At least four protesters were arrested on Thurday near East Jerusalem’s Old City at a demonstration against plans to displace tens of thousands of Bedouin from their ancestral lands in Israel’s Negev desert.
Protesters hit the streets across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, as well as 16 cities worldwide, to voice their rejection of “the Prawer Plan”, which seeks to forcibly relocate about 40,000 Arab Bedouins, effectively ending their semi-nomadic existence in favour of being herded into townships with few municipal facilities.
In occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli security forces shot stun grenades into groups of demonstrators, while mounted police charged into the crowd to arrest Palestinian youths.
At Lehavim Junction, in the heart of the Bedouin area in the Negev, hundreds of Israeli, Palestinian and international activists gathered for a “day of rage”, in opposition to what has been dubbed “the Second Nakba”. The protest remained peaceful, but tense, as demonstrators broke down barricades and confronted mounted police.
Several protesters were reportedly arrested at demonstrations in Israel’s north.
The Prawer Plan, which passed a first reading in the Israeli Knesset last month, will result in the destruction of at least 35 “unrecognised villages”.
Today some 200,000 Bedouin live in the Negev, their presence in the region dating back to the 7th century. Nearly 100,000 of these live in villages deemed illegal by the Israeli state, their homes subject to demolition and denied basic services such as healthcare, water, sanitation and education by the Israeli government. The remaining Bedouin live in government townships with some of the highest rates of poverty, violence and crime in all of Israel.
Some 2,200 homes and more than 14,000 Bedouins were displaced between 2008 and 2011, said Amir, from the Negev Coalition for Civil Equality. A further 140 Bedouin homes have been destroyed already this year, he said.
“This process, the demolitions, evictions and displacement is about land,” he said. “The very Zionist idea about land – to dominate and control people in a space.”