Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets in several villages Monday to protest an Israeli plan to expel up to 40,000 Bedouins from the Negev desert, local media reported.
In Beersheba, the main city in the Negev, Israeli police attacked a demonstration against the so-called Prawer Plan after demonstrators refused orders to clear the streets.
There, police arrested at least 14 people and injured a number of others, including a Palestinian Member of Israel’s Knesset, according to Ma’an News Agency.
“Only 14 people were arrested,” an Israeli police spokeswoman in Negev told a Ma'an reporter.
MK Jamal Zahalka suffered injuries after being assaulted by police, his Balad Party said. Other MKs who partook in the protest included Ibrahim Sarsour, Ahmed Tibi and Talab Abu Arar.
In the village of Hosan, west of Bethlehem, Israeli forces used sound bombs to attack a rally, Palestinian official news agency Wafa, said.
The sound bombs left protesters temporarily deaf, Wafa cited an activist as saying.
Meanwhile, Palestinian-owned stores closed up shop in observance of a general strike called for by the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, an umbrella organization set up to defend the interests of Palestinians living inside the Green Line.
Israel’s Prawer Bill, which has passed a first reading at the Knesset, seeks to force tens of thousands of Arab Bedouins from their villages and into permanent outposts.
If passed, the displacement plan would also see Israel expropriate 850,000 dunums of Arab land, and lead to the destruction of at least 40 Bedouin villages not recognized by Israel.
More protests are scheduled to begin at 5:00 pm Monday in other cities including Umm al-Fahm and Majd Al-Kurum.
Demonstrations will also take place in Jaffa, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Hebron, Nablus and inside the Green Line in al-Ludd and Ramle.
The Adalah legal center decried the Prawer plan as “constitut[ing] unlawful racial discrimination.”
“The bill disregards property rights... and imposes a second punishment on these citizens,” a letter prepared by the organization said.
“The Bedouin community as a whole... will receive less that one percent of the [Negev] lands... and a tenth of the area they claim as their ancestral lands,” they added.
About half of the roughly 160,000 Palestinian Bedouins residing in the Negev live in unrecognized villages.
The Israeli government said the bill would "as much as possible" grant legal status to Negev villages that are currently not recognized by the authorities.
But according to the letter sent by the legal center, the bill “sets harsher preconditions for registering the land, and includes a waiver of any monetary compensation.”
Unrecognized villages receive no basic services from the state and the chances of getting them legalized are slim.
The Israeli government maintains that the Bedouins do not own the land and claims they live there illegally.
© Al-Akhbar. All rights reserved