Protesters Demand Release of Activists Detained in Bedouin Demonstrations

Six adults, four minors arrested at protest in Hura village three weeks ago over government plan to to resettle 30,000 Bedouin residents.

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Dozens of protesters staged a quiet rally against the Bedouin relocation plan on Thursday morning in front of the Be'er Sheva District Court.

The demonstration, which was coordinated with the authorities, also called on the court to release several activists who were detained during a protest in the Bedouin town of Hura three weeks ago.

On November 30, thousands of demonstrators gathered in the southern village of Hura, the northern city of Haifa, Jerusalem and Jaffa to protest a government plan to resettle some 30,000 Bedouin residents of the Negev desert. While the protests began peacefully, those in Hura and Haifa grew violent, resulting in a total of 34 arrests and 15 wounded police officers.

The demonstrations were organized as part of an International Day of Rage against the proposed Law for Arranging Bedouin Settlement in the Negev, more commonly known as the Prawer-Begin Plan.

For about five hours, protesters at the Hura Junction burned trash cans and trees, threw rocks nonstop and injured both policemen and police horses. The police, for their part, used everything they had available to disperse the demonstration, including tear gas and water hoses.

Since then, the government has shelved the controversial resettlement plan. But the demonstrators and their families are still in shock over what they consider the authorities’ disproportionate response to the protest – a feeling compounded by the fact that six adults and four minors arrested at the time are still in jail three weeks later.

"Last week we had hope that the plan would be halted after Benny Begin resigned, but now we have realized that the state is going ahead with it," one protester from the Thursday morning protest in Be'er Sheva said.

Others in attendance at Thursday's protest included Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List - Ta’al), who called on the government to pull the "racist plan."

During the rally, a passerby poured a cup of hot tea on Tibi. The assailant, evidently a mentally-ill man in his 50s, was promptly arrested. Tibi's aides said the MK's eye was hurt but he did not require medical attention.

Protesting the Bedouin resettlement plan in Hura, November 30, 2013.Credit: Reuters

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