Over 1,000 Bedouin and leftist activists protested in the Negev Saturday night over the “Prawer-Begin Plan” to organize Bedouin residence in the area, where many illegal Bedouin settlements have sprung up on state land. Similar protests occurred in Haifa, Samaria and Gaza during a “day of rage.”
The bill, which has generated much friction from Arab MKs, will give Negev Bedouin 180,000 dunams (45,000 acres) of state land for free, to set up farming or urban communities, as well as granting them “compensation” for the state land many Bedouin are currently squatting on.
Arab and left-wing opposition comes against the bill, which has to pass 2 more readings to become law, as it would move 30,000-40,000 Bedouins from their illegal outposts and villages, and demolish 40 illegal settlements.
The largest protest on Saturday’s “international day of rage” occurred on Highway 31 in the Negev, where over 1,000 demonstrators threw stones at police forces that arrived at the area.
According to eyewitness reports police used tear gas and water cannons in response to the attacks, and Bedouin blocked the highway with burning tractor tires.
Police Spokeswoman Louba Samri told AFP that “ten policemen were lightly hurt and 11 protesters were arrested” during the clash. Among the injured was Coastal Region Police Commander Hagai Dotan.
Meanwhile hundreds protested in Haifa, Israel’s third largest city which has a large Arab population. Six rioters were arrested there, according to Samri.
Protests also occurred in Gaza, as well as in Taibe in Samaria where hundreds waved PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) flags and raised signs reading “we will continue to struggle against Prawer.”
Much of the motivation to implement the plan comes following the state of lawlessness and chaos prevailing in the Negev.
Radio host Avri Gilad visited the area in May, and reported later “there is no more Negev, the Bedouin took it all.” Gilad added the Prawer plan “offers them 63% of the territory that they are claiming – with no proof – belongs to them.”
Recent reports have shown that foreign-backed NGOs have been key supporters of the illegal Bedouin land grabs