Thousands demonstrate to mark 35th Land Day

Largest demonstration held in Arraba; over a thousand take part in separate rally at unrecognized Beduin village of Al-Araqib in Negev.

Children at Land Day protests Reuters 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
Children at Land Day protests Reuters 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
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.”
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.
Police this week carried out their annual security arrangements before the protests, but Wednesday’s demonstrations passed without any violence.
The annual commemorations of the October 2000 riots, which left 13 Israeli Arabs dead following fighting with police and the army have tended to overshadowed Land Day over the past decade.
In addition, this year’s Nakba Day on May 15, the civil anniversary of Israeli independence, is expected to be the biggest ever, following recently passed legislation that allows for fining local authorities who hold events to mark the date as a “catastrophe.”
At the protest at Al-Araqib on Wednesday, MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List) said “the color of our skin is the same as the color of the Earth here. Still, there are those whose skin is the color of the snow in Moldova who are looking to expel us and dispossess us from this land,” an apparent reference to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Israel Beitenu), a native of Moldova.
Tibi added “this land here speaks Arabic,” and said that the “rising racism” demands greater Jewish-Arab cooperation on the protest front.
Lieberman has been a particular target of the protests, largely because his party sponsored the loyalty bill, Nakba Law, and the Admission Committees Law. Pictures of Lieberman were burned at a protest held in Lod on Tuesday, which focused on the demolitions of houses belonging to the local Abu Eid family last December.
Another Land Day protest will be held in Jaffa on Friday, with a particular emphasis on the housing shortage affecting the city’s Arab community.