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Breaking: Day of Rage Against Forced Removal of 40,000 Bedouin

An Anonymous Mask in the Negev/Naqab Desert

This is a story that has been ongoing for many years. And far away as it may seem, it greatly impacts the regional stability of the entire Middle East, and so it directly concerns you.

Yet you've probably never heard a word about it.

Since its creation, the Israeli government has actively worked to concentrate the indigenous Bedouin of the Nagab (Negev) Desert into a sliver of territory, less than 1% of their former range. And as we speak, the government is threatening to remove 30-40,000 Bedouin-Palestinians from several dozen villages and to demolish their homes – by force. They want the land the Bedouin reside on, for new Jewish suburbs and agricultural settlements, as well as IDF (Israel Defense Forces) training grounds. (For more of the context behind this story, click here.)

Part of what's remarkable about this situation is that these Bedouin are citizens of Israel, residing on the Israeli side of the Green Line (Arab citizens comprise 20% of Israeli citizenry). Yet in some significant ways, the Israeli government's treatment of Bedouin citizens of Israel bears a certain resemblance to its behavior towards Palestinians living over the Green Line. This catches the State of Israel in a lie about its provision of equal rights to Arab citizens of Israel, and is part of what makes Bedouin citizens of Israel so clearly Palestinian: their ongoing experience of displacement is a direct extension of the process that began in 1948.

Since the start of the second Intifada in 2000, this process has had so many names it's been difficult to keep track. First there was the horrifying revelation of the "Sharon Negev Development Plan"; then, the terrible let-down once the conclusions of the "Goldberg Commission" emerged; and now, the devastating "Prawer Plan". But one word really sums it up: Nakba. This is the term Palestinians use to describe the experience of exile from their homeland in 1948, and it means "Catastrophe."

Maybe, given everything you've heard about Israel/Palestine, none of this shocks you. But it should shock you.

Certainly, almost nothing shocks anyone in Israel or Palestine anymore. But after more than a decade of active threats on the part of the Israeli government, and the repeated demolition of several villages in the past several years, the Israeli government's treatment of the Bedouin has finally ignited a Day of Rage, throughout Israel/Palestine. (Scroll down for images and details.)

Why is the government doing this to Bedouin citizens of Israel, now? Well, to start, they've never stopped.

In order to create a Jewish majority, the nascent State of Israel "had to" diminish the Palestinian population. It is now well-established that, to “accomplish” this, the nascent Israeli army expelled and/or massacred entire Palestinian villages. But the Arab population today is booming (Bedouin Muslim and Hasidic Jewish birthrates are among the highest in the entire world). And the Zionist character of the State of Israel dictates that it is not enough to create a Jewish majority - that majority must be maintained. How does one do that, exactly? Please permit me a moment of frank cynicism, and talk like a right-wing Israeli: in this day and age, expelling tens of thousands of Palestinians would be hard to justify internationally, or to cover up. Another way to go (favored by what was once the Far Right in Israel, which has since taken power) is to “make their lives so hard, they will ask to leave."

What better way to make their lives that hard, than by taking away their land all these years later, and giving it to floods of new Jewish immigrants. These are the longest-residing people in the entire region of Israel/Palestine, with a documented presence going back at least 500 years. Pushing 40,000 Bedouin into urban townships against their will, so as to make "space" for Jewish settlement (what they call the "Blueprint Negev"), will spell the end of the Bedouin way of life once and for all - the last step in a 65-year process of culturecide.

Which leads to another approach to offsetting the “Arab demographic threat”, as they call it in Israel. Provoke the Bedouin to defend their homes by force. Bedouin use of violence in self-defensegiven Israel's effective campaign to paint Palestinians as a people that never gave non-violent resistance a chancecould seem to justify a major Israeli onslaught on Arab citizens of Israel, in the eyes of the world.

The thing is, that “rationale” just won't work. Since the 1950sthroughout which the Israeli army continuously expelled immeasurable numbers of Bedouin to Jordan and Egyptthe collective Bedouin reaction to State violence has been markedly non-violent. Unfortunately, until the 1990s, the Bedouin engaged in little coordinated response, and if anything, until the previous decade, a fair number of Bedouin were waiting to see if life under Israeli rule would improve upon that under the British or the Ottomans. In fact (and this is a very taboo point to raise), Israel actively recruited Naqab Arabs as Border Patrolmen in the Israeli army, promising them municipal services in exchange for service to the State.

By the 70s, these promised education and health services were still hardly anywhere to be seen. At this stage, the Israeli government lured the Bedouin into relinquishing their lands, with the promise of houses and electricity, and about half the Bedouin gave the deal a shot. But by the 80s, it was clear that the whole thing had been a set-up. Recruiting Bedouin into the army had been a means of transforming this nomadic people who knew the terrain very well, from a potential threat into an asset. It had been a means of coopting the Bedouin, separating them from the rest of the Palestinian people with whom they shared a common experience of displacement.

Starting in 1997, the Bedouin established their own autonomous regional council, and within a decade, a real organized resistance was underway. Years of pretty secluded meetings between the Shaykhs of the 45 unrecognized Bedouin villages (meaning villages whose land claims the State of Israel refuses to recognize) finally gave way to large-scale demonstrations involving significant acts of solidarity from Palestinian citizens of Israel to the north, international and Israeli activists, and for perhaps the first time since 1948, Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza.

