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Anti-Prawer 'day of rage': Chronicle of a violent confrontation foretold

Heavy clashes at anti-Prawer protests were anything but unforeseeable. Unfortunately, the way the media and politicians are responding is only likely to make things worse.

The Hura demonstration before the violence. Not the pictures you saw in the mainstream media. (Photo: Haggai Matar)

HURA — “Can you please explain what it is you’re so angry about?” That was the question an Israeli reporter with a camera crew posed to several Bedouin at the Hura anti-Prawer “day of rage” demonstration Saturday evening. The dark desert evening in the picturesque background of the television news spot was illuminated by burning tire barricades on the roads and police flares and stun grenades. Clashes between local youth and police had been going on for several hours and over a dozen were arrested here and at similar protests in Haifa, Jerusalem and Ramallah in what was undoubtedly the fiercest day of protest and violence against the Prawer Plan.

Watching the scene and noticing in particular the many journalists who were trying to make heads or tails of what the protest was all about (or worse: not even trying but simply ignoring it in their reports, focusing solely and without any context on the clashes taking place), I wanted to help the TV reporter and suggest that one of the reasons for the protestors’ anger might be the question itself.

It’s been several months now that local residents, supporters and activists have been struggling against plans to uproot tens of thousands of citizens from their homes, all in the name of the “Judaization” of the Negev. Vigil after vigil, one “day of rage” after another in towns, villages, roadsides and cities have gone by without any considerable media coverage, let alone a public debate about the extreme implications of the Prawer Plan.

At the third “day of rage” on Saturday things also began quite calmly. Children were holding toy birds symbolizing freedom, drummers were playing, demonstrators were singing songs and chanting – but none of this made it to the media. As usual when it comes to Arabs protesting, as far as the Israeli media is concerned, it was only when stones were thrown at police that the story was finally worthy of the public’s attention.

Children flew kites to the demonstration against the Prawer Plan during November 30th’s Day of Rage protest outside Hura in the Negev, November 30, 2013. The Prawer Plan, if implemented, will displace tens of thousands of Bedouin citizens of Israel. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Now it is the government’s turn to go on the offensive. Since last night Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has encouraged police to continue suppressing the demonstrations, stating that plans to uproot the Bedouin will go forward. Haaretz also reported that in addition to authorizing the construction of a new Jewish settlement on the future ruins of an “unrecognized” Bedouin village in the Negev, the government is also promoting massive investment in the planning and construction of new Jewish towns in the Galilee in order to “ethnically balance” the area. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and several other ministers are saying that Prawer should be scrapped because it “gives the Bedouin too much” in the form of partial reparations. No one in the political leadership, it seems, is actually considering negotiating with the people whose land they are planning on taking, or on taking their needs, wishes and rights as citizens into considerations.

And so, as the media only covers protests when they turn violent and as the government is determined to stay its current course, a continuation and possible escalation of the clashes we saw yesterday seems inevitable. There are, of course, other ways; but the way things look right now, it doesn’t seem like there is anyone around who is capable of doing things differently.

Women protesting against the Prawer Plan, Hura Day of Rage, 30.11.13 (Haggai Matar)

Women protesting against the Prawer Plan, Hura Day of Rage (Haggai Matar)

Read also:
+972’s roundup of pictures and reports from the day of rage
Special ongoing coverage of the Prawer Plan

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    1. un2here

      A partition plan for Israel is most urgent and long time overdue.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Haggai Matar

      Un2here – how has that got anything to do with this post?

      Reply to Comment
      • un2here

        The Bedouins naturally have their right to self-determination which obviously cannot be fulfilled as long as their lands are being confiscated under Jewish rule. Therefore, in order to protect them, I see no other solution – do You?

        Reply to Comment
        • David T

          UN2here, actually they could make a case for remedial secession, if their rights are fundamentally violated.

          Reply to Comment
      • shmuel

        Thank you Haggai for this article. But can I ask one day to write an article on the historical roots of this? I received two days ago an article from Ruth Kark. Most of us are aware of how ideological her works are, but it would be interesting to deconstruct her political agenda. She even complained that many Palestinians call the Naqab desert in this way. Naqab is the original name mentioned in the Amarna Letters and used for thousand of years. Negev is a much later introduction.

        Reply to Comment
    3. What usually seems missing from these protests is coordinated breach of law with accepted arrest. Instead of symbolically violating the law and expecting arrest, thereby focusing police attention, youth end up throwing rocks or lighting fires. The State and most media thereby define the event as inherently anarchic, uncontrolled, a threat to law. One clear message I have read from Gandhi and King is that prior organization, including daily acts and internal social support, are manifest as control during confrontation. It is as much about what happens before confrontation as confrontation itself. The State wants to portray this as anarchy. Quite often its victims oblige the portrayal. It is a very hard road to do protest right. I couldn’t do it, of this I am certain.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Average American

      Another test for the democratic part of the Jewish and Democratic State.

      If these Bedouins are citizens, and they have votes, how many votes could be turned against the current government members who promote the Prawer-Begin Plan?

      That’s how it should be done, in addition to keeping their heads at demonstrations as Greg points out.

      Also, it appears (from other reading) that the Israeli government is going to put Jewish settlements where the Bedouin settlements were. This suggests it’s not a matter of infrastructure at all, that the Bedouin settlements are not being removed because they were unplanned and there is concern for their health and basic services (clean water, power). It suggests rather the government of Israel is quite capable of providing infrastructure to those sites when it’s to Jewish settlements.

      I think (from other reading) the way Israel wants to use the term democracy can be seen in articles about bringing back the Sanhedrin. In the Sanhedrin, the members would have one vote each for the Nasi, and that is a democratic process isn’t it, and that would prove Israel is Jewish AND democratic.

      Reply to Comment