Thousands took part in demonstrations in the North and South on Wednesday to mark the 35th annual Land Day, an Israeli Arab protest day against land expropriations by the state.
The largest demonstration was held in Arraba, where thousands marched to a demonstration in the center of town. Over a thousand protesters took part in a separate rally at the unrecognized Beduin village of Al-Araqib in the Negev, which has been demolished by the Israel Lands Authority repeatedly since last Summer.
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Like every year, this Land Day was marked by a general strike in the Arab sector called by the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee. Head of the committee Mohammed Zidane said Wednesday that this Land Day he “sees a progression of racist laws and oppression directed at the Arab sector.”
Zidane said the state is launching a series of such laws, mentioning in particular the socalled loyalty bill and Nakba Law. He said the Arab sector “does not and will not accept these laws that discriminate against us and degrade us”, and added that Israel “is changing into apartheid South Africa.”
He said the Arab sector is drawing inspiration from the recent upheaval in the Arab world, where he said “the Arab people are paying a high price for their freedom.”
Like Zidane, MK Taleb a-Sanaa (United Arab List) said that this year’s Land Day took place while “Lieberman’s laws are posing a threat to democracy and co-existence in Israel. There is widespread incitement against the Arab community in Israel and it is acted out through actions like home demolitions and legislation like the Nakba Law.”
Sanaa said the current Knesset is carrying out “legislative terror” against Israeli Arabs and Israeli democracy, and forcing Arabs “into a position where they must either choose between being part of their Palestinian nationality or part of Israel.”
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He added that he has no doubt that the threats to Israel’s democracy are getting worse and said, “I believe that like in Tunisia, where greater and greater pressure exerted by the government led to an explosive situation, also here we have continued government pressure that is leading us somewhere no one can predict.”
For the past 35 years, Land Day has been held to mark the anniversary of the 1976 deaths of six Galilee Arabs who perished in clashes with Israeli authorities over land confiscations.