Middle East

Israel: Negev Bedouins' 'day of rage' over resettlement plan

Israel Bedouins burn a police barricade during a protest on 30 November 2013 near Hura, Israel
Image caption Police used tear gas and water cannon against demonstrators in the Negev

Bedouin Arabs living in Israel have been protesting in the Negev Desert and towns and cities over government plans to resettle them.

Thousands joined what was termed a "day of rage" in the Negev itself, Haifa, Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

The Bedouin say the plan will force them out of their ancestral land.

Israeli officials say it aims to provide better services and infrastructure - and settle long-standing land disputes.

Police in the Negev used tear gas and water cannon against demonstrators, some of whom were throwing stones, reportedly injuring 15 officers.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that 28 people were arrested during protests in Haifa and the Negev village of Hura.

The resettlement plan - which envisages Bedouin being re-housed in newly built state-planned towns - still has to pass two more readings in parliament.

'Land grab'

An open letter backing the campaign against the legislation, and signed by celebrities including Peter Gabriel and Julie Christie, was published in a British newspaper on Friday.

Before the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, groups of Bedouin Arabs lived a semi-nomadic life in the Negev but in modern times many have settled in what are known as "unrecognised villages".

Because they have no formal planning status, they have no access to government services including supplies of electricity and running water. Some are no more than collections of flimsy shacks made from corrugated iron.

However, the Bedouin and their supporters see the resettlement move as a smokescreen for a programme to cut the historic links between the Arab communities and their land, and to replace them with new Jewish settlements.

Israeli officials say the plan calls for the vast majority of Bedouin to live where they are, while allowing them to preserve their traditions in a modern state.

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