Israeli Arabs marked Land Day quietly on Monday after deciding not to block roads or hold a general strike to commemorate the annual protest against the loss of Arab lands in the Galilee.
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The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, the political umbrella group of Israeli Arab bodies, and the organization of Arab council heads, opted to hold all activities inside the communities this year, in part, to avoid confrontations with police, according to committee sources.
Land Day commemorates the death of six Arab protesters, who were shot and killed by Israeli soldiers on March 30, 1976, while demonstrating against the expropriation of Arab land in the Galilee. Observance of the day has frequently erupted into violent clashes between Arab demonstrators and soldiers and police.
But Monday's events passed without incident, with ceremonies held in the towns and villages where the original victims were killed — in Sakhnin, Arabeh, Dir Hana and Kafr Kana — with wreaths placed on graves. The main procession, held in Dir Hana, was attended by thousands from all over the Galilee, as well as Knesset members and local activists.
Thousands from all over the Galilee participated in the rally, including representatives of the Joint List.
MK Basel Ghattas (Joint List - Balad) called on Israeli Arabs to take matters into their own hands and take back the lands expropriated by the state, as part of a strategic change in the legitimate struggle for their land.
Dir Hana local council head Samir Hasin said that every year Land Day becomes more difficult for Arab citizens because of increasing racism and discrimination, racist legislation, the continued demolition of homes, government refusal to recognize Bedouin villages, and the continued levying of heavy fines on Arab citizens for building homes.
A march and rally was also held in the Negev Bedouin town of Rahat, which was attended by many residents of unrecognized Bedouin villages in the south. “The matter of the land continues to be the main obstacle in the country’s treatment of its Arab minority, which strives to be equal,” said Joint List MK Ahmed Tibi in Rahat. “Land Day symbolizes more than anything else the exclusion, the control and discrimination against the Arab minority who will continue to fight for its fundamental rights. We bow our heads to the martyrs who fell in 1976 and we continue to make them heard,” said Tibi.
Sources in the monitoring committee explained the decision not to hold a general strike, as in previous years, by citing the tempestuous election campaign in which the Arab public voted en masse for the Joint List, and the fact that a strike had been held just two months ago to protest the death of Rahat resident Sami al-Jaar, who was shot and killed by police.
The committee asked Arab schools to dedicate two classes to Land Day.