Thousands across Palestine protest against efforts to uproot Bedouin

ActivismIsrael/Palestine
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Protesters against the Prawer Plan (Photo: Allison Deger/Mondoweiss)

Protesters against the Prawer Plan (Photo: Allison Deger/Mondoweiss)

Protests erupted across the Palestinian territories today as a show of force against the Prawer Plan, the Israeli government’s initiative to uproot tens of thousands of Bedouin Arabs, demolish their villages and build new Jewish towns on top of their ruins.

Demonstrations that were part of the planned “Day of Rage” occurred within Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, Jerusalem, other Arab countries and in Europe.  Israeli soldiers and police clashed with protesters and arrested at least 60 people, according to Abir Kopty, a Palestinian activist involved in organizing Prawer Plan protests.

“Activism for Naqab [has] managed to unify Palestinians and generate solidarity in the world beyond divisions and separation and beyond political parties and faction,” Kopty wrote in an e-mail.

Activestills

Police raided Hura, arresting at least six youth (Photo: Activestills)

One of the biggest protests was in the village of Hura, a Bedouin area in the Negev desert, where many Bedouin villages are located.  About 1,000 activists reportedly demonstrated there alongside Palestinian Members of Knesset, and were met with police officers who fired tear gas and “skunk water” as protesters threw stones. At least ten were arrested in Hura.

Hura Junction: Police car in flames, clashes continues, reports on police using rubber coated bullets (Photo: Activestills)

Hura Junction: Police car in flames, clashes continues, reports on police using rubber coated bullets (Photo: Activestills)

Police push back activists towards Hura. Photo: Activestills.org.

Police push back activists towards Hura. Photo: Activestills.org.

A young boy was also arrested:

Another large protest occurred in Haifa, where 1,000 people reportedly gathered, according to the Activestills Twitter account.

Ma’an News reports that a small protest took place in the Gaza Strip:

Dozens of Palestinian youth demonstrated in Gaza City Saturday in protest of Israel’s so-called Prawer Plan to displace Bedouin residents of Negev…

The rally was organized by Gaza Strip’s Intifada Youth Coalition in conjunction with an international “day of rage” against the Prawer Plan.

“We are sending a message to our people in the Negev, asserting that they are a part and parcel of us, despite the occupation’s plans to displace them and exile them from Palestine,” coalition spokeswoman Shurouq Mahmoud said in a statement.

Palestinians from Ramallah demonstrated and walked towards the settlement of Beit El, where settler security officers reportedly fired live ammunition in the air.  Palestinian activist Diana Alzeer posted a link to this video, which she says is from the protest outside Beit El, where 3 demonstrators from the Jalazoun refugee camp were reportedly arrested.

Demonstrations also occurred in Kuwait, Belgium, Rome, Berlin, and England, where 50 prominent public figures signed a letter against the Prawer Plan.

In the days leading up to the “Day of Rage,” Israeli authorites took preemptive measures against activists, including summoning Bedouin organizers to police stations and pressuring bus companies not to transport activists. +972 Magazine’s Haggai Matar reported yesterday on this:

Bedouin activists in the Negev were urgently summoned local police stations on Thursday, where they were warned that they must be granted a permit to hold the third “Day of Rage” against the Prawer Plan, scheduled to take place in the Negev/Naqab on Saturday. However, under the law, demonstrations of this sort do not require such permits. Furthermore, the bus companies hired for the purpose of transporting demonstrators from all over the country received similar phone calls from police and were told that anyone assisting the “illegal demonstration” in any way would be considered an accomplice to the offense. Activists are currently trying to work out a solution out with the police, but are warning against the dangerous path the police are taking by repressing voices of dissent.

The “Prawer Plan” calls for the demolition of 35 unrecognized Bedouin villages, and the forced removal of residents into seven government-approved towns and ten recognized villages.  Jewish towns are set to be built on top of the demolished Bedouin areas.

A previous day of demonstrations was held in July.  Human rights groups harshly criticized the Israeli police for cracking down violently on demonstrators.

This article has been updated to change the number of arrestees, which went from 20 at first publication to 60.

