During a Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee discussion Monday on the violence against police officers during the recent demonstrations against a proposed law to relocate Bedouin settlement in the Negev, Committee Chairperson MK Miri Regev said it was unacceptable that the police serve as the protesters` ”punching bag.”

Deputy Negev Police Commander Ilan Peretz told the committee that during a demonstration held on November 30 a barrage of rocks was hurled at the police, in addition to firebombs. According to Peretz, there were 20 arrests and 17 indictments. The violence resulted in the hospitalization of 50 officers.

MK David Tsur said ”a license to hold a protest is not a license (to resort to violence),” adding that the law states that only police have a right to use force. But MK Dov Khenin read a letter from the director of an organization against violence which states that during one of the demonstrations some police officers sexually harassed female protesters. The director of the non-profit organization was present at one of the Bedouin demonstrations.

According to MK Jamal Zahalka, the Prawer-Begin bill for the resettlement of Bedouins who are scattered in unrecognized villages throughout the Negev cannot be implemented peacefully.

Bedouin supporters oppose the bill because they say the legislation would result in up to 40,000 Bedouin losing their land.

”The violence during the demonstration in Hura does not compare with the confiscation of thousands of dunams,” Zahalka said.

MK Ahmad Tibi claimed that police differentiate between Jewish and Arab protesters. He said Israel Police acts like a ”Jewish police” department when dealing with Jewish protesters, while Arab demonstrators are treated with brutality.

MK Talab Abu Arar said a police officer urinated on a protester, and MK Masud Ganaim suggested that security forces operate under the assumption that Jewish protests are legitimate while Arab protests pose a threat to national security and warrant a forceful response.

Committee Chairperson Regev concluded the debate by declaring: ”There will not be violence against police officers. We will not allow it.” However, Regev asked for clarifications regarding the protesters` complaints of police brutality. She also asked police to bring the violent protesters to justice and send a clear message against violence.