Strike and protest rallies against Prawer Bill

The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab citizens of Israel called for a general strike among Israeli Arabs on Monday, in protest over the approval of the law which legalizes expulsion of Arab-Bedouins for their land in the Negev.

Demonstrations took place across Israel and the occupied West Bank on Monday to protest against Israel’s Prawer Plan, which will displace thousands of Bedouin families in the Negev desert. In June, Israel approved a draft law to implement a plan which will displace thousands of Bedouins in the Negev desert. 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. The 2011 proposal was formulated without any consultation with the Bedouin community and rights groups slammed it as a major blow to Bedouin rights. According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the plan will forcibly evict nearly 40,000 Bedouins and destroy their communal and social fabric, condemning them to a future of poverty and unemployment. Israel refuses to recognize 35 Bedouin villages in the Negev, which collectively house nearly 90,000 people.

Protesters in Beer-Sheva, near Ben-Gurion University (Photo: Negev Coexistence Forum for Equality)

In Beersheba, hundreds of Arab citizens held demonstrations throughout the north Monday, blocking main roads in protest of the Prawer Bill. The large procession in Be’er Sheva that began at 10:00 A.M. Monday, with the slogan “The Prawer Plan will not pass,” was the main event planned as part of a general strike declared by the High Steering Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, which has led to the closing of commercial establishments and local authority offices in Arab communities on Monday.  The procession started next to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and concluded by the offices of the Bedouin Administration. At least 20 people were arrested and dozens assaulted by Israeli forces as demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and chanted “Down with the Prawer-Begin criminal plan.” Protesters carried signs with the names of the Bedouin villages which are due to be displaced.

Near Sakhnin, in the Galilee, hundreds blocked Yuvalim junction. Police, Border Patrol and YASAM forces used stun grenades to disperse the crowd.  Fourteen people were arrested during the protest Also, hundreds of Wadi Ara and Um El-Fahm residents took to the streets and blocked the main entrance to the city as well as parts of route 65. The protest in Wadi Ara along route 65 ended without incident. In Jaffa, some 250 demonstrators, Arabs and Jews blocked the road near the Clock Square. Other demonstrations take place in Nazareth, Haifa (on Sunday night), Lod, Ramleh in Israel; and in east Jerusalem, Ramallah, Hebron and Nablus in the Palestinian territories.

Thabet Abu Rass of Adalah, an Arab legal rights group and leading Hadash activist, told “The Jerusalem Post” that the strike had been called to protest the Prawer-Begin plan. Abu Rass, who heads Adalah’s Negev branch, told the Post that “the government of Israel has declared a war on the Bedouin and Arab community.” The land issue “has the potential of inflaming Arab-Jewish relations in Israel,” he said. “We are calling on the government to freeze the plan for six months and start an open dialogue with the Bedouin,” he added, charging that the whole point of the Prawer-Begin plan was to confiscate Bedouin land for Jewish use. He described the government’s policy as that of apartheid, stating that building Jewish towns on the ruins of Arab villages was “racism and against Jewish values.”

                Bedouin expulsion plan wins slim Knesset majority after stormy 1st reading