Arab MKs Join 10,000 Protestors to Mark Land Day

Land Day commemorates six demonstrators killed by Israeli security forces in Sakhnin in 1976.

Ten thousand protesters participated yesterday in an annual procession to mark the events of Land Day in Sakhnin in 1976, in which six demonstrators lost their lives in clashes with Israeli security forces.

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee noted that the commemoration takes place "while homes continue to be razed - mostly in Wadi Ara and in the Negev, and we demand that the planning blueprints and areas of municipal control for Arab communities be increased."

The committee also commented on the issue of Jerusalem and the continued policy of building Jewish settlements of East Jerusalem, along with the Israeli refusal to end occupation and work toward the creation of a Palestinian state living next to it.

The procession, as has been customary in recent years, began in the city center and ended at the memorial for those who died in the clashes during the first Land Day 34 years ago.

At the end of the procession, two masked youths raised the photographs of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and the organization's terrorist mastermind, Imad Mughniyeh, who was assassinated in Damascus in 2008.

However many participating in the demonstration expressed their opposition to this element of the commemoration, saying it can divert attention from the main goals of the ceremony and the significance of Land Day for Israeli Arabs.

Unlike previous years, the presence of Arab media networks was notable, especially the satellite television stations which broadcast some of the procession live.

Arab Israeli political parties decided not to raise individual banners, in an effort to highlight the unity of Israeli Arabs. Only Palestinian flags were raised.

"Israel continues to wave the flag of demographic danger and to carry out policies that express hostile laws toward the Arab population," MK Hanna Swaid (Hadash) told Haaretz during the procession.

He added that the continuation of a policy of razing homes and not substantially expanding the municipal boundaries of Arab communities reflects a continued policy which seeks to restrict Arab towns in Israel.

MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) told Haaretz that the State of Israel has expropriated 80 percent of the land of Arab citizens through misuse of democracy and draconian laws. "This was the biggest land robbery of the 20th century, and the younger generation is more assertive in standing up for its rights - first and foremost by protecting its land," he said.

The chairman of the monitoring committee, Mohammad Zeidan, commented on legislation that he classified as racist and said that Arab Israelis will not abide by such laws. He mentioned specifically the law on loyalty, and the law which declares that Israel is a Jewish state.