Two hours into my arrival to Tel Aviv and I already stumble upon a demonstration by the red flag carrying Israeli left, supported by their Arab counterparts. I follow the flag to the Jaffa Clock Tower. The red flags disappears and the Palestinian flag takes the stage.
The protest is in its 11th day“of rage”, out of the total of 30. The action is in response to the Prawer-Begin Plan, which if implemented, would effectively resettle “over 90,000” (or 30,000 to 40,000 according to Association for Human Rights in Israel) Bedouin community of the Negev desert into newly built towns. What seems to be masked is that in their place, recognized villages will be built inhabited by Jewish settlers. “Replacing them with Jews. It is a racist plan”, tell me two Israeli women by the (shortened) names of Ni and De.
Manipulating the land laws has been a common tactic in the Architecture of Conflict (I will refrain from using this phrase more than once per post), using gaps in the Ottoman land laws and the insufficiently complete Jordanian land register to establish a judicial ground for court battles. However, a resettlement is aimed at controlling demographics favorably for the state of Israel and for Bedouins themselves. “Its goal is to bring about a better integration of Bedouin in Israeli society. The plan is also designed to significantly reduce the economic and social gaps between the Bedouin population in the Negev and Israeli society as a whole”, states the official press release from the Prime Minister’s Office. Yet such preconceived favours of resettlement into model, newly built villages can be short lived “by excluding two thirds of the Bedouin, who claim land ownership, from receiving land compensation” [ACRI]. A similar end result as the city of Rahat, a crime and joblessness ridden outpost in the south, is a very likely outcome.
So why are the protests happening now, or happening again some might ask? With the winter sitting of the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, the issue might be pushed under the carpet to avoid publicity. Yet, the protest is low on the radar. The procession briefly occupies the main road, only to move aside as the drivers plead for understanding. A police squad car, and another few minutes later, rounds the corner with lights flashing only to disappear into the darkness with the sirens no longer on. It’s a peaceful and righteous protest, but as with many of similar size, scale and style, also very unnoticeable. Just like the issues facing the Bedouin community in the present day.