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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15 Responses

  1. Walid
    November 30, 2013, 2:28 pm

    I kept looking at the photos but just couldn’t see Abbas, Fayyad or any other good guys among the demonstrators. Maybe Abbas stayed at the office to receive the Jewish students that Livni had encouraged to go and meet with him to see for themselves if he’s truly a partner for peace; their visit having nothing to do with the Prawer Plan, of course.

    Livni bragged about having saved the European research funds that were about to be cut from Israel because of the settlements:
    :
    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/174616

    • Krauss
      November 30, 2013, 3:24 pm

      If you didn’t see Abbas its because he was manning one of the watercannons in Haifa, all in the name of “confidence-building measures for peace”. As you know, Fatah is really an arm of the IDF. A collaborationist movement.

      • seafoid
        November 30, 2013, 3:52 pm

        That’s a bit harsh, Krauss

        What would you do ?
        Representation in extremis is not My
        Little Pony , especially when the opposing side is insane

        http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/dec/05/defense-jewish-collaborator/

      • Walid
        November 30, 2013, 11:55 pm

        A very interesting read, seafoid, thanks.

        Reading through it, I saw something of Abbas’ actions in the pretended benevolence of Murmelstein’s; maybe in 20 years someone will write a bio on Abbas justifying why he had to do it and how by doing it, he forestalled the full and final eviction of the Palestinians. Ramallah is Theresienstadt and Abbas is Sancho Panza. That would make him the hero of the Palestinian saga.

        Murmelstein justified his actions:

        “Imagine a surgeon who cannot stand blood, who is so good-hearted that he starts crying during an operation. Can you imagine that? He would kill the patient. He is hard-hearted, yes, in order to save the patient. ” and

        “…He (Murmelstein) also likens himself to Scheherezade, keeping Theresienstadt alive by telling stories to both Nazis and Jews.”

      • yrn
        December 1, 2013, 6:53 am

        seafoid

        Those demonstrators are pro Colonialist
        Why do they use Hebrew first and then the same translation in English and only then third in Arabic (Praver is with P and not B in the Arabic translation).
        Shame on them.

  2. seafoid
    November 30, 2013, 2:44 pm

    Haaretz

    Notice the police spin

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/1.560995

    “Thousands of demonstrators gathered in the southern village of Hura, the northern city of Haifa and also in Jerusalem Saturday evening to protest a government plan to resettle some 30,000 Bedouin residents of the Negev desert. While the protests began peacefully, those in Hura and Haifa grew violent, resulting in a total of 28 arrests and 15 wounded police officers.

    The demonstrations were organized as part of an International Day of Rage against the proposed Law for Arranging Bedouin Settlement in the Negev, more commonly known as the Prawer-Begin Plan.

    The demonstration began peacefully at around 3 P.M., with protesters carrying signs accusing the government of turning against the people and chanting slogans demanding the elimination of “Fascism.” But at around 4:30 P.M. things started riling up. The demonstrators and the large police force – which included the Yasam Special Forces unit of the Israel Police, cavalry and helicopters – began clashing. The demonstrators threw stones, while the police used stun grenades, tear gas and water hoses.

    Some protesters claimed that it was the police who started the clashes, only after which demonstrators began throwing stones. However, not everyone agreed to this version of the events. “We did not want the protests to turn violent,” one protester said at the site, “but there were a handful of people who began throwing stones. We don’t ascribe to the notion that the police are against the Bedouin,” he said.

    After the clashes erupted, some protesters began setting tires on fire, and Highway 31, at one intersection of which protest took place, was closed to traffic. Police were injured and a number of police vehicles were damaged by stones, and dozens of protesters were detained. Minors were apparently among them.

    According to Southern District Police Commander Yoram Halevy, protesters torched trash cans and fields, and a firebomb was hurled toward police officers in Hura. In addition, protesters set an industrial wooden cable spool on fire and rolled it toward the police. Firefighters managed to stop it and put out the blaze.

