Israel’s Prawer plan, which passed a first reading in parliament in June, aims to expropriate over 800,000 dunams of land in the Naqab desert (a dunam is the equivalent of 1,000 square meters) and expel between 30,000 to 50,000 Palestinian Bedouins.
Thirty-five unrecognized villages would also be demolished, culminating in an unnervingly blatant ethnic cleansing campaign that will occur under the nose of the international community. These Palestinian Bedouins will be expelled to one percent of the land.
On Twitter and Facebook, the hashtags #StopPrawerPlan and #برافر_لن_يمر have been used to mobilize and create awareness. Monday, 15 July has been designated as a national day of rage and “Anger Strike” by Palestinians from the river to the sea. Gaza and the West Bank have also planned for protests to take place on Monday.
Unsurprisingly, the PLO has denied (Arabic) issuing a statement that supported the Anger Strike.
The main protest took off from Ben Gurion University in Bir al-Saba at 10am on Monday and marched to the building of the Bedouins Settlement Authority. So far, 14 Palestinians have been arrested, including two minors.
Cities, towns, and villages inside the 1948 occupied territories including the Galilee in the north, the Triangle in the center, and the coast have organized their protests at busy street junctions, squares and roundabouts.
Why now? Why carry out the largest demolition, land confiscation and forced displacement campaign now? Anas Abu Daabas, president of the Academics Association in Rahat, explained at a 20 April seminar held by the al-Bireh Municipality I attended.
In recent years the largest economic hardship Israel has faced is the housing crisis, he said. Israel seeks to take advantage of the vast lands of the Naqab by building towns and cities for soldiers who will be closer to the military training camps, which Israel has transferred to the south of the country. This plan comes at the expense of the indigenous, who they mis-characterize as “invaders” and “nomads.”
“The embodiment of racial discrimination”
Amir Qweider, a student at Ben Gurion University who lives in the unrecognized village of Zarnouq, spoke at the same seminar about the reality of Bedouin villages in the Naqab. They are forbidden to house any permanent structures and risk immediate demolition if they do so.
“There are no paved roads, no schools, no electricity or water grids, no telephone lines, and no sewage system,” he said. “The difference between the Jewish settlements and Arab villages is the embodiment of racial discrimination, even though we both are Israeli citizens.”
“Using the term ‘nomads’ to classify us is a way for Israel to justify the colonizing and settling of the Naqab, saying that since we roam the lands we do not own them,” Abu Daabas said, “but that is an outright lie. Our forefathers and tribes lived in villages, and [the Israeli lie] doesn’t explain why we still have structures of buildings like schools and homes dating to before the Nakba.”
On 30 March 1976, thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel protested at the state’s announcement it would confiscate 60,000 dunums of Palestinian land. A general strike was organized from the Naqab desert to the Galilee, and the Israeli army killed six Palestinians as protests ensued. This became known as Land Day and is commemorated every year.
Palestinians should all take to the streets today and protest Israel’s land grab of 800,000 dunams in the Naqab. Just as Land Day, in the words of Arjan El Fassed, “reaffirmed the Palestinian minority in Israel as an inseparable part of the Palestinian and Arab nation,” the Anger Strike of 15 July asserts that despite political division, non-representative and collaborative leadership, Palestine remains from the river to the sea, with the Bedouins in the Naqab an integral component of the Palestinian population.
Jerusalem, Sakhnin, Yafa, Umm al-Fahem, Shifa Amro, Gaza, Nablus, Hebron, Jenin, Upper Galilee, Ramallah, Kufr Kanna, Nazareth, Haifa. Israel can’t win on this.
History of Israeli land grab
The Naqab desert, historically neglected in Palestinian discourse, makes up 60 percent of Palestine, and its importance was not lost on David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister. In a letter to his son Amos written in 1937, Ben Gurion emphasized how total colonization of the Naqab is essential for Israel’s settler colonial concept:
We must expel Arabs and take their place … and if we have to use force, we have force at our disposal not in order to dispossess the Arabs of the Negev, and transfer them, but in order to guarantee our own right to settle in those places.
The ethnic cleansing campaign of 1948 affected 90 percent of the Naqab’s population, who were forcibly displaced to Jordan, Gaza and the Sinai desert. About 11,000 Bedouins remained in the desert, and between the years 1948-1965 were forced to live under an Israeli military regime. Internal displacement forced many of these Bedouins around the Bir al-Saba-Jaffa road to an area called Siyaj, on the border close to Hebron.
Under the occupation policy of confining the biggest number of Palestinians on the smallest percentage of land, Israel used a number of laws like the Land Ordinance Law, the Land Acquisition Law, and the Absentee Property Law to consolidate their land grabbing of the Naqab and legalizing the dispossession of the indigenous population. In 2004, the Expulsion of Invaders law was put into effect, demonizing Bedouins as trespassing attackers in their own land.
Between the years of 1993-2007, Israel increased demolitions of Bedouin homes, buildings, and other structures. On 11 September 2011, the Netanyahu government approved the Prawer plan, named after Ehud Prawer, the former deputy chair of national security. In that year alone, 1,000 houses were demolished and 2012 continued in the same vein.In 1969 and throughout the 1970s Israel planned seven townships to push the Bedouins in, as part of its grandiose scheme of settling one million Jews in the desert. The largest of these townships today is called Rahat, ranked two out of ten on the Israeli socio-economic ladder, and has 60,000 Palestinian Bedouins living there. There are 46 Bedouin villages (which have existed since before 1948), with 35 of them unrecognized by the Israeli state. The remaining ten are supposedly recognized but they are not offered even the most basic of government services.