Gaza deaths intensify bitterness as Israeli Arabs mark Land Day

The High Follow Up Committee, the representative body of the Arab minority in Israel, decided on Saturday evening to organize a series of protests against the army's killing of at least 16 demonstrators in the Gaza Strip on Friday.

Hundreds of Arab-Israelis march under Palestinian flags in Ara'be   (photo credit: YAHIA AMAL JABARIN/ TPS)
Hundreds of Arab-Israelis march under Palestinian flags in Ara'be
(photo credit: YAHIA AMAL JABARIN/ TPS)
The High Follow Up Committee, the representative body of the Arab minority in Israel, decided on Saturday evening to organize a series of protests against the army’s killing of at least 16 demonstrators in the Gaza Strip on Friday.
The largest event will be a rally in the Galilee next weekend. In the coming days protests are to be held at road junctions in Wadi Ara, the Negev and the Galilee, according to MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List). Demonstrations are also planned for the Erez crossing to the northern Gaza Strip and opposite the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.
“It’s clear to us the army is targeting Palestinian protesters, and this continued bloodshed against civilians and peaceful protesters is a war crime against the Palestinian people,” Jabareen said.
The army says it faced gunfire, gasoline bombs, burning tires and stones during Friday’s events, but B’Tselem said that some demonstrators appear to have been shot in the back at long distance as they were moving away from the border fence.
The death of the Palestinians weighed heavily upon Israeli Arabs Friday as they commemorated the 42nd anniversary of Land Day.
Marchers, including MKs from the Joint List, heads of local authorities, and social and religious leaders converged in the Lower Galilee town of Arrabe to mark the annual anniversary of the fatal shootings by security forces in 1976 of six Israeli Arabs protesting land expropriations in the Galilee.
Protesters held Palestinian flags and pictures of the six, who became “martyrs” and symbols for Palestinians of defending the homeland.
The six protesters were killed after Arab leaders called for marches and a general strike against plans to expropriate hundreds of hectares in the Galilee between the towns of Sakhnin and Arrabe. In advance of the strike, thousands of police were deployed and army units were called in. About a hundred Arabs were wounded the day of the strike, as were many members of the security forces.
Arrabe Mayor Ali Asaleh told the gathering in his town on Friday, according to the Arabs48 website: “It is the march of Land Day. We wanted that day [in 1976] to be peaceful and pure but they turned it into a sea of blood. Today they are repeating the same thing in Gaza, besieging and killing.”
Asaleh criticized the arrest of the Islamic Movement’s Northern Branch leader Raed Salah, the banning of the movement and what he termed the “persecution” of Balad, the hardline party that is part of the Joint List and has three MKs. He also flayed the government for “imposing right-wing extremist laws that target our existence.”
“Israeli authorities will make all efforts to continue plundering our land,” Asaleh charged. He also took issue with US efforts to formulate a new peace initiative that is seen by Palestinians as a bid to impose surrender terms on them. “The deal of the century is an attempt to liquidate the Palestinian cause and erase the right of return, our holy right and our rights in Jerusalem,” he said.
ARABS48 REPORTED that hundreds turned out for a protest Saturday at al-Roha, near Umm el-Fahm, where authorities are planning a high voltage electricity line that demonstrators said endangers 100 hectares of farmland. “We won’t allow an electricity line to go through our land in al-Roha,” Jabareen said.
On Friday, the chairman of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), sharply criticized the IDF’s response to the Gaza protests.
“From Israel’s viewpoint there is no way Palestinians can protest that will be accepted as legitimate,” Odeh said. “The very example of nonviolent popular struggle is met with soldiers with drawn rifles who don’t hesitate to shoot at unarmed protesters. Israel must immediately halt the fire and enable the residents of Gaza to conduct their just and legitimate protest.”
MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad- Joint List) accused the army of “murdering” protesters along the fence. “In the army there is no policy of deliberate murder, the soldiers are just ‘training,’” she said sarcastically in a written statement.
“The masses of Gazans in the nonviolent march of return threaten the state more than anything. The snipers of the army murdered five of these nonviolent marchers,” she said early on Friday. “It’s enough to approach the fence. Five were murdered as a result of the criminal policy. Because Gaza is a jail and the jailers are free to open fire when they want – on every marcher.
“The people of Gaza – those Palestinians suffering from continuous oppression, cruel and inhuman, who live under closure – are showing the whole world their justness. The state is the violent one, the criminal one, the murderer.
“Especially on Passover, the festival of freedom from Egyptian oppression, it would have been proper to stop the closure. The state chose continued oppression, closure and murder of the completely innocent.”