Thousands of Arab Israelis from across the country attended a demonstration in the Negev on Independence Day – the 19th annual event – calling for a return to their villages lost during the War of Independence.
As Palestinian flags waved in the crowd and the national anthem Biladi (My Country) blared, thousands stood with hand over heart – with a strong nationalist feeling in the air.
Speakers made calls to unity and used phrases such as “our land.” There were tents with pictures of Arab villages lost during the 1948 war.
Numerous Israeli Arab media outlets were present and some 30 buses and hundreds of cars were parked in a field at the event site near Rahat. The atmosphere had the feeling of a cultural event, with families and children in strollers.
Joint List head Ayman Odeh said, “The question of the Nakba [the “disaster” that Arabs consider the establishment of Israel] is not a question of the past, but a question of the future.
Acknowledging the Nakba, and acting for correcting the injustice is the only way to true reconciliation between the two peoples.”
Joint List MK and Balad head Jamal Zahalka told The Jerusalem Post the event “emphasized that we need to defend our villages, houses, and land.”
The message is that, “We will return to our villages and homes,” he added.
Asked if this goal is realistic, especially with a right-wing government in power, Zahalka responded, “We want justice. The Palestinian people has suffered.”