Activists Rebuild Protest Camp against Bedouin Displacement

Popular resistance activists on Wednesday rebuilt a Palestinian protest camp in the central West Bank only hours after Israeli soldiers tore it down.

The “Jerusalem Gate” tent camp was set up in the Khilet al-Rahib area east of Abu Dis near the main Ramallah-Bethlehem road in protest against Israeli settler encroachment on Palestinian lands east of Jerusalem.

The protesters were outraged at an Israeli plan revealed last year which called for the forced expulsion of tens of thousands of Palestinian Bedouins from their lands across the central West Bank area known as “E1,” where Israeli authorities have repeatedly expressed their desire to build Jewish-only settlements that would definitively split the northern and southern West Bank.

At dawn Wednesday, Israeli military bulldozers entered the area where the protest camp was set up and destroyed the tents, painstakingly put up by activists the evening before.

Spokesman for a local popular resistance committee, Hani Halabiya, told Ma’an that dozens of youths had come together Wednesday evening to rebuild the camp.

Halabiya said that the group wishes to send a message to the world that Palestinian reject Israeli plans to displace the Bedouins in the area to build more settlements.

Over summer, Israeli authorities in the occupied West Bank released a series of plans that would concentrate Bedouins in two places and destroy more than 20 of their current villages.

Rights groups slammed the plans, adding that the forcible transfer amounts to a massive land grab and an attempt by authorities to annex the crucial E1 area and effectively cut the West Bank in two.

A statement released in September co-signed by 42 Palestinian, international, and Israeli organizations said that the plans “include moving Bedouins out of the politically sensitive area referred to as the Jerusalem Periphery or ‘E1,’ where Israel has long-intended to demolish 23 Bedouin villages in order to expand and link settlements, established in violation of international law.”

The majority of Bedouins in Israel and the West Bank live a relatively settled but still sometimes semi-nomadic lifestyle, residing in permanent villages but pasturing livestock in adjacent areas.

Israeli restrictions on movement — in order to build Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands previously used by Bedouins or through the construction of the Separation Wall to cut through the West Bank — have severely curtailed Bedouins’ traditional nomadism.

In the Negev Desert, meanwhile, many Bedouins were forcibly settled by the State in the years after 1948, particularly after attempts to drive them permanently across the border into neighboring countries failed.

(Ma’an – www.maannews.net)

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