Bedouin resettlement plan sparks worldwide protests

By Rosa Doherty, December 2, 2013

Thousands of people around the world have taken part in protests against Israeli government plans to force Bedouin Arabs to move from their scattered villages in the Negev desert to a number of designated towns and settlements.

The Prawer plan, expected to be passed into Israeli law by the end of the year, will authorise the demolition of 35 "unrecognised" Bedouin villages.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu criticised the protests, saying: "We will not tolerate such disturbances."

Mr Netanyahu said the proposal will bring benefits such as permanent housing and public services, but the Bedouin say they do not want to give up their ancestral lands and way of life.

He said:"Attempts by a loud and violent minority to deny a better future to a large and broad population are grave.

“We will continue to advance the law for a better future for all residents of the Negev.”

Israeli police used teargas, stun grenades and water cannons at the demonstrations in Israel, where more than 40 people were arrested, and 15 police officers were injured.

The Association of Civil Rights in Israel described police action as a "disproportionate" response.

Demonstrations were also held in London, Berlin, Rome, Istanbul, Cairo and in the United States, in what was billed as an international "day of rage".

An Israeli government statement said: "Extremists, many of whom are not Bedouin, chose to divert the open debate about a purely social and humanitarian cause into a confrontation, falsely linked to the Palestinian issue."

The statement said the Prawer plan was aimed at providing "adequate housing, public services and a better future for children" of the Bedouin population in the Negev.

Last updated: 11:10am, December 2 2013