Israeli Arabs mark 39th Land Day with protests

Land Day, held on March 30, commemorates the deaths of six Galilee Arabs in 1976 riots over a government decision to confiscate land.

March 30, 2015 20:59
3 minute read.

Israeli Arabs mark 39th Land Day with protests

Israeli Arabs mark 39th Land Day with protests

Israeli Arabs observed the annual Land Day and waved Palestinian flags on Monday with protests held in Jerusalem, the Galilee and the Negev.

The Monitoring Committee of the Israeli-Arab Leadership, which organizes the protests, did not call a general strike in the Arab sector as it did last year.

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Land Day is held on March 30 to commemorate the deaths, in the 1976 riots, of six Galilee Arabs over a government decision to confiscate land.

A major event was held in Deir Hanna in the Galilee, which included various Joint List MKs, Israeli-Arab leaders and political activists.

In Jerusalem, around 80 Arabs stood chanting slogans and waving Palestinian flags outside of the Old City’s Damascus Gate, to protest Israel’s land policies.

Land Day.(photo credit: SAM SOKOL)
The demonstration was “relatively calm” in the capital, police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told The Jerusalem Post, stating that only two people were arrested and that both were quickly released.

“There were no major incidents,” he said.

The protesters at the Damascus Gate, who according to the police had not obtained a permit, attempted to march down the street but were quickly dispersed by riot police, some mounted on horseback and others carrying launchers for gas grenades.

Several times protesters burst into the street, yelling, but were chased down by police, to the jeers of several teenage girls standing nearby.

Land Day.(photo credit: SAM SOKOL)
“We are here to show solidarity with the Palestinian people and we came today to show our support,” said Mark Mullan from Derry, Ireland, who attended the protest with a number of other Irishmen bearing a large flag proclaiming that they were “Celts against apartheid.”

Asked why he thought there was such a small crowd, he said that he “would imagine that a lot of people would be afraid to make their political views known in this country.”

Israel is “a racist state,” accused Raziq, one of the protesters, asserting that the small number of demonstrators could be explained by fear of the police and of being arrested.

Despite the signs of normal life going on around the protesters, with school buses full of children driving past and shoppers haggling at outdoor stalls, most of those living in the area were supportive of their cause, he said.

As a nearby mosque blared its call to prayer, however, Ra’ed, the owner of a baked goods cart, seemed unimpressed with the demonstration, saying he is “not a politician.”

“We sell pretzels,” he said.

One protester suddenly burst into the road, a squad of police at his heels. He was quickly subdued as the media swarmed around the tussle, and those who had come to protest gradually made their way home.

At the demonstration with hundreds of protesters in the city of Rahat in the Negev, Ta’al party chairman Ahmad Tibi said that “67 years have passed since the establishment of Israel and there still is no equitable allocation of land.”

Instead, he said, “there is continued expropriation of Arab land in favor of the Jewish majority.”

In addition, Tibi asserted that there is a lack of planning and construction. He also raised the issue of the unrecognized Beduin villages of the Negev.

“The issue of land remains the major obstacle in relations between the state and the Arab minority which aspires to be equal,” he added.

Land Day symbolizes, more than anything, the exclusion and discrimination against Arabs, said Tibi, adding that the Arab minority would “continue to fight for its fundamental rights.”

“We bow our heads to the martyrs who fell in ’76 and we continue to make their voices heard,” he said.

Balad MK Jamal Zahalka, also in Rahat, said, “We will not allow a second nakba in the Negev.”

Any attempt to impose a settlement in the Negev “will encounter stubborn resistance and the government will be responsible for the deterioration of the situation,” Zahalka warned.

Newly elected Joint List MK Osama Sa’adi, who holds the second spot in the Ta’al party, said at the event in his village of Arrabe, “We will fight for the land and equality and against the policy of exclusion and discrimination.”

Ari Briggs, the international relations director of Regavim, an NGO that seeks to ensure responsible, legal and accountable use of Israel’s national land, told the Post that instead of protesting, “as we approach the 68th year since independence, it is about time the Arab sector act as full citizens, understanding that entails not only rights but also obligations to the state.”

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