The call by Israel’s Higher Arab Monitoring Committee for a general strike among the country’s Arab citizens on Tuesday was widely observed.
Local government offices in Arab towns were closed. Schools, some of which would have been required to close in any event for civil defense reasons due to the ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas and its allies in Gaza, were also shuttered.
The vast majority of retail stores in Israeli Arab communities as well as in the West Bank and East Jerusalem also observed the strike. Later in the day, Druze villages in the Golan Heights joined in the strike, which was called in part to protest Israel’s military operations in Gaza.
“The assault on Palestinians in Jerusalem, in Sheikh Jarrah and at the Al-Aqsa Mosque” as well as in protest at “the assault on the Arab public in general and in mixed cities in particular,” prompted the strike, the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee said.
In contrast with prior attempts at a general strike, Tuesday’s strike was relatively widely observed. Although hospitals reported that most of their Arab employees reported for work, some Arab employees stayed away from their jobs in industrial zones in West Bank Jewish settlements and at the Jerusalem Municipality.
In many cities in the West Bank and Israel, including East Jerusalem, activists blocked main roads with trash receptacles and burning tires in an effort to prevent workers from reaching their jobs. Among the Israeli Arab towns where roads were closed were Tira, Taibeh and Shfaram. In the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shoafat, Hamas activists were the ones to bar their access.
Mudar Yunes, who heads the committee of local Arab councils, said there was only limited opposition to the strike at a meeting of the committee on Sunday. “The atmosphere in Arab society is very charged, and on the ground they are demanding protest because we cannot be apathetic to what is happening in Gaza and Sheikh Jarrah, and now with developments in the West Bank,” he said.
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The Arab mayors stressed that what was needed was nonviolent protest to send a message to the Israeli establishment and Israeli public that it’s not possible to separate the Arabs in Israel from what is happening in the Strip, in the West Bank and in Jerusalem.
On Monday, at least some Jewish employers pressured Arab employees to come to work. On social media, in a recording, one Jewish employer from a Jerusalem firm was heard threatening to fire any employee who failed to report to work on Tuesday.
As a result of the strike, there were disruptions in public transportation and other sectors in Israel. An organization of maintenance companies estimated that about 30,000 Arab maintenance workers, who represent 30 percent of the workforce in the sector, did not show up for work on Tuesday morning, but the group expressed the hope that some would report later in the day.
Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, added, “Police and prosecutors aren’t the only ones responsible for this lawlessness – it is principally the government and the person who leads it that is responsible for the situation deteriorating into violence, and for giving a free hand to racist, violent oppression.”