    In Haifa, clashes also broke out between protesters and police. Cops used stun grenades and other means of crowd control, and several demonstrators were arrested there too. The protesters in the northern Israeli city called out various chants: “Prawer will not pass,” “Negev land is Arab land,” and “We will not leave our homes.”

    Another, smaller, protest took place in Jerusalem. Dozens of protesters gathered near Damascus Gate to Jerusalem’s Old City. One demonstrator was arrested and the rally dispersed.

    A total of 28 people were arrested in Haifa, Jerusalem and Hura, while 15 police officers were wounded, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

    Additional demonstrations were expected to take place in Ramallah, Gaza, Berlin, The Hague, Cairo and other cities around the world, after organizers spent weeks drumming up support for a series of simultaneous rallies.

    “The state treats us like an object that can be moved from place to place,” Huda Abu Abed, a university law student and activist against the plan had said prior to the commencement of the protest. “They are denying us the basic right to decide our own fate, to decide where we will live, what we will do with our property and our basic right to a home.” She added that the activists would continue to protest non-violently along roads.

    At the protest, Abu Abed said the turnout was encouraging, because it evidenced opposition to the bill. “We want to show everyone who has the ability to impact the bill that it is the simple people who will be affected by it,” she said.

    “The bill differentiates between two regions: one where Bedouin are allowed to settle, and another where they are not,” Abu Abed continued. “Highway 40 is going to serve as a separation fence for us.”

    Abu Abed lamented that there was no dialogue on the matter between the Bedouin community and the government. She further insisted that the Bedouin are being “expelled for security reasons.”

    Another protester, Haia Noach, of the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, expressed hope that the rally would alert Israelis to the consequences the plan may have for the entire region.

    “It’s important that the Israeli public understand the Prawer plan’s problematic nature, and the harm that it will cause to the Negev,” she said, adding that the damage will not only affect Bedouin, but also Jews.

    “People here are showing solidarity,” she added. “We still haven’t given up on the Jewish public, which must understand that the plan threatens everyone.”

    In addition to expressing opposition to the implementation of the Prawer-Begin plan, demonstrators pointed to the severe steps that have already been taken by the government against residents of the Negev. Last week, protest erupted following – among other things – the arrest of Sheik Siah Abu Mada’am al-Turi from al Arakib who is considered symbol of the struggle for the unrecognized villages.

    Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman responded to the protests in a post on his Facebook page.

    “We are fighting for the national land of the Jewish people, and there are those who are trying to steal [this land] and take it over by force,” he said, criticizing the protesters. He added that he initially opposed the Prawer-Begin bill but eventually decided to support it because he was told that the Bedouin leaders had consented to the plan.

    “Just like we had feared, the Bedouin are only interested in the ‘carrot’ – the benefits and the alternative land – while making every effort, even through violence, to oppose the ‘stick,'” he continued. “They must leave the land on which they reside illegally.”

    Lieberman also called on the government to rethink the entire plan and nix the benefits that were promised to the Bedouin.

    The a bill for Arranging Bedouin Settlement in the Negev would move thousands of Bedouins into government-recognized villages. Opponents charge the plan would confiscate Bedouin land, but Israel says the moves are necessary to provide basic services that many Bedouins lack.
    Officials say the plan calls for the vast majority of Bedouin to live where they are, while allowing them to preserve their traditions in a modern state”.

    Israel is hardly a modern state. It’s a medieval theocracy.
    Lieberman is such a miserable human being .

    • Philip Munger
      November 30, 2013, 4:12 pm

      These statements are troubling:

      Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman responded to the protests in a post on his Facebook page.

      “We are fighting for the national land of the Jewish people, and there are those who are trying to steal [this land] and take it over by force…”

      and

      “Just like we had feared, the Bedouin are only interested in the ‘carrot’ – the benefits and the alternative land – while making every effort, even through violence, to oppose the ‘stick,’” he continued. “They must leave the land on which they reside illegally.”

      Lieberman also called on the government to rethink the entire plan and nix the benefits that were promised to the Bedouin.

      What benefits? Ones like this one?

