Low Turnout as Arabs Protest Trump's Peace Plan in Northern Israel

'They want to split the Palestinian people,' leader says, rejecting proposed land