|Written by Noam Shelef|
Police Violence against Prawer Plan Demonstrators
Last week’s peaceful protests against the controversial Prawer Plan ended with allegations of police brutality in two cities.
The protests took place in the context of a long struggle over Bedouin land rights. Opponents of the government-sponsored Plan believe it constitutes an unjust dispossession of Bedouin from their ancestral lands in the Negev. If implemented, the Prawer Plan will result in the destruction of 35 unrecognized villages and the forced displacement of up to 70,000 Bedouin from their homes.
A significant number of Arab and Jewish organizations took part in the demonstrations including NIF grantees Adalah, Mossawa, and the Negev Coexistence Forum. Unfortunately, according to reports from people at the scene, in many cases the police used excessive violence to disperse the protests.
According to reports sent to flagship NIF grantee the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), police at the demonstrations in Be’er Sheva and Sakhnin were particularly violent. In Be’er Sheva there were reports that police punched and choked the protestors. One protester said that the police continued to beat him once they had put him in the police car.
In Sakhnin there were reports of the use of tear gas, of physical violence towards the protesters, and of the detention of women and minors. Most of these clashes took place when the demonstrators had already begun to disperse. Fourteen people were arrested in Sakhnin and 14 in Be’er Sheva, including a SHATIL staff member who has since been released. Jalal Dakwar, an attorney with Adalah, said: "I walked up to one of the injured detainees, who was lying on the ground next to a police car. When I began to inquire about his situation, a policeman shouted in my face that if I didn't walk away, he'd beat me and send me to the hospital with the detainee."
Following the protests, ACRI wrote to the police commissioner demanding that he investigate the policemen suspected of violence and ensure responsible conduct at future protestors. Hagai El-Ad, ACRI Executive Director, said "The Prawer Plan is a step with dramatic ramifications, which is expected to lead to many demonstrations…in October 2000, 13 protesters were killed because the police were light on the trigger and because they saw Arab citizens as the enemy. What we saw last week raises suspicions that the bitter lessons of those events have not yet been learnt."