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Protests Grow Violent in Southern Israel Over Tree Planting in Bedouin Area
Jewish National Fund trees planted in The Negev desert in March 2009. (David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons)

Protests Grow Violent in Southern Israel Over Tree Planting in Bedouin Area

Protests continued for a second day over the planting of trees in southern Israel’s Negev desert on land that Bedouin use for farming, as the United Arab List-Raam party, part of the government coalition, said it would boycott voting in the Knesset until the action stops.

Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) continued planting the trees with workers under protection from Israeli security services. The Israeli government says the 1,250 acres of land on which trees are being planted is state land; the Bedouin claims that the land belongs to them, and had recently planted wheat on it.

Opposition lawmakers have visited the planting, including planting their own trees. Right-wing lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir said that they have received permission from a national-religious rabbi to plant trees even during the shmitta, or sabbatical year when the land in Israel is supposed to lie fallow, to continue the “struggle for the Land of Israel.” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called for the work to be halted while a compromise is found, and called on fellow lawmakers to work to bring calm to the area.

Protesters inTuesday’s demonstrations in the Negev torched cars, blocked trains and attacked police.

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