by Jesse Gonzalez
On Thursday night an anti-Prawer Plan demonstration gathered outside Damascus Gate. After a peaceful march Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) arrested at least one person and threw grenades into the crowd.
Demonstrators carried Palestinian flags, chanted slogans like “from the Negev to the Galil (Galilee) the people will hold their ground” and held signs including “No to Prawer- Racist Plan” in Arabic and “Israel, the World is Watching! International Solidarity Against Prawer” in English.
The Prawer Plan, which was approved by the Israeli Knesset upon its first reading in June 2013, would displace between 30-40,000 Palestinian Bedouins and destroy dozens of villages in the Naqab (Negev) Desert. In the area cleared, Israeli cities would be erected.
As more protesters gathered, a peaceful march began, filling the streets and blocking traffic. More Palestinians joined, including people whose cars had been blocked by the throngs of demonstrators.
Reaching an intersection there was suddenly chaos- the IOF began running toward the protesters and a PNN volunteer heard someone shout, “they got one, they got a little kid.” Everyone fled, but remained close. Soon there were calls for the people to reunite and continue in peace.
Once a critical mass was reached the protest continued, the crowd turned at the intersection blocked off by the IOF, back toward the Damascus Gate. Demonstrators continued to shout, “From the Negev to Silwan, Palestinians will not be humiliated” and “Palestine is our country, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip” in a call and response chant. One of the central callers was a young woman who is seeing impaired.
Back at the main roundabout the chanting continued. Israeli forces, on foot and on horseback, appeared at one side of the circle. As their presence became more obvious the tension grew. A few protestors threw small stones and empty paper cups in the direction of the police. The IOF responded by running directly into the middle of the street and throwing flash grenades into the crowd. The grenades flashed sparks with earsplitting explosions, and caused clouds of smoke.
The IOF failed to distinguish between protestors and bystanders, including women, children and infants as they threw the grenades, and screams could be heard from all around. Within minutes the IOF had arrested one young man, and an International PNN volunteer heard that at least one other person, also male, was arrested that night.
The scene calmed down once elderly Palestinian men came between the protestors and the police, shooing demonstrators away. One man pleaded with the crowd, “young people, please disperse. We don’t want to loose our mothers, our wives, our daughters and our sisters” possibly referring to the bystanders who could be affected if there was further IOF violence directed toward the crowd.
This protest was only one in a string of anti-Prawer Plan demonstrations that happened on the August 1st "Day of Anger" around the West Bank, and that have been happening for the past several weeks.