Some 20,000 demonstrators demonstrated in the northern Arab city of Sakhnin on Tuesday, the largest such gathering since the current wave of violence began. All the political movements and parties in Arab society were represented at the demonstration, which was held in the Sakhnin Municipality square.
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Police, who were stationed at the entrance to the city in large numbers reported that a few dozen protesters, some masked, were heading toward the nearby industrial area “with the intent of clashing with the force.” However, the rally ended without incident.
Sakhnin’s mayor, Mazen Ghnaim, who is also the acting head of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, said at the rally: “We warned ahead of time and we said ‘stop the extremists,’ but no one listened. The Palestinian people went out to protect its rights and for independence and liberation from the occupation. There is no surrender of the basic right to independence and to the freedom of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian leadership must act for unity and to attain independence. We call on the international community to act immediately to attain the rights of the Palestinian people.”
Hadash chairman Mohammed Barakeh said: “Our struggle is hard. To attain the rights and the independence of the Palestinian people, we say to Netanyahu – escalation is your policy, you are leading to escalation and you bear responsibility for every drop of blood an army can defeat an army but it cannot defeat a people.”
MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint Arab List) said: “Al-Aqsa Mosque is a mosque for Muslims, period, and anyone whom that doesn’t suit should knock his head in the wallYou lie, you harmed the mosque and now you’re trying to change the status quo with a change of opening hours and entrance through the gates.”
In answer to claims that Arab MKs were using incitement, Tibi said: “Netanyahu’s policy is incitement.”
The leader of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Raed Salah, said: We will not surrender – we will win or die. It is not the Islamic Movement that should be outlawed, but the occupation of Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories. We are not afraid of the threats and incitement or of the possibility that we will go to jail for Al-AqsaThe occupation of Al-Aqsa will soon be lifted.”
Balad chairman and former MK Wasel Taha said: “We do not call for violence. On the contrary, it is the government and its head calling for violence. We call on them to stop this incitement. Our sons and daughters feel threatened today.”
The Sakhnin municipality said municipal ushers accompanied the march to prevent friction with the police.
The rally took place at the end of a day declared as a protest strike in the Arab communities. The response to the strike was fairly widespread, including private businesses.
The strike and the march are a kind of test for the leadership and control of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee and the political parties in Arab society, after two other marches over the past two weeks failed to draw large crowds. A march in Sakhnin to mark 15 years since the events of October 2000 drew only 1,500 people, mostly local, and a march in Nazareth on Saturday, initiated by Hadash and supported by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, drew only a few hundred.
The chairman of the Joint Arab List, MK Ayman Odeh on Tuesday called on Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to put Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on trial for incitement and slander, because of Netanyahu’s speech at the opening of the Knesset winter session Monday. In it, Netanyahu attacked “the inciting leadership of the communist Balad people, behind whom are a train of ISIS flags.”
“Instead of spreading lies, the prime minister should support the MKs from the Joint Arab List, who thoroughly condemn the ISIS terrorist organization and oppose from every stage the killing of innocents and bloodshed,” Odeh wrote Weinstein. Odeh said that considering the tense situation, Netanyahu’s statements were incitement to racism.