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Police threaten activists, bus companies as anti-Prawer protest intensifies

As the third ‘Day of Rage’ against the Prawer Plan to displace the Bedouin of the Negev nears, police have started to harass activists and bus companies involved in the protest planned for Saturday. The past two weeks have seen a rise in anti-Prawer protests.

Bedouins who live in the Negev desert and local activists demonstrate in central Tel Aviv against the Prawer-Begin plan, August 31, 2013. According to the plan, which the government failed to consult the Bedouin community on when drafting, nearly all residents in the “unrecognized” Negev villages will be evicted and forcibly relocated to planned communities. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Bedouin activists in the Negev were urgently summoned local police stations on Thursday, where they were warned that they must be granted a permit to hold the third “Day of Rage” against the Prawer Plan, scheduled to take place in the Negev/Naqab on Saturday. However, under the law, demonstrations of this sort do not require such permits. Furthermore, the bus companies hired for the purpose of transporting demonstrators from all over the country received similar phone calls from police and were told that anyone assisting the “illegal demonstration” in any way would be considered an accomplice to the offense. Activists are currently trying to work out a solution out with the police, but are warning against the dangerous path the police are taking by repressing voices of dissent.

Resistance to the plan has been on the rise ever since the plan, which could lead to the uprooting of between 30 and 70 thousand Bedouin from their homes, was approved by the Knesset in the summer. Last Wednesday, Bedouin and Jewish Israeli activists demonstrated outside the Knesset as it was debating the plan. The activists also protested outside the Supreme Court, which was discussing plans for the demolition of the Bedouin village Umm al-Hiran to make room for a new Jewish settlement by the name of Hiran.

Click here for 972’s full coverage of the Prawer Plan

At exactly the same time, Israeli authorities took advantage of the fact that most of the residents of the Bedouin village Al-Araqib were busy protesting in Jerusalem and demolished the village for the 62nd time. Village head Sheikh Sayakh was one of the few residents to stay behind, which led Israeli authorities to arrest him for “trespassing” on “state-owned land” (despite the fact that the question of land ownership of the land is still being debated in court). Sayakh remained in detention for over one week after refusing to sign an order that would force him to stay away from the village.

On Sunday, MK and Chair of the Knesset Committee for Interior Affairs Miri Regev (Likud) visited the Negev without meeting with local Bedouin leadership. A small vigil welcomed her, with activists asking her to visit their villages, to which Regev responded that she would come on the condition that “there was good coffee” (an ultra-Orientalist expression). On Tuesday, hundreds of Arab students in universities across the country went on a two hour symbolic strike to protest the Prawer Plan, while on Thursday dozens of Jaffa protestors blocked a main road while chanting anti-Prawer slogans.

Saturday’s protest is expected to be the largest one yet in the campaign against the plan. The previous two demonstrations took place in August and September. The so called “Day of Rage” will take place simultaneously in the Negev village of Hura, in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Haifa, Gaza, Cairo, Berlin, The Hague and other cities around the world. Video clips showing celebrities singing and tearing up copies of the Prawer bill have been circulating in the run up to the upcoming protest. +972 will be live blogging as events unfold Saturday.

Click here for 972’s full coverage of the Prawer Plan

PHOTOS: Deciding the fate of the Bedouin, without consulting any Bedouin
Cabinet OK’s razing Bedouin towns to build Jewish settlement in their place

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    1. “the bus companies hired for the purpose of transporting demonstrators from all over the country received similar phone calls from police and were told that anyone assisting the “illegal demonstration” in any way would be considered an accomplice to the offense.” : I suspect the bus service has been contracted. Since there is nothing unlawful in the hire, the service should not be dissuade in any manner. This is guilt by association, not by unlawful action.

      “Israeli authorities took advantage of the fact that most of the residents of the Bedouin village Al-Araqib were busy protesting in Jerusalem and demolished the village for the 62nd time. Village head Sheikh Sayakh was one of the few residents to stay behind, which led Israeli authorities to arrest him for “trespassing” on “state-owned land” (despite the fact that the question of land ownership of the land is still being debated in court).” : I don’t know the details, but if a court is hearing a case directly related to the village’s destruction, it should have provided an order, upon request, to stay such destruction pending case outcome. This is standard law.

      This has become very Israeli State. Staying orders against the State are rarely issued, the police defining the ground before the courts act, if they ever do. So, in these instances, the bus services must decide whether to forego the business or not, weighing the possibility of illegal action on the part of the State, not those the service would transport; and once again a village will have to be rebuilt, assuming an outcome in its favor, without compensation for the police’s early action.

      Do you want the rule of law? I have come to doubt it.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        We have the rule of law and demand it be enforced on those that build illegally on state land. As it is, the state is giving Bedouin squatters free land and compensation for illegally built houses. All I would receive were I to do the same in the Negev is a kick in the pants and a bill in the mail. Equal enforcement of the law? Apparently not when it comes to the Bedouin.

