Alongside the talks over convening an international conference to save the two-state solution, Israel’s Higher Arab Monitoring Committee has turned to the international community and public opinion to combat what it calls the continued attack on the fundamental rights of Arab citizens in Israel.
The committee organized the International Day for Arab Rights in Israel, which was held on Saturday.
Hundreds of activists and representatives from all the Arab political parties and movements in Israel, including Knesset members from the Joint Arab List and mayors of Arab communities attended the main event, a conference in Shfaram on Saturday night. Meetings took place in 35 cities around the world, including in Europe and Latin America, in addition to conferences in Ramallah in the West Bank and in Gaza City in the Gaza Strip.
Former Knesset member Mohammad Barakeh, the chairman of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, said the decision to organize the event was precipitated by rising incitement against Israel’s Arab population, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, together with the rise in home demolitions and the displacement of Bedouin communities in the Negev. Barakeh also cited what he called the narrowing of the democratic space, including the use of Mandate-era regulations; the state’s recent outlawing of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel and 20 additional civil society organizations; the collective abuse of Arab citizens at the hands of the Israel Police and ongoing problems of poverty, discrimination and lack of personal security in the Arab community.
The international day and the related activities are not a substitute for ongoing struggle of Arab citizens in the public, parliamentary and legal arenas, alongside the supporters of equality and democracy in Israel, Barakeh said.
“I expect the public in Israel and all true supporters of democracy to support our battle because it is impossible to talk about democracy when some 20 percent of the nation’s citizens are struggling with racism and silencing and home demolitions and harming elementary and basic tights,” he said.
The demand of Arab citizens for equality is not a favor or sign of good will they expect from the government, said the Mayor of Sakhnin, Mazen Ganaim, who is the chairman of the Union of Arab Council Heads. “We are citizens of the state but we will not give up out national identity,” Ganaim said, adding, “The Arab public will not lose its identity or respect in return for money, we demand state funds on the strength of our citizenship and in the face of decades of discrimination and the trampling of our rights.”