And now, over the last few days, non-violent demonstrations in support of the Palestinian-Bedouin have spread beyond the Naqab/Negev Desert, all the way to the north of the country. The Day of Rage Against the Prawer Plan, lasted late into last night - from Haifa, to Gaza. Scroll down for images....

Solidarity from Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel in Haifa.

Activists hold 'day of rage' protests against Prawer Plan

By Activestills, +972 Magazine staff

Bedouin, Palestinian and Israeli activists staged a ‘Day of Rage’ against the Prawer Plan Saturday afternoon, holding rallies and protests throughout Israel and Palestine, with international solidarity protests taking place in cities across the world.

The central protest took place outside the Bedouin town of Hura in the Negev desert. Over 1,000 Arab and Jewish protesters arrived from all over Israel, calling to stop the Prawer Plan, which if passed, will displace tens of thousands of Bedouin, who are citizens of the state.

Read more about the Prawer-Begin Plan

Protesters were met by dozens of armored and mounted riot police who confined the protest in a barricaded area tens of meters back from the main road.

Both sides brought horses. At the protest outside Hura in the Negev, November 30, 2013, mounted riot police stood wearing body armor were juxtaposed against Bedouin boys on horses of their own.

Children fly kites at the demonstration against the Prawer Plan during November 30th’s Day of Rage protest outside Hura in the Negev, November 30, 2013.

Younger protesters attempted to breach the police barricades but elder demonstrators, including several Arab members of Knesset, pleaded with them and for a while prevented them from doing so.

Clashes eventually broke out and police used tear gas, foul-smelling water cannons and mounted, undercover and uniformed riot police officers to disperse the crowd. As youth threw stones, riot police charged into the crowd, arresting at least 15 activists, including at least one child. Clashes continued for some time as Bedouin youth blocked the main road with burning tractor tires. The Prawer Plan, if implemented, will displace tens of thousands of Arab citizens of Israel.

Israeli Police arrest a protester outside the town of Hura in the Negev, where a large demonstration took place against the Prawer Plan, November 30, 2013.

Bedouin youth block the main road outside the Negev town of Hura, where a large demonstration took place against the Prawer Plan, November 30, 2013.

Bedouin youth burn a police trailer following clashes that ended a protest against the Prawer Plan in the Negev town of Hura, November 30, 2013.

UPDATE (7:40 p.m.): Police were reportedly using rubber-coated steel bullets to push the remaining protesters who were still blocking the main road back into the town of Hura, arresting four. Other protesters made their way to a Negev police station where they were demanding the release of those who were arrested.

Police arrest Bedouin youths as they pushed the remaining protesters back into the town of Hura. Youth had blocked the main road for hours after a protest against the Prawer Plan, November 30, 2013. (Photo: Activestills.org)

In the West Bank, several dozen protesters marched from Ramallah toward the encroaching settlement of Beit El. Settlement security officers fired live ammunition in the air and Israeli soldiers used tear gas to drive the protesters back toward the Jalazoun refugee camp. Three Palestinian protesters were arrested and reportedly beaten by the soldiers.

An activist is arrested by Israeli forces during the Day Of Rage against the Prawer-Begin Plan in front of the Israeli settlement Beit El, Al Jalazun, West Bank, November 30, 2013. (Photo: Activestills.org)

In the Gaza Strip, roughly 100 people gathered in Palestine Square (al-Saha) to protest the plan to displace Bedouin in the adjacent Negev desert.

Isra Almodallal, spokeswoman for the Palestinian government in Gaza, addresses a rally in Palestine Square (al-Saha), Gaza City, November 30, 2013. The event is part of a global “Day of Rage” against the Prawer-Begin Plan. (Photo: Joe Catron)

Elsewhere, solidarity protests took place in Berlin, London, Rome, Istanbul and Belgium.

Activists stage a bicycle protest in the center of Brussels, Belgium, as part of the global Day of Rage against the Prawer Plan, November 30, 2013.

Protests in Haifa and Jerusalem began at around 4:30 p.m. local time. Around 100 people gathered at Herod’s Gate (Bab a-Zahara), where Israeli border police awaited them.

Update (8 p.m.): Police reported that 15 people were arrested in Haifa and that a police officer was stabbed and lightly wounded.

Police deploy a water canon against anti-Prawer Plan protesters in Haifa, November 30, 2013. (Photo: Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Activists demonstrate against the Prawer Plan at Herod’s Gate in East Jerusalem, November 30, 2013.

Activists are blocked by Israeli police during the Day Of Rage against the Prawer-Begin Plan, Bab A-Zahara (Herod’s Gate), East Jerusalem November 30, 2013.

Update (9:20 p.m.): Dozens gather at Jaffa’s Clock Tower to protest against the arrests of demonstrators across the country. Approximately 30 demonstrators were arrested in the Negev protest, all of whom are still in police custody. The three Palestinians arrested in the Ramallah demonstration have been released.

A version of this piece was originally published on +972mag.

Update!!!

The Prawer Plan to transfer 30-40,000 Bedouin Palestinian citizens of Israel was in the works for many decades. And as of 12.12.13 it appears, the Prawer Plan has been shelved! BUT: We can count this a victory for the moment only. The Israeli "Right" will certainly come back with a much worse plan. Will the Right prevail next time around? Ultimately, no, not if the Bedouin continue to resist.

 

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