      Calling the “Prawer Plan” controversial is, perhaps, an understatement, since it includes not only the destruction of 37 Bedouin villages; but also the forced relocation of indigenous peoples to an area beside a garbage dump.

      http://intercontinentalcry.org/israel-to-forcibly-evict-40000-bedouins-from-ancestral-land/

      I haven’t read or seen a comprehensive description of the communities to which these people will be forcibly relocated. Can someone direct me to a source? The article I linked to above has a good, expandable map of the areas and communities facing removals and reclassification.

      • seafoid
        November 30, 2013, 4:50 pm

        Lieberman is 100% ideologue.
        If Moses came back to earth he’d have him arrested as an illegal infiltrator. Or else shot. He is loathsome.
        And he’s very much part of the Israeli Zeitgeist 65 years into the Jewish Disneyland.

      • Naftush
        December 2, 2013, 4:59 am

        These Bedouin are citizens of Israel and, as such, cannot be forced to relocate to any particular town, let alone a Bedouin one. They can, however, be forced to relocate to properly zoned and legally constituted towns. Those who would Palestinicize them into new targets of Zionist genocide need only consult their localities’ land-use rules to figure it out. As for settling them next to a garbage dump, you’re confusing Israeli localities with Palestinian Arab ones — unless it’s a throwaway line, since every locality is “next to “a garbage dump if you tweak the definition enough.

      • Shmuel
        December 2, 2013, 10:04 am

        These Bedouin are citizens of Israel and, as such, cannot be forced to relocate to any particular town, let alone a Bedouin one.

        Sure, the residents of Umm el-Hiran, for example, can go to the housing provided in the Yatir Forest nature reserve for the national-religious Jews waiting to build over their village. Oh, wait; that’s just for Jews. Or maybe they can move into the planned settlement of Hiran, to be built atop the ruins of their current homes. No, that’s also just for Jews. I know; they can go live on a heavily subsidised settlement in area C. No, that won’t work either. An illegal outpost in the WB? Only Jews get away with that (and get electricity, water and roads at government expense – something the residents of the “unrecognised” Bedouin villages have been denied for decades, even at their own expense). A new rural settlement in the Negev itself or an “indvidual farm”? Jews only. A home of their choice anywhere in the country with their generous compensation package and special assistance (just like the Gaza settlers)? I guess not. OK, public housing in one of the Arab municipalities in Israel? Public what where? A tent somewhere in the vast desert? Better not. They’ll be accused of “nomadism” and evicted yet again.

        You’re right, they can’t be forced to relocate to any particular town, Bedouin or otherwise. As far as the Israeli government is concerned, they can simply go to hell.

  3. Krauss
    November 30, 2013, 3:25 pm

    It’s amazing what protests can do. They may not change the plan right away but they force the attention of the world. My twitterfeed is going nuts, even from people who are not at all usually into this topic are noticing and talking about it. A lot of last-minute frantic googling going on. Good to see.

    Of course NYT and other publications have been completely silent about this. #Zionistblackout

    • seafoid
      November 30, 2013, 3:44 pm

      Protests like this tell the outside world that Government and the opposition have failed, that politics is broken, that rights are being ignored and that the people have had enough.

      Khalaas ya’ni

  4. Linda J
    November 30, 2013, 8:15 pm

    Some pictures of Seattle’s solidarity effort with Palestinians resisting Prawer Plan: http://siratyst.blogspot.com/2013/11/seattle-says-no-to-israels-prawer-plan.html

  5. Walid
    December 1, 2013, 1:32 am

    Apart from a worthwhile turn-out by Palestinians themselves in Palestine with the usual bashing of heads by the Israeli forces, demonstrations elsewhere in the world, despite the valiant efforts of those few that actually participated, were feeble. It’s time the Palestinians changed tactics, quit the unproductive stone throwing, retired Erekat and brought back Diana Butto in an official capacity, and hired a good NYC PR agency to show the world the face of the monster it has unleashed on them. In one year, a professionally conducted campaign would greatly surpass the successes of BDS over its last 8 years.

  6. eGuard
    December 1, 2013, 1:26 pm

    The only democracy in the Middle East(TM) at work.

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