Hundreds Demonstrate in Be'er Sheva Against Bedouin Relocation

Arab MKs call on John Kerry to get involved

Over 500 people demonstrated outside the Be’er Sheva District Court Thursday against a government plan to resettle some 40,000 Bedouin and the arrest of protesters at the Bedouin township of Hura last Saturday.

The protesters called on the government to stop discussions of the Prawer bill, which entails the relocation of tens of thousands of Negev Bedouin, and to recognize Negev Bedouin villages.

Dozens of policemen maintained order, and no violent incidents were reported.

“The racist law will not pass,” said one demonstrator. “After the demonstration at Hura they began to realize they can’t keep ignoring us and have to reach understandings. We won’t agree to being uprooted and we’ll keep demonstrating until our voice is heard.”

Hundreds of demonstrators chanted “police state” and protested the arrests on Saturday, holding signs saying “We won’t move till the detainees are freed.”

“We’re still saying the police is the one who provoked the violence,” said Sultan from Al-Araqeeb, an unrecognized Bedouin village. “I myself was hit by stones. It is unthinkable that the police should be so violent toward citizens who wish to express their opinion of the government.”

Over 20 policemen were injured in Saturday’s disturbances and required medical assistance.

One of the demonstrators said that since the events on Saturday, she and her friends have been afraid. “People are getting phone calls from the police, including those who only came out to demonstrate and were not violent,” she said.

When asked whether the demonstrators had been overly violent, she answered “it was self-defense.”

Also Thursday morning, police investigators arrested two more people suspected of throwing stones at policemen during the demonstration. The police will seek to prolong their detention.

Arab MKs have called on visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to become involved in the issue. On Wednesday night, MKs from the United Arab List-Ta’al party wrote to Kerry that “since the plan’s development over 200 homes of Palestinians living in the Negev have been demolished. In simple terms, the plan is about ethnic cleansing.”

MK Ahmed Tibib called the plan “a disaster.” “Tens of thousands of people are going to be exiled and tens of thousands of dunams of land are going to be confiscated. We see it as a step toward ethnic cleansing.”