Inside the intensifying Israeli crackdown on Palestinian protest.
By Mohammed El-Kurd | The Nation | Feb 11, 2022
“The level of violence used to repress protests [in the Naqab] proved in practice, that regardless of their citizenry status, Palestinians everywhere face the raft of Israel’s security forces,”
— activist Riya Al’Sanah
The sun had not yet risen on January 21 when 30 Israeli soldiers arrested 12-year-old Ammar at his home in the Naqab. His alleged crime: protesting against the most recent push in a government-backed forestation plan—or “greenwashing,” as many put it—that would uproot thousands of Palestinian Bedouins and replace them with pine trees. Ammar was released after a few hours of detention and put under house arrest—even though, his parents said, he was at home during the protest. Al Jazeera reported that he had not spoken a word since he returned home.
Ammar’s story is but one of many like it in recent weeks. According to Adalah, a Haifa-based legal center working to protect the rights of Palestinians, 150 Palestinian Bedouins (some 40 percent of whom are minors) have been arrested and accused of “rioting” during protests against their expulsion from the area. The push is being led by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), a para-public organization, and is the latest chapter in the decades-old colonial effort to “make the desert bloom.” One Israeli lawmaker vowed that the Israelis would “exert [their] sovereignty in the Negev.”
While Palestinian Bedouins have cultivated and inhabited their privately owned lands since before the Nakba, successive Israeli governments have maneuvered to expel and “transfer” them, revoking their land rights in the process. To this day, Israeli authorities refuse to recognize Bedouin deeds, instead claiming that the forestation efforts are taking place on “state-owned” land—in this case, held by the JNF. The agency’s website describes it as “the caretaker of the land of Israel, on behalf of its owners—Jewish people everywhere”—a role that has led it to plant 86 of its forests atop the ruins of villages destroyed by Zionists.