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.

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

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