Protestors took to the streets in Be’er Sheva, Bethlehem, and Gaza City calling for the Israeli government to scrap the Begin-Prawer plan that would forcibly displace between 30,000-70,000 Negev Bedouins. More protests are planned for Ramallah, Jerusalem, Hebron, Nablus, and Jaffa. The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, which represents Arab citizens of Israel at the national level, organized the protest in Be’er Sheva, along with a general strike. The large protest started at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, and it was declared illegal after the protestors blocked the main road by the university.
An Israeli police spokeswoman said that 14 protestors were arrested and 2 police officers were lightly injured. Witnesses added that many protestors were assaulted by the police, including Jamal Zahalka, who is the chairman of Balad, a Palestinian political party in Israel. It was reported that Palestinian MKs Ahmad Tibi, Ibrahim Sarsour, Talab Abu Arar, and Talab al-Sani also joined the protest.
The Begin-Prawer Bill passed its first reading in the Israeli Knesst on June 24 2013. According to Adalah – The legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel – the bill involves the dismantlement of “unrecognized” Bedouin villages in the Negev, and the forced displacement and relocation of the inhabitants – numbering in the tens of thousands – to settlements that will be “recognized” by Israel.
Critics of the bill claim that the Bedouin have not been consulted, and that it violates their rights to property and ignores their legitimate claims to ancestral lands. Furthermore, Adalah reports that the Begin-Prawer Bill is designed to make it very difficult for the Bedouin to receive compensation following their forcible displacement, and that state development projects that privilege Jewish Israelis will be built in place of the destroyed Bedouin villages. The United Nations announced that Israel must respect the land claims of the Bedouin, who are internationally recognized as indigenous peoples of the land.
Recently, the European Parliament passed a resolution that called on Israel to withdraw the Begin-Prawer Plan. The resolution also called for the protection of the Negev Bedouin communities, for their rights to be respected, and it condemned “any violations (e.g. house demolitions, forced displacements, public service limitations).”