Israeli Arabs protesting the Nakba on Israel's Independence Day, May 9, 2019..
(photo credit: YAHYA JABAREEN/TPS)
Around 5,000 Arab Israelis took part in a protest to remember the Nakba, or "Catastrophe" - the flight or expulsion of roughly 700,000 Arabs from Israel during the 1948 War of Independence.
The protesters demanded the return of all refugees from the war who live outside Israel, including their descendants, as well as the restitution of lands to those Arabs still living in Israel but who left their property during the war and settled in a different town or city.
The protest took place near the abandoned village of Khubbayza, which sits next to Ramot Menashe Park in Israel's North, near the town of Megiddo. It was organized by the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee, an organization that aims to coordinate the actions of Israeli-Arabs in politics.
Khubbayza was conquered in May of 1948, according to Israeli historian Benny Morris in his book, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited
. He notes that according to Yosef Weitz, then the director of the Land and Forestation Department of the Jewish National Fund, the battles in and around the village were not the most difficult of the war. "It is enough that during the night several shells whistle overhead [over the town] and they [they Arabs] flee for their lives," Weitz wrote.
Head of the committee, Mohammad Barakeh, participated in the protest alongside most of the incoming Arab Knesset members, including Ayman Odeh, head of Hadash-Ta'al, and Mansour Abbas, head of Balad-UAL.
MK Ahmad Tibi of Balad-UAL said at the march, "Netanyahu and [extremist rabbi Meir] Kahane said that we have 22 states, but the truth is we have one homeland, and more than 500 displaced villages." Tibi was referring to the 22 Arab-majority countries that together comprise the Arab League and stretch across most of the Middle East and North Africa.
"This is the narrative that they're trying to erase and the history they're trying to rewrite," Tibi continued. "No Nation-State Law and no house demolition will ever change that."
Freshman MK Heba Yazbak, the only female representative for Balad-UAL, wrote on Twitter that "Particularly prominent was the participation of the young generation - the next generation of Arab political leaders. This is our answer to the continuous policies of denial of our identity and history."
Also present was MK Ofer Cassif, the only incoming Jewish MK in Hadash-Ta'al. He commented on Twitter that "Acknowledging past crimes is essential for a better solution that will make possible a life of prosperity and peace for both peoples in the present.
"Unfortunately the government of Israel has for years exacerbated the problem rather than [work for a] solution."
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