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Israeli rights group slams police response to anti-Prawer protests

Dec. 2, 2013 5:21 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 3, 2013 1:03 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A prominent Israeli human rights group slammed "disproportionate police conduct" and intimidation of protesters following the widespread crackdown across the country against Saturday's "Day of Rage" demonstrations.

The executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Hagai El-Ad, highlighted in a statement Sunday the "disproportionate police tactics before and during anti-Prawer demonstrations," stressing that they reflected Israel's "disregard for the Bedouin population" as well as its ongoing violation of "Bedouin rights to free speech and equality."

"The same aggressiveness demonstrated by the state's one-sided 'Begin-Prawer Plan' was on display again in the disproportionate police conduct towards demonstrators over the course of yesterday's protests," he said, referring to Saturday's nationwide demonstrations.

El-Ad linked the "heavy-handed" response to a campaign of intimidation against organizers that preceded the demonstrations.

"This conduct follows recent police attempts to intimidate the organizers of the day's demonstrations," he said.

He also referenced a letter the organization co-authored, along with Adalah-The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, that was sent to the Israeli chief of police and attorney general on Thursday.

That letter demanded they "put an immediate stop to the police and General Security Service's practice of summoning activists involved in the protests against the Begin-Prawer Plan for 'warning conversations.'"

Demonstrations took place in nearly 30 cities across Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, as well as around the world on Saturday, in a "Day of Rage" against the Prawer Plan. It was the third "Day of Rage" against the plan so far this year.

Protesters were met with force by Israeli police and in the West Bank, and dozens were detained amidst clashes as police attacked demonstrators.

The Israeli government approved the Prawer-Begin Plan in 2011, in what it says was an attempt to address the problem of unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev desert of southern Israel.

According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the plan will forcibly evict nearly 40,000 Bedouin and destroy their communal and social fabric, condemning them to a future of poverty and unemployment.

Other estimates put the number of Bedouin residents to be evicted by the Prawer Plan at 70,000.
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