Israeli forces detain Bedouins protesting against attempted land seizure

Israeli forces detain Bedouins protesting against attempted land seizure
2 min read
Protests have erupted in the Negev desert over attempts by nationalists to encroach on Bedouin land and plant trees. The crisis has divided the Israeli government.
The Jewish National Fund on Monday sent diggers and bulldozers accompanied by Israeli police to two Negev villages [Getty File Image]

Israel’s fragile governing coalition faced a crisis Wednesday after Bedouins staged protests against tree-planting by right-wing Israelis on land in the Negev desert.

Protesters were confronted by Israeli forces Tuesday evening and Wednesday, as they attempted to defend villages against encroachment and aggression. At least 18 people were arrested

The majority of the detainees in the Negev were minors, and Israeli forces physically assaulted them before arresting them, according to the Palestinian news agency Wafa

On Monday, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), a widely-criticised land organisation, sent diggers and bulldozers accompanied by Israeli police into the villages of Naqa Ber Al-Saba and Al-Atrash.

The JNF seeks to plant a forest on Palestinian land in the Negev.

The conflict over planting trees - home to Bedouin villages unrecognized by the state - has divided the Israeli government.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called for halting the planting and reassessing the situation while the United Arab List party, known as Ra'am, has threatened to withhold its votes in parliament in protest. Both are members of the fragile eight-party coalition that runs the government.

The Islamist-inspired United Arab List secured four seats in the 120-member Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in last year’s elections and has its support base among Bedouin citizens of Israel.

Party leader Mansour Abbas wrote on Twitter that “a tree is not more important than a person”.

Right-wing members of the diverse governing coalition have pledged to press on with the enroachment on Bedouin land, undeterred.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett heads an unwieldy coalition of eight parties that joined forces in June to form a government and end Israel’s protracted political deadlock.

They range from the Ra'am and liberal parties to ultranationalists, and were united only in their opposition to longtime leader Benjamin Netanyahu.