Some 2,000 Bedouin from the Negev town of Bir Hadaj staged a demonstration on Thursday morning outside of the government offices in Be’er Sheva, demanding the state rescind its plan to demolish homes in their community. The demonstrators accused the state of trampling on their right as citizens by enacting the plan to destroy their homes in the village, which has been recognized by Israel as a legitimate sector in the Abu Basma Regional Council.
The main entrances at the court and government offices were blocked by a large police force during the demonstration. Protesters raised placards demanding that the government halt its “abuse” of Bedouins in the Negev, shouting: “Yes to recognition! No to destruction!” The director of the Adalah Legal Center for Minority Rights, Thabet Abu Rass, called the state’s move a “war of destruction” against the Bedouin communities. “This demonstration is being held in the wake of a [police] attack on the village,” said Abu Rass. “Despite being a recognized village, none of the residents have received permits to build new houses. While the media is busy with the elections, the state has opened a war of destruction against the Bedouin villages.”
Interior Ministry officials escorted by a large number of policemen entered the village last week to deliver demolition orders. A confrontation erupted and police officers used tear gas, shock grenades, and sponge bullets to stymie the protest. “We’re demonstrating because as a result of the demolitions, there are people in the town who have no roof over their heads,” A resident of Bir Hadaj, Ayash Abu Assa, told Haaretz. “The police decided to attack us. They want to prove that they are in control and that there’s nothing we can do about it.”
MK Ibrahim Sarsur (United Arab List-Ta’al) joined the demonstration on Thursday, declaring its purpose “to tell the state of Israel that enough is enough, to protest government policies towards the Arab population.” “We’re entitled to equal rights and full participation in planning in the Arab community in general, and among the Bedouin in particular,” said Sarsur. “This just isn’t happening.” The Bedouin Settlement Authority, which serves under the auspices of the Housing Ministry, said in response to the complaints: “The Authority is always open to deal with the regularization of Bir Hadaj residents, as evident by meeting we held last Monday with the town’s representatives aimed at promoting their settlement in plots and land awaiting them.”