Two police officers were lightly injured and 20 Israeli Arabs were arrested in a Wadi Arra demonstration on Thursday that was part of a day of rage against Israeli plans to relocate Beduin.
While the demonstrations were mostly geared toward the Prawer-Begin plan to relocate at 40,000 Beduin in the Negev, activists who participated also protested against an IDF plan to evacuate 1,300 homes in the South Hebron Hills from an area known as Firing Zone 918.
The largest demonstration at the Lahavim junction south of Rahat drew 1,000 people. Other demonstrations took place in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Hebron and Gaza. According to activists rallied also occurred in Amman, Beirut, Morocco, Mauritania, Amsterdam, Dublin, Washington DC and Brazil.
Most of the demonstrations passed peacefully, according to police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld. But the Wadi Arra demonstration turned violent after protesters tried to block the road, he said.
Salah Muhsan, the media director of the Arab legal rights group Adalah, who was at the demonstration in Wadi Arra and said that the demonstrators were pushing to reach the highway, but the police formed a wall, pushing back protesters and firing tear gas. He added that he believed around 20 people were arrested, but said he was still gathering information on detainees as Adallah lawyers will help represent those detained.
According to activists, protestors also blocked traffic at the Hizme junction. They said that clashes broke out with Israeli security forces who responded with stun grenades and in some cases clashed with protestors.
The last protest against the Begin-Prawer plan was held on July 15 and organized by the Monitoring Committee of the Israeli Arab Leadership - Comprising Arab MKs, leaders of local authorities and other prominent public figures. In contrast, this protest was a grassroots effort organized largely by youth on Facebook, said Muhsan. Arab protesters came from all over the country.
The government- sponsored plan – which narrowly passed its first reading in the Knesset last month – offered the Beduin a compromise - recognizing around 63 percent of Beduin land claims, including compensation payments and providing new, fully-functioning communities. The Beduin and their supporters do not accept the plan and see the state as trying to confiscate their land. The state argues that the state is being generous by recognizing and compensating for land, which for the most part was not legally registered.
The protests come one day after the state submitted its response to the High Court of Justice defending its decision to evict 1,300 Beduins from a firing zone in the South Hebron Hills.
The Association of Civil Rights in Israel and Rabbis for Human Rights have petitioned the HCJ on behalf of the Beduin, who they have lived in that area for generations and have a right to remain.
The state told the court that it was imperative that the land be used for training, as it has since 1980.
It explained that it has been a closed military zone since then. It provided extensive detail with regard to its multiple attempts to evict the Beduin from that area dating back to 1980 when it was first declared a closed military zone.
At the time, it said, there were no permanent homes in the area, including in the caves, where some of the Beduins now live.
Since then, it said, the IDF has demolished Beduin homes, confiscated herds, sealed caves and destroyed wells in the area of Firing Zone 918.
According to the state, 60 percent of the land in Firing Zone 918 was survey land, 18% was state land and only 23% was private Palestinian property. The Beduin, it said, have not presented any proof that shows their rights to the land.
A court hearing on the matter is scheduled for the fall.
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