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Thousands Protest Prawer Plan in Global "Day of Rage"

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By Ben H. - December 04, 2013
Section: [Main News] [IN PICTURES] [Life under Occupation] [Features]
Tags: [Prawer Plan] [ethnic cleansing] [protests]

The protest against the Prawer Plan in Ramallah. Photos by Calum Toogood.

Protests were held throughout the Israeli and Palestinian territories as well as 31 cities around the world on Saturday, 30 November, to protest the Prawer-Begin Bill for the Regulation of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev, a development plan currently being reviewed by the Israeli parliament which would displace some 40,000-70,000 Bedouin from their communities in the Negev (known as al-Naqab in Arabic), the desert region of southern Israel.

The Prawer Plan, as Prawer-Begin is commonly called, targets dozens of Bedouin settlements in the Negev – “areas not recognized by the government as residential locations,” according to an article on the plan published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in March 2012.  The tens of thousands of Bedouin due to be displaced by the plan would be resettled in neighborhoods designated by the government for this purpose.  While the language of the plan is vague regarding the size and location of the settlements, it states that possible areas for relocation “could include neighborhoods in long-standing Bedouin settlements, in the Abu Basma settlements [11 extant Bedouin villages in the northwestern Negev], or in close-fitting expansions of these and other settlement sites.”

Prawer passed its first reading in the Knesset in June of this year and will receive second and third readings in the coming months. “If passed into law,” states a report on the Prawer Plan from the Institute of Middle East Understanding, “it could result in the largest displacement of Palestinian citizens of Israel since the 1950s.”

Since its adoption by the Israeli government as a proposed plan for the Negev in 2011, Prawer has faced considerable backlash and outcry both from Palestinians and the international community.  Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated in July 2013 that the Prawer Plan “seeks to legitimize forcible displacement and dispossession of indigenous Bedouin communities.”

Saturday’s “Day of Rage,” organized by a coalition of youth organizations and the Alternative Information Center – a joint Palestinian-Israeli NGO – was the third such day of coordinated protests against the Prawer Plan this year.  Large demonstrations were held in Haifa, Jerusalem, and Hura village in the Negev, where more than 1,000 protesters massed in opposition to Prawer.  Smaller protests occurred in Gaza City and outside the Beit El settlement near Ramallah.

Israel’s government issued a harsh response to the 30 November protests. “We will not tolerate such riots.  We shall continue to advance the Prawer Bill,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

Violence at the Gates of Beit El

Protestors gathered outside City Hall in Ramallah and bused to Beit El, the nearby Israeli settlement that houses the Civil Administration, which oversees and administers Israel’s policies in the West Bank.  Led by Abdullah Abu Rahma, coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee, protestors attempted to open the gates of the settlement.

Settlers inside Beit El threw stones at the protestors and fired handguns into the air to disperse the demonstrators.  Shortly thereafter, Israeli armed forces arrived and pushed the demonstration down the main street away from the settlement using riot shields and tear gas.

Three people were arrested at the Beit El protest.  Ma’an News Agency later published a civilian journalist’s video of police brutality during one of the arrests.

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, General Secretary of the Palestine National Initiative, who attended the demonstration at Beit El, called the Prawer Plan “a racist, apartheid, ethnic cleansing plan.”


Police Clash With Protesters in the Negev

Approximately 1,000 people, including two Palestinian members of the Knesset, demonstrated in Dura village in the Negev on Saturday, blocking the highway between Beersheba and the Dead Sea.  The protest turned violent after police officers, some on horseback, began clashing with youth throwing rocks at the officers.  Police used batons and water cannons to attack the protestors.

Clashes continued into the evening, and ten of the protestors were arrested.  According to Al-Jazeera’s account of the protest, burning barriers were set up on the highway and some young protestors threw Molotov cocktails at the police officers present.

In an interview with Ma’an News Agency, Ahmad al-Tibi, one of the Knesset members who joined the demonstration, said that “the protest was meant to emphasize that Prawer will not pass on the ground, even if it does in the Knesset.”


The protest against the Prawer Plan in the Negev. Photos by Lazar Simeonov.








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