        Reply to Comment
        • Right…one village is founded, the military saying the move thereto is their last, that village is never attached to water/sewage/electricity infrastructure, and now they are to be moved “for their own good,” whether they like it or not, so Jewish villages, which of course will be open to Arab Israeli citizens for settlement as well–of course they will. For someone who loves history so much you might want to mention this exclusion of infrastructure. The reality is that the government did not care about them until it was time to use the land for settlement. Seems to me that if you want to save money you would begin by–settling those already there, beginning with attaching them to infrastructure.

          And, of course, those settling this new found land will be given subsidies–not a kick in the pants as you, apparently, would be given.

          You ignored the two issues of this piece: intimidation of bus contractors, and the demolishing of a village whose status is under court review. You really want to intimidate bus owners into not accepting fees to deliver individuals to an area where protest will occur? That really is the rule of law?

          You would have fit in quite well in the Jim Crow South. Really well. Those lynchings there: just a few maniacs, let’s move on.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            A Bedouin family, some goats and a camel were moved by army order from one place to another in the desert. The ‘village’ was founded later when that initial population settled down and grew 20-fold. Somehow this translates to free license for the Bedouin to take as much state land as they want, not pay for any of it, and to set up housing with no concern for the relevant legal planning mechanisms. It is amazing. Any Bedouin can set up a house anywhere in the Negev and the extreme left-wing will demand that it be recognized as “his land”. Even where satellite images demonstrate that there was no ‘village’ there 20 years ago still somehow the land has magically transformed into land the Bedouin have lived on for generations. It is some kind magical wand than any Bedouin can point to a piece of land and is granted by the lords of the left with immediate and permanent ownership. It is complete hogwash. These people are being moved because they have taken land illegally and with no concern for any legal or planning mechanisms. This is not being done for their own good. It is done because they are breaking the law and have been breaking the law ever since they set up permanent housing on land they didn’t own with no permission from anyone to do so. To then go back and demand that the state should whitewash this illegal land grab through the installation of infrastructure is absurd.

            The absence of infrastructure there is because the government never actually granted any Bedouin license to settle there permanently. Where the state did so, like in the 7 towns that it set up, each village is fully connected to the entire range of state infrastructure – electricity, water, education, etc. I have been to these towns. They are poor, but the idea that they are overcrowded or badly maintained is complete garbage.

            And for your knowledge, new villages built in the desert are open to Bedouin. In Meitar for example when it was built the Bedouin bought plots. Those that move to the new villages will have a plot of land. If they have children, their children will have to find plots of their own instead of just throwing a rock from their parents house and building a shed wherever it lands. Were they to do so they would be kicked off, without compensation, and with a bill in the mail. And then you forget the fact that the Bedouin are being offered subsidies, compensation and plots to move to when they are removed from their current places of squatting. This is something I would never get were I to do what they are doing. Again, you demand equal enforcement of the law? A Bedouin should be treated in the same way I would be if I started building a house in the Negev on state land. So at the very least be consistent with your positions.

            Reply to Comment
          • jdledell

            Kolumn – I assume you would want to apply the rule of law to all 100 or so settlements that Jews, without permission, established on state land in the West Bank. In fact Israel is providing water and electricity to most of these same outposts unlike the Bedouin in their non-approved villages.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            jdledell, sure, I have no problem with the state removing the illegal outposts. They should all be removed. Your point?

            Reply to Comment
          • According to the piece, the destroyed homes were under court review. Generally the State must wait until the court has issued its decision. If the piece is correct, the court was preempted–which has indeed happened in the past. And, once again, you ignore the intimidation of bus contractors by police. This is because you do not want the buses to transport protesters.

            The focal Bedouin village of other 972 reports was placed by military order with promise that this was to be the final move; infrastructure was never provided thereafter, over a 50 or so year time span.

            There are already pre-settlement Orthodox Jews nearby waiting to settle this land. Do you really believe their neighbors will be Bedouin? And what role will the Community Law have in determining buy ins to these State constructed houses? And how many plots slated for future construction have yet to be allocated? Who is paying for the tenders for these pre-settlers? How many Bedouin have the finances to purchase use rights on land they essentially used to live on?

            Weak lies, K9. The State is removing one ethnicity to plant another; in one case, they are annulling a 50 year old military, so State, promise for this goal, over the objections of one of its own review committees.

            The “this would never happen for me” populism you evoke is dubious; many Israeli citizens have no lived connection of 50 years to any Israeli land. If you evoke this populism, then Arab citizens might ask why they cannot invite their relatives into Israel as ex-Soviets did, irregardless of Jewish heritage. You endanger the Law of Return.

            None of this is necessary. The military promise could be honored, infrastructure, which will soon be provided to that area with new, clean, inhabitants, provided. Negotiations could begin with the other villages/housing clusters. Some could be removed, inhabitants relocated to those remaining, now connected to infrastructure. Instead, some Israeli businessmen are going to make a nice buck in the new settlement construction, and some Orthodox are going to enjoy realization of the promise of Yahweh. The Bedouin are just irritating Israeli citizens of unfortunate existence. Push them aside, say they will be fine, on to the next plan.

            The rule of law is in the instance, not some sort of cry baby “the State wouldn’t do this for me.” Again: the bus contractors were intimidated in a lawful attempt at business; houses (apparently) under court review were demolished before court decision. As reported, these fail the rule of law. Your counter on housing whitewashes the promise of the State in one instance. You want the area populated by Jews, and the only law you recognize is corporate ethnic to that end.

            Intimidation is not reasoned position. Try again.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Yeah. I have looked at how much it would cost me to buy a piece of land. Hundreds of thousands of DOLLARS. How much do you think it costs a Bedouin to claim a piece of land? Nothing. They just set up a tent and claim some kind of magical permanent lease over the land. As in the land is free for Bedouin for the taking. This is theft of the land and your support for it suggests that you wish to apply a very different set of rule for Arabs than for Jews.

            There was no military promise to allow permanent settlement by Bedouin and no promise whatsoever that Bedouin can indefinitely claim any land that they decide to set up a shack on. The claim to the contrary is ridiculous. It is like saying that when the military moved a Bedouin family to a spot in the desert it was giving it license to multiply 20 fold, set up a village and take over any and all land it needs for free any time in the future, which is what the Bedouin are doing in the Negev. It would be like me setting up a house on state land in the desert with the state ignoring me, then having 20 kids, and setting up a house for each one of them, then demanding that because the state didn’t remove me from the land in the first place I now have some kind of permanent ownership over the land, can call my new cluster of houses a village, and the state is obligated to provide me with services. And all based on what? That the state ignored my illegal land theft up until now? That is just insane.

            You basically argue that squatters, which is what the Bedouin are, should have their land theft recognized and accepted and that any future theft of land by the Beduin should be allowed to go on with no interference by the state. Given the current situation where the Beduin have been rapidly taking over land for the past 30 years paying NOTHING and getting NO permission for any of it, it is no surprise that they are upset that rules are being changed so that they are forced to actually follow the law like all other citizens of the state. I have no idea how someone who consistently makes arguments on the basis of the rule of law and equal protection of the law can stoop so low as to abandon these precepts when it fits their underlying anti-Israeli obsession. You are a hypocrite, nothing less.

            I couldn’t care less if the bus drivers transport people to protests. The police has made the claim that the protests are illegal. I have no idea whether this is the case nor do I take Haggai Mattar’s word to the contrary seriously because his credibility in the matter is roughly zero given his political tendencies.

            Reply to Comment
          • Boy are you mad. First, I suspect Haggai knows what will happen to his credibility if he begins making things up or not checking claims as he can. He may be wrong in this report, but I presume otherwise until he is shown in error.

            The bus contractors were providing transport service, not providing a demonstration. The State had no business preventing lawful transport; if those transported later engage in an illegal event, they should be arrested at the event, rather than interdicting lawful business before hand. This isn’t hard to figure out.

            Somewhere Noam provided the military order with promise of permanence. Families (more than one in this case) grow. So, yes, eventually you will have a small village. Since growth is natural, including additions of married relatives and those in social/family networks, an offer of permanence implies later growth; yet these individuals have been precluded from infrastructure for, let’s be generous to the State, 30 years. Growth to village status is implicit in promised permanence. I focus only on this village because its history has been detailed on 972 at some length. Violation of this promise both on implied infrastructure and, now, expulsion, violates State contract and is against the rule of law. You need to deal with this now; if you do not, things will get worse later. But I expect expulsion.

            I’m sorry you couldn’t afford to buy use rights there. Almost certainly the Orthodox Jews soon to settle can not either; someone is for them, perhaps the State is chipping in as well by offering a really low price or such. You well know that the Community Law, appointing settler (!) Orthodox as local members, will not admit the Bedouin being excluded. Your claim that anyone can buy into this area is highly dubious. If you are angry, direct that to the State for subsidizing Orthodox and not allowing you to buy on the same terms.

            I believe land use by the Bedouin in the Negev is quite low in percentage, especially compared to what it used to be before the State of Israel and somewhat thereafter. I suspect your charge of Bedouin swallowing up land is hysterical.

            To repeat: I focus only on what 972 under Noam, not the evil Haggai or, for that matter Yossi, has reported. This one village is, from all I have heard, contractually protected in law by the military’s prior commitment. Much of this could have been adverted if this one village was recognized, as indeed a review panel suggested, nixed by Bibi et al, allowing negotiated reduction of other Bedouin settlements. By refusing this one village, Bibi et al have denied contractual law.

            What you seem to be suggesting in your land cost comments is internal bias within the State over the allocation of this soon to be pure land. Perhaps equal protection is being denied among Jews.

            Interdicting lawful transport was wrong, but no one will pay. Expunging this village grown from contractual promise (not all Bedouin settling “randomly”) by the State is wrong. The other Bedouin villages to be removed I cannot address; I know not. Finally, Haggai reported herein that a site pending in court was demolished by the police. That is against the rule of law.

            On these three points, I see failure of the rule of law. The question of intra-Jewish equal protection I cannot address, but suspect it too is violated. And, as said, I cannot address the status of other Bedouin villages for lack of information.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Joel


      “..the Prawer Plan to displace the Bedouin of the Negev…”

      You’re screaming headline, which sounds is a bit disingenuous, no?

      Reply to Comment