Arab MKs urge Negev Beduin to disobey 'Prawer bill'

Balad chairman says Israeli Arabs will continue struggle against the plan; MK Zahalka: They’re stupid to think arrest will stop us.

MK Haneen Zoabi  370 (photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)
MK Haneen Zoabi 370
(photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)
Arab MKs on Thursday called on Beduin citizens to disobey the “Prawer bill,” regulating Beduin settlements in the Negev, if it becomes law.
MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al), speaking to Army Radio, told Beduin who live on the land in question not to evacuate it if asked.
“As a leader, I have responsibilities toward my public – I am proud to riot against the bill,” Tibi said.
The Prawer-Begin plan seeks to regulate Arab settlement in the Negev by legalizing ownership to 63 percent of land claimed by Beduin. The bill passed its first reading in the Knesset on June 25. It won’t be ready for its second reading until October.
Balad chairman Jamal Zahalka told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that Israeli Arabs will continue the struggle against the plan.
Thirty people had been arrested in protests throughout the country and 12 were still in custody, he said. Murad Haddad, one of the leaders of the Balad party, was arrested on Wednesday, Zahalka said.
“Most of the people under arrest are from the Balad party,” he said.
Also on Wednesday, police questioned three people for blocking the car of Upper Nazareth Mayor Shimon Gapso, said Zahalka. A video of the incident on YouTube, shows Balad’s MK Haneen Zoabi and other Arab protesters blocking the mayor’s car and other traffic at an intersection.
Zoabi is seen holding a Palestinian flag in front of the car and chanting with the protesters.
She filed a complaint with police on Wednesday, claiming that Gapso told his driver to continue driving despite the fact that she and the demonstrators were in the way.
Zoabi said the vehicle hit her legs and that Gapso got out of his car and pushed her. The crowd prevented him from attacking her further, she said.
She said that Gapso is a symbol of the racism in the country, always trying to provoke young Palestinians.
Gapso told the Post that he filed a police complaint against Zoabi and that only afterward did she file a complaint against him. Asked if he was scared when the crowd surrounded his car, the mayor responded, “I am not afraid, we have to be strong.”
Asked why the protesters stopped his car, Gapso responded, "Maybe because I insistently declare that Nazareth-illit will remain a jewish city despite the Arabs' intention to change it."
The video does not show Gapso attacking Zoabi or the car hitting her, but rather him getting out of his car, and the protesters forcing him back inside.
The Post asked Zahalka what he plans to do if the Beduin settlement bill passes. “The plan of action is to continue demonstrating and protesting against the arrests of people and the police investigations of people,” he said.
“I said today in the Knesset that arresting people will not stop the struggle. I said that we have the right to have demonstrations and our struggle is a nonviolent struggle,” he said.
Closing down streets is not a reason for the police to resort to “violent action,” he said.
“Are there two police in Israel, one for Arabs and one for Jews? If they think that they will deter us from continuing protests they are foolish – stupid to think arresting us will stop us,” Zahalka said.
The Prawer-Begin plan has “put us in a corner,” and has left Arab Israelis “no choice,” he added.
“We are suggesting that we can prevent a confrontation by just freezing the Prawer bill, and have real negotiations with representatives of the Beduin and the government.”
Asked about a claim made by an official of the Regavim NGO, that hardly any of the protesters against the plan are Beduin, but rather other Arabs, Zahalka said this is a “baseless argument.”
“All the people in the Negev are against it. I didn’t listen to anybody arguing that the law is good,” he said. They are “just lying.”
Meanwhile, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said on Wednesday that an effort is being made to reduce violence in the Arab sector, but there remain problems to be solved. Arabs make up 20% of the population, but account for 40% of crime, he said.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.