Protesters clash with police over Bedouin displacement plan

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HURA, Israel (CNN) — Israeli riot police broke up a demonstration comprising more than 1,000 people who were protesting an Israeli Parliament plan to displace tens of thousands of Bedouin from southern Israel’s Negev.

Dozens of the protesters — including a 12-year-old boy — and a number of riot police were injuredand dozens more were arrested.

The protesters — composed of Bedouin, Palestinians, Israeli and international activists — were demonstrating against the Prawer Plan, which they say would displace the Negev’s original inhabitants.

According to Israeli sources, more than 40,000 Bedouins would be affected by this plan; Bedouin elders estimate the total at more than 70,000.

If passed by the Knesset, the plan’s implementation would destroy 35 “unrecognized” Arab Bedouin villages and displace Bedouin citizens of Israel from their historical lands in the Naqab, the Arabic name for the Negev, according to a posting on the website for Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel.

A spokesperson for the Israeli Knesset did not immediately return a call.

The demonstration here was one of 25 planned around the world — including Jerusalem and Haifa, Washington and London.

In the protests here, Israeli riot police — some of them on horseback — fired stun grenades, tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to disperse the protesters, most of whom appeared young.

Some threw stones and bottles at the police and set tires afire.

“We are all here to say loudly and clearly that the Prawer Plan will not pass,” Arab Knesset member Ahmad Tibi told CNN. “Prawer is the plan to take out Palestinians — the indigenous people — from their land in the a Negev and bring instead Jewish settlers.

“We are Palestinians, we are the Arab minority here and asking to be treated equally. The Zionist point of view is to get rid of the Arabs and Palestinian from their land who are the original people in the first place and bring in Jewish settlers … we will not accept that.”

Amir Abu Quaidar, an organizer of Saturday’s demonstration, said the protesters were seeking to pressure the Israeli government to withdraw its plan.

“We are here to give a clear message to the Israeli government that the Bedouin communities are Palestinian, and we see today protests all over the world, in Palestine, in the U.S., Europe, opposing this plan and to express solidarity with our Palestinian cause.”

The Knesset passed in June a draft version of the Prewar Plan by a 43-40 vote and the measure could be finalized by the end of the year, the organizers said.

The Prawer Plan would allow Israeli police to use force in its expulsion of Palestinian-Bedouin, they said in a news release.

“It will also permit the police to arrest and imprison any Palestinian-Bedouin up to two years for violating the law. The plan negates Palestinian-Bedouin ownership rights in their ancestral land, it gives Israel’s Prime Minister unprecedented powers to implement the planand it legitimizes the use of violence and coercion in the execution of the plan.”

In addition, it said, the plan would expand Israeli presence at the expense of the indigenous Palestinian-Bedouin

By Kareem Khadder

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