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Beaten, arrested, threatened: A personal account from the anti-Prawer protest

She was clubbed and dragged while her friends were beaten and arrested during a demonstration against the planned expulsion of thousands of Bedouin in the Negev.

By Alma Biblash (translated by Dimi Reider)

Three arrested Beduin youth laying on the ground hand cuffed during a police raid on the main road on the town of Hura, after a Day of Rage protest, November 30, 2013.

On Saturday night at the anti-Prawer demonstration in the village of Houra, a policeman swung a club against my leg when I tried to persuade him to let go of a girl he was holding by the throat.

Another policeman grabbed me by the arms and dragged me off. A moment later he grabbed a little boy standing next to me, shoved his face into the dirt and screamed at him that he is going to kill him. A young woman shouted at a policeman to calm down and stop beating people up, and he slapped her so hard she fell onto the ground.

I’m running, escaping the jet of putrid water, a man is running next to me. Police on horseback appear out of the dark and trample him down, sending him flying into the air.

Click here for a photo essay from the anti-Prawer protests

I’m hiding behind a parked vehicle with stun grenades exploding all around me. On the ground next to me is a kuffiyeh soaked in blood. I decide to go back to the buses where it’s quiet. Along the way I see a little boy sitting on the ground and crying. I tell him it’s too dangerous to sit here but he doesn’t seem to hear, or maybe he doesn’t understand Hebrew. Eventually he gets up and starts running with me until he hears a familiar voice calling him, lets go of my hand and disappears.

All around me terrified people are running, but I’m out of breath, and I go straight for the bus. One friend with a swollen face catches up with me, another has a deep cut to her brow and blood on her face and shirt.

We take the bus to the police station and begin protesting, demanding for the prisoners to be released. At some point the policemen decide that it is time for us to leave. They are huge and get particularly close to the women, nearly touching us, before screaming into our faces. They push us away with far more force than necessary, and shove me and another woman up against a parked car. It’s hard to breathe. A friend says – we’re leaving, just let us move away. “Shut up!” one of them screams at her and raises his hand threateningly. Ambulances arrive with wounded detainees on stretchers. No wonder the police didn’t want us to see. Meanwhile, reports are coming in about live fire being used by the police near the village. On the way home, I listen to the stories of other friends, many of them beaten by the police.

The Israeli media reported on the “extreme violence” on the part of the protesters, using its usual vocabulary of “riots,” “disturbances” and “clashes” alongside ominous photos of burning tires. Many friends are still detained or under house arrest, and many are facing indictments for violence and assault. Perhaps it is time we start talking about what really happened in the village of Houra on Saturday night.

Read more:
Activists hold ‘day of rage’ protests against Prawer Plan
PHOTOS: ‘Day of rage’ against the Prawer Plan in five cities
Police drag, arrest and allegedly beat Bedouin child at anti-Prawer protest

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  • COMMENTS

    1. “On Saturday night at the anti-Prawer demonstration in the village of Houra, a policeman swung a club against my leg when I tried to persuade him to let go of a girl he was holding by the throat.

      Another policeman grabbed me by the arms and dragged me off. A moment later he grabbed a little boy standing next to me, shoved his face into the dirt and screamed at him that he is going to kill him. A young woman shouted at a policeman to calm down and stop beating people up, and he slapped her so hard she fell onto the ground.”

      This would be enough to bring in the FBI and Justice Department in the US–under the right Administration.

      At such events some protesters should be dedicated to solely filming, with a back up protester to film what happens to the other video person. Several such pairs. If one of the pair is taken down, the other retreats with what evidence s/he has gathered. Without such evidence, your stories are not likely to go far. Video has to be a crucial goal, always. Given what you relate, the protest had no forethought. You always have to assume a violent outcome may happen.

      Anyhow, that’s what I think, assuming what you have related is true. Never lie. No matter how tempting, no matter how many times the truth has been ignored. Never lie. One lie can nullify everything you say, anything in the future you may say.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Joel

      @Alma

      Did you witness any demonstrators acting violently toward the police?

      Reply to Comment
      • Haifawi

        I did witness stones being thrown towards the police (who were fully prepared in full riot gear). However, your question is irrelevant. Violence by the police is justified if it serves a policing purpose. I.e. the use of crowd dispersal techniques like water cannons and tear gas, the use of force to subdue someone who is resisting detention, or the use of force in self-defense.
        The violence described here served none of those purposes. You can’t gratuitously slap and hit people if you are a police officer, regardless of how many stones have bounced off your plexiglass face shield.

        Reply to Comment
        • Haifawi is right, I think. It is a hard job to be police subject to protest violence, but that does not excuse the acts reported in this piece. Refraining from such acts should be copresent with police power.

          Reply to Comment
          • Vadim

            No.

            As soon as protesters start throwing stones and attack police forces they lose all kinds of rights. Police should refrain from using excessive force but I wouldn’t count on it.

            You wanted a “Day of rage”, you got a day or rage.

            Reply to Comment
          • Haifawi

            The protestors in general lose their right to assemble and the ones physically assaulting officers lose their right to not be forcibly subdued. But protestors in general do not lose the right to not be personally assaulted at close quarters.
            This is basic civics, commensurate with the monopoly of force by the state, at least in any society that considers itself ‘free.’ Otherwise, the police are simply actors in a barfight or the state is a repressive totalitarian regime.
            I didn’t move to China, Belarus, or Somalia thank you very much.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            If the protesters refuse to vacate what has turned into a violent attack on police or insist on thwarting the arrests of those attacking the police then they turn themselves into parties to the crimes of those carrying out violence. The police at that point are justified in using reasonable force to remove the protestors and to arrest those that refuse to leave willingly.

            This is basic law enforcement. The procedure would be the same in Seattle or London.

            Reply to Comment

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