As part of a “forestation” plan, Israel’s Jewish National Fund began clearing cultivated lands at the “unrecognized” Bedouin village of Sawa in the Negev desert this week, sparking angry protests by the villagers. The protests started Jan. 10, when villagers and Bedouin leaders expressed their objections the JNF plan to plant trees on an area of 5,000 dunums (1,250 acres), much of which had been planted with wheat only a few months ago. Tractors arrived at the area the following day to begin clearing the fields, and villagers physically resisted. Police detained 18 local youth for throwing stones. Protests continued for the following two days, with the security forces firing rubber-coated bullets, tear-gas and malodorous “skunk water,” causing several injuries. Border Police joined the Israeli Police force at the scene.
Several Likud Knesset members and their right-wing supporters arrived at the scene Jan. 11 to show their support for the planting as an expression of Zionist ideals. “No one will tell us where and when we are allowed to plant trees in the land of Israel. It is our land,” tweeted the party. (Al-Monitor, WAFA, Haaretz, Times of Israel)
On Dec. 20, Israeli authorities demolished the nearby Bedouin village of al-Araqib for the 196th consecutive time since 2000, and for the 14th time in 2021. Police dismantled and confiscated the tin homes that residents rebuild every time their village is demolished. This most recent demolition has left local residents, including children, homeless in the extremely cold weather as the country was affected by a low-pressure polar front. (WAFA)