UK government for continuing to export arms to Israel while maintaining that it is gravely concerned about the forced displacement of Palestinian Bedouins.

"It is time for the UK government to make its relationship with Israel conditional on respect for human rights and international law and take concrete action to hold Israel to account," the letter adds.

The open letter was published a day before international 'Day of Rage' protests taking place in Palestine, Israel and two dozen other countries on 30 November in protest against the Prawer-Begin plan.

The main protest is expected to take place near the Bedouin township of Hura on Saturday afternoon. Demonstrations are also due to take place in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while thousands of protesters are expected to gather in several cities across the Middle East, Europe and North America.

The Prawer-Begin plan is officially called the Bill on the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev and, if approved, will move the Bedouin residents of several "unrecognised" villages into government-planned towns where poverty is rife and crime rates are high.

The Israeli government said the plan aims to improve the economic development of the Negev desert and will offer Bedouins the opportunity to live in modern homes, take up conventional jobs and send their children to mainstream schools.

Bedouins make up around 30% of the Negev's population but the villages, which lack basic services such as running water, electricity, roads and health clinics, comprise 2.5% of the land.

Israeli Arab children hold placards, some of which name Bedouin villages not recognised by Israel. (Reuters)
Israeli Arab children hold placards, some of which name Bedouin villages not recognised by Israel (Reuters)