Thousands of people in Israel, the occupied territories and around the world took part in actions on Saturday to mark opposition to an Israeli plan that would expel up to 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins living in the Negev desert.
Dubbed a "Day of Rage," the day's protests were held against the proposed Prawer Plan, which would destroy roughly 35 "unrecognized" villages and enact new Israeli settlements.
If the plan gets its final approval, it "would be the largest confiscation of Palestinian-owned land since the 1950s," writes Nadia Ben-Youssef of the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.
According to a media release posted by the International Solidarity Movement,
The Prawer-Begin plan will allow Israeli police to use force in its expulsion of Palestinian-Bedouins. 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 plan and it legitimizes the use of violence and coercion in the execution of the plan. Moreover, it is a plan that has at its heart the demographic transformation of the Naqab (Negev) area, by expanding Jewish-Israeli presence on the expense of the indigenous Palestinian-Bedouins. In short, the Prawer-Begin Plan rises to a crime against humanity as delineated in the Rome Statue, Article 7.1 (d) and 7.2 (d).
“The state is treating us like objects to be shunted about,” says Huda Abu-Obeid, a law student and an activist against the Prawer Plan. “We are being denied the basic right to decide our own fate – to decide where to live and how to dispose our property, our basic right to a home. But we will not give up and will continue to resist the Plan nonviolently.”
Dozens of noted British artists, musicians, actors and others added their voices to the opposition, writing a letter in which they urge the UK to protest the expulsion of the Bedouins.
The letter, which is signed by musicians Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno, writer Jemima Khan, and historian Ilan Pappe, among others, states that the Prawer Plan "means forced displacement of Palestinians from their homes and land, and systematic discrimination and separation."
"It is time for the UK government to make its relationship with Israel conditional on respect for human rights and international law and take concrete action to hold Israel to account," they write.
Hugh Lanning, Chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, also one of the signatories, stated:
There is massive opposition to Israel’s practices of ethnic cleansing. Palestinians are demanding their fundamental human rights are respected. Yet again, Palestinians are facing being driven off their land at the end of the barrel of Israeli guns. The British Government must act: carefully worded statements of regret or concern to the Israel state have had no impact, so immediate, strong and meaningful action, including a ban on the arms trade with Israel, is essential. There can be no ‘business as usual’ with a state which is preparing to ethnically cleanse 70,000 people. It’s time to start challenging Israel’s racism and apartheid policies.
One site of protests was the Negev village of Houra, where clashes broke out between police and the roughly 1,000 protesters gathered, and 11 protesters were arrested.
"People who have no land do not exist. We have been living here since before the creation of the state of Israel (1948)," said 70-year-old demonstrator Maqbul Saraya.
"We have submitted a complaint to the court but we feel that democracy and justice in Israel do not apply to us," he said.