Analysis

In Show of Renewed Activism, Arab Israelis to Protest Nation-state Law on Saturday

After years of scarce political engagement, the Arab Israeli community is showing signs of waking up and is applying pressure on its political leadership and parties over the passage of the new nation-state law

Israelis from the Druze minority, together with others, take part in a rally to protest against Jewish nation-state law in Rabin square in Tel Aviv, Israel, August 4, 2018
\ CORINNA KERN/ REUTERS

Israel’s Arab community has demonstrated a lack of interest in recent years in battles over public issues in general and about what goes on in the Knesset in particular. But over the past few weeks, the community has shown signs of waking up and has begun applying pressure on its political leadership and parties over the passage of the new nation-state law. The law and its implications have become the main topic of discussion on social networks and in the local media.

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Maha Sakallah Tali is a social worker from Lod, who now lives in Neve Shalom — Wahat al Salaam, an intentional community jointly established by Jewish and Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel. She plans to bring her children to Saturday night’s protest march in Tel Aviv from Rabin Square to the plaza of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. “The law breaks the hope that always existed that this would be a better place,” Sakallah Tali says.

“With the passage of [the law] there is no longer hope and we need to begin a struggle in every legal way to resuscitate the hope and vision of an egalitarian and democratic reality,” she says.

Sakallah Tali is not alone. In the past two weeks, heavy pressure has been applied to the entire political leadership to act in the public sphere and make heard the voice of the Arab community in every possible forum. This pressure also led to the exceptional decision to hold the protests not in majority-Arab community’s but in the very heart of Israel’s.

Organizers of Saturday’s march and rally hope it will be a milestone, marking the start of a sustained public struggle against the law. The decision to hold the protest was made after a number of meetings among the members of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, which includes representative of all the political parties and political movements active in the Arab community, and after quite a few arguments about the nature of the struggle and its location. Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken is among the scheduled speakers.

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The chairman of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, former Hadash Knesset member Mohammed Barakeh, told Haaretz: “There will always be disagreements and that is healthy, but now there is a decision that everyone is backing, even if there is criticism of the actions or position, because everyone understands that this march will be the starting point and not the finish line of the campaign against the nation-state law.”

One of the questions facing the organizers was the participation of Jews in the march. As part of the internal discussions of the monitoring committee, it was decided it will have a single slogan: “To bring down the nation-state law.”

The protesters have been asked not to carry flags, an issue that led to a disagreement among the committee members. The committee admits that carrying Israeli or Palestinian flags would raise a question mark for many of the participants on both sides, so it was decided to adopt an official slogan agreed to by all parties involved. On Thursday, all the organizations, movements and political parties involved, including Meretz and Peace Now, issued a joint call to come out and protest.