Israeli Arabs Decry State 'Regression' as Thousands March on Land Day

The sector traditionally protests every March 30 against the expropriation of their lands by the Israeli government.

Thousands of people gathered in the Israeli Arab "triangle" in the north on Wednesday to mark the 35th annual Land Day, in which the sector traditionally protests the expropriation of their lands by the government.

Demonstrators marched through the town of Sakhnin waving Palestinian flags and black cloths, culminating their parade at the main square in the village of Arabe.

Palestinian children chant slogans during a Fatah demonstration marking Land Day in the West Bank
Palestinian children chant slogans during a Fatah demonstration marking Land Day in the West Bank on March 30AP

Despite preparation by the Israel Police for possible unrest, the events went on without any disturbances. Police forces stationed patrol cars at the entrance of the towns, but no officers entered municipal limits.

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee declared a general strike in local Arab authorities and schools, but some businesses and educational institutions operated as usual.

Higher Arab Monitoring Committee chair Mohammad Zeidan said that the discriminatory treatment by the Israeli government is made manifest quite clear with what he called racist bills that were approved by the Knesset recently. "Israel is regressing into dangerous directions in its treatment of its Arab citizens," he said.

Zeidan also made mention of the anti-government demonstrations in the Arab world. He said that Israeli Arabs support freedom, democracy and human rights. He called upon Arab leaders to listen and take the people's message to heart, but warned against international intervention that could fulfill Western interests.

Zeidan also called for unity among the Palestinian political factions.

Arabe mayor Omar Nasser said that the Arab villages are still suffering from a severe lack of land for building expansion. He called upon the government of Israel to expand the legal limits of the Arab villages.

"We cannot continue the policy of throttling the Arab population, while at the same time, the government is always talking about developing and expanding Jewish villages all over the country," Nasser said.

On Tuesday, some 1,500 Israeli Arabs protested in the central city of Lod against government policies which affect Israel's Arab sector, launching the events of Land Day.

The protesters were demonstrating against the government demolition of the houses of the Abu Eid family, which left some 50 family members, 30 of them children, without a home.

The protesters raised Palestinian flags, carried signs reading "Enough with the Ethnic Cleansing" and burned pictures of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Israeli Arab Knesset members and Jewish residents of mixed cities also participated in the protest.