Fallout from Beduin protests threatens passage of bill

Deputy Defense Minister Danon says in light of violence over Prawer-Begin bill, process should be frozen.

Police arrest Prawer bill protester 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Police arrest Prawer bill protester 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Beduin Israelis and their supporters who staged violent protests across the country on Saturday against the Beduin resettlement bill claimed police abuse on Sunday.
The controversial Prawer- Begin bill, meant to regulate Beduin settlement in the Negev, is currently being debated in the Knesset, and the demonstrators seek to stop the plan.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) on Sunday called the police use of force at the protests “excessive,”, and ACRI Executive Director Hagai El-Ad said police conduct “follows recent police attempts to intimidate the organizers of the day’s demonstrations, held to support Beduin rights. These actions reinforce the state’s disregard for the Beduin population – for its right to free speech and its right to equality under the law.”
On Thursday, ACRI along with Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent a letter to Israel Police Chief Yohanan Danino and Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, calling on them to immediately stop the police and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) practice of calling activists in ahead of protests to warn them.
Southern District police said on Sunday that they couldn’t remember an event with as much intensity as the protest against the Prawer plan in Hura Saturday night.
When asked about video and images of a 14-year-old boy arrested by police at the protest, Negev Subdistrict spokeswoman Navah Tabo, who said her leg remained bandaged after she was hit by a rock thrown by protesters at Hura, issued a statement on behalf of police saying that “following the serious violence directed against police at Hura, these pictures, which will be examined, do not portray the full reality of police risking their lives in the face of Molotov cocktails and rocks.
“The youth in the picture is a 14-year-old boy who was observed by police throwing rocks at them and at police vehicles.”
She added that the boy was at on a remand extension at the time and suspected of throwing rocks and disturbing the peace.
The Prawer-Begin bill is a five-year economic development initiative seeking to regulate Beduin settlement in the South. It aims for a compromise solution for tens of thousands of Beduin currently scattered in unrecognized villages throughout the Negev, legalizing 63 percent of claimed land.
Beduin supporters oppose the bill because they say the legislation would result in up to 40,000 Beduin losing their land.
Opponents on the Right criticize the bill as being too generous, saying that the state is giving away land for free that the Beduin could not prove to be theirs in court.
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (Likud) told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the Prawer-Begin bill should be “frozen in light of the violent unruliness by an entire population motivated by extremists that incite against the rule of law.” He said that these recent events “prove to us that even after we reach an agreement after difficult and serious work, their groundless claims over the lands would not be satisfied.”
Bayit Yehudi MK Zvulun Kalfa said that Saturday’s violence was a continuation of the behavior of the Arab MKs in the Knesset over the past weeks. During the discussions in the Interior Committee, they interrupted speakers who did not agree with them.
The same kind of behavior of the MKs in the Knesset continued into the streets, he said.
Amichai Yogev, southern regional director of the NGO Regavim – which describes itself as seeking to ensure responsible, legal and accountable use of the country’s land – told the Post on Sunday that in the past the Beduin were not talked about as part of the Palestinian political program.
However, over time they began to claim the Beduin issue as part of the conflict, he said.
“After 1967, the Arabs started to demand Samaria and then came to make demands in the Negev and that all of Palestine is theirs.”
Twelve percent of the Beduin will get most of the land according to the plan, while the rest will get nothing except a plot for their home,” said Yogev.
“They could not win according to the law and the courts, so now they use violence to get what they want,” he said.
Reuma Schlesinger, of the pro-Beduin NGO Bimkom, told the Post that with regard to the argument that the Beduin are not part of the greater Palestinian people, “Ask the Beduin themselves what they want.
“From our experience working with the Beduin for years, we find the rejection of the plan to be resolute,” she said.
“There is no need to kick people out of their homes, but instead they should be recognized,” said Schlesinger, adding that Bimkom has created an alternative plan that was created by professionals with the cooperation of the Beduin community. This plan calls for an agreement with the Beduin that recognizes the villages where they are now, not a onesided law, she added.
“The bill as it is now is terrible. The Beduin did not have an opportunity to participate in making it,” she said.