2nd December 2013 | International Solidarity Movement, Ramallah Team | Occupied Palestine
Over 100 Palestinians and international activists took part in a non-violent demonstration on the 30th of November to protest against the Prawer Plan. The demonstration began at the al-Bireh municipality building in Ramallah and proceeded onto the Bet El settlement nearby. Demonstrators were met with stones then live ammunition from settlers before the Israeli army and border police arrived, employing violent tactics to disperse the demonstrators and arresting three Palestinians in the process.
Protesters gathered at the municipality building at around 2pm to protest the Prawer Plan (Israel’s planned removal of up to 70,000 members of the Bedouin population living in the Negev) before travelling by bus to the Bet El settlement. On arrival protesters made their way up a side entrance of the illegal settlement whilst under attack from stones thrown by settler youth. This did not deter the demonstrators who chanted slogans and attached banners to the settlement fence. This brought the attention of settlers armed with automatic firearms. After a brief period of pushing on the chain linked fence the armed settlers fired a volley of live ammunition in the air in an attempt to intimidate the non-violent protesters. Shortly after this Israeli forces began arriving on the scene.
This prompted those present to continue demonstrating on the main road adjacent to the settlement. The Israeli army and border police were initially passive due to the large presence of journalists and photographers, which led those present to believe that this non-violent protest would be allowed to continue without violent intervention. However it quickly degenerated into a brutal crackdown on all peaceful protesters present. The security forces initially fired a flurry of tear gas canisters whilst advancing 30 meters before breaking into formations with riot shields to obstruct the road. Numerous stun grenades were then thrown at the feet of protesters in an effort to disperse them. However it was only once arrests began to take place that this occurred. One of those arrested was slammed to the ground and held there by up to 12 soldiers and border police before being led away to an undisclosed location.
By this point a good deal of the demonstrators had dispersed but a small number headed towards Jalzaun refugee camp and created road blocks to attempt to disrupt the advance of the Israeli soldiers. Some also began to throw stones up the road where the lines of army and border police remained, at which point tear gas was fired in vast quantities towards the Palestinian protesters. Some protesters were forced to leave the area due to the thickness of the tear gas in the air and the unbearable conditions that this created. However those that did remain, as well as the residents of the refugee camp, were shot at with both rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition even after the demonstration was clearly finished. Despite this, no serious injuries were reported although many people were treated on the scene for tear gas inhalation.
Protests against the Prawer Plan have taken place across Palestine, but also worldwide over the last few days including in the Negev itself where up to 1000 people attended. However despite this Benjamin Netanyahu described the Prawer Plan demonstrations as “riots” and stated, “We shall continue to advance the Prawer Bill.”