A rights organisation based in Israel has accused the government of promoting "racist" policies with its decision to establish a Jewish town in the place of a Bedouin village.

The Israeli cabinet on Sunday approved the establishment of "two new communities in the Negev" desert in southern Israel, naming them as Kesif and Hiran.

According to Suhad Bishara, director of the land and planning unit at Israeli Arab rights group Adalah, "in order to build Hiran it will accelerate the demolition of the unrecognised Umm el-Hieran village in the Negev and evict its residents".

Bishara charged that establishing new Jewish towns in the Negev while evicting the Bedouin residents showed that the government was motivated primarily by "racist policies" against Arab Bedouin citizens.

The Israeli housing and construction ministry, which is responsible for implementing the programme, said that the accusations were unfounded.

"So far their claims have been rejected by different court panels and by a number of building and planning committees, each and every one of which ruled that there is nothing to these claims or to (Bedouin) claims of ownership of the land on which Hiran is to be built," ministry spokesman Ariel Rosenberg said in a written response to AFP news agency.

"So any claim of racism should be dismissed out of hand - the law is equal for everyone," he said.

A bill calling for the relocation of 30,000-40,000 Bedouin, the demolition of about 40 villages and confiscation of more than 70,000 hectares of Negev land was approved by the government in January and by parliament in a first reading in June.

The bill has to pass two more readings in parliament before becoming law.

Source: AFP