'Largest Strike in 36 Years': Israeli Arabs, Palestinians Protest on Anniversary of October 2000 Riots

Marches took place on Monday in a number of Arab towns commemorating 13 Israeli Arab citizens who were killed in clashes with Israeli police forces ahead of the Second Intifada

A demonstration to mark the October 2000 riots in the Israeli Arab town of Sakhnin, October 2015
Gil Eliahu

Israel's Arab communities are marking Monday the anniversary of the October 2000 riots, in which 13 Israeli Arab citizens were killed in clashes with Israeli police forces.

About 1,000 people participated in the central march Monday.

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee called for a general strike in all communities, including the education sector. A statement drafted by the Monitoring Committee alongside the Council of Arab Mayors specified that this year the strike would be held also as a protest against the nation-state law.

>> Israeli Arabs' show of force against nation-state law highlights their enduring isolation | Analysis 

Palestinian factions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip answered to the call from the Monitoring Committee and in turn pledged to launch a general strike to commemorate the beginning of the second intifada.

The commemoration of the events started Monday morning with the laying of wreaths on the graves of those killed In Arraba, Sakhnin, Kafr Manda, Kafr Kana and Wadi Ara, while the main march took place in the Arab town of Jatt in the afternoon. Marches are also planned in a number of cities in the West Bank and in Gaza.

Chairman of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee Mohammed Barakeh said that Monday's strike was comprehensive as it took place within the Green Line (in Israel), in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. Barakeh said it was the largest strike in 36 years.

According to the former MK, the Palestinian people are dealing with "occupation and tyranny," but "even if it will last years, the occupation and the tyranny will end and justice will prevail." Barakeh spoke in the main march in the Arab town of Jatt, and said: "The strike and the protest today are part of an ongoing process aimed towards securing our rights and bringing down racist laws, first and foremost the nation-state law."

MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) said that the strike was carried out against the backdrop of discrimination and racism against Arab society and that Arab citizens are not ready to be second-class citizens: "We are native to this country and we will fight for full civic equality and equal citizenship for all," he said. 

MK Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List, said Monday that "eighteen years have passed since 13 Arab citizens were killed, including my sister's wife. Eighteen years since the Orr Commission determined that police treats its Arab citizens like enemies. Today we strike to remind that this wound is still bleeding and that we continue to fight within the same back yard, treated as second-class citizens, with racist legislation."

The October 2000 riots erupted after a tense year during which Israel Police and Israeli-Arab citizens clashed on various occasions.

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One of the direct causes that led to the riots was a visit by Ariel Sharon, then head of the opposition, to the Temple Mount on September 28, 2000. Clashes erupted in Jerusalem as a result of the visit, leading to casualties among both police and Palestinians.

At the same time, demonstrations took place in Israeli-Arab towns, during which rocks were thrown and roads were blocked. The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee decided to announce a general strike in the Israeli-Arab community on September 30, 2000.

Protests then took place between October 1 and October 8, 2000 in Arab towns and cities across Israel. In the violent clashes that broke out between demonstrators and police, 12 Israeli-Arab citizens and one Palestinian were killed, some as a result of live fire and others from rubber-tipped bullets. A Jewish Israeli civilian was killed as a result of rock throwing.

A governmental commission of inquiry, the Orr Commission, was formed to investigate the violence.