Police demand media outlets turn over material from Prawer Plan protests

The Israel Police, in cooperation with prosecutors from the Southern District, filed eight indictments Monday against individuals authorities claim were involved in clashes Saturday during a demonstration against Israel’s controversial Arab-Bedouin eviction plan. Four of those detained and charged were minors, police said. Earlier Monday, indictments were filed against two youths who prosecutors said attacked police during the demonstration.  One of the detained activists is a member of Hadash from Tel-Aviv: Eldad Tzion (27).

Demonstrators run away from a police water canon track during a Day Of Rage protest against the Prawer-Begin Plan, Haifa, Israel, November 30, 2013 (Photo: Activestills)

Demonstrators run away from a police water canon track during a Day Of Rage protest against the Prawer-Begin Plan, Haifa, Israel, November 30, 2013 (Photo: Activestills)

On Saturday, 40 people were arrested during in the Negev at a demonstration against the Prawer Plan. Another 15 people were detained in Haifa. Attorney Suhad Bishara, from the Adalah human rights organization and one of the lawyers representing the Haifa group of protesters, said Monday that the arrest of the protesters was arbitrary and its sole purpose was to “cause fear and stifle the protest movement against the Prawer Plan.”  “We see time and again that the police take liberties when it comes to persecuting Arab citizens by breaching their freedom of expression rights,” Bishara added.  A prominent Israeli human rights group slammed “disproportionate police conduct” and intimidation of protesters following the widespread crackdown across the country against Saturday’s “Day of Rage” demonstrations. The executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Hagai El-Ad, highlighted in a statement Sunday the “disproportionate police tactics before and during anti-Prawer demonstrations,” stressing that they reflected Israel’s “disregard for the Bedouin population” as well as its ongoing violation of “Bedouin rights to free speech and equality.” “The same aggressiveness demonstrated by the state’s one-sided ‘Begin-Prawer Plan’ was on display again in the disproportionate police conduct towards demonstrators over the course of yesterday’s protests,” he said, referring to Saturday’s nationwide demonstrations.

El-Ad linked the “heavy-handed” response to a campaign of intimidation against organizers that preceded the demonstrations. “This conduct follows recent police attempts to intimidate the organizers of the day’s demonstrations,” he said. He also referenced a letter the organization co-authored, along with Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, that was sent to the Israeli chief of police and attorney general on Thursday. That letter demanded they “put an immediate stop to the police and General Security Service’s practice of summoning activists involved in the protests against the Begin-Prawer Plan for ‘warning conversations.'” Demonstrations took place in nearly 30 cities across Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, as well as around the world on Saturday, in a “Day of Rage” against the Prawer Plan. It was the third “Day of Rage” against the plan so far this year. Protesters were met with force by Israeli police and in the West Bank, and dozens were detained amidst clashes as police attacked demonstrators. The Israeli government approved the Prawer-Begin Plan in 2011, in what it says was an attempt to address the problem of unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev desert of southern Israel. According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the plan will forcibly evict nearly 40,000 Arab-Bedouins.

Police on Monday ordered media outlets to hand in photographs taken at the demonstration in the Negev. The unusual order was approved by the Beersheba Magistrate’s Court. “All the media in the State of Israel to hand over any documentation of the riots at Hura Junction and the surroundings on November 30, 2013,” a text message sent Monday to reporters and photographers read, as reported by Haaretz.

The Journalists Union slammed the order calling it an “attempt to use journalists as an investigative tool.” “We consider it a serious blow to the trust between the public and the press,” the organization said in a statement. Haaretz, Channel 2 News and Channel 10 News said they intended to challenge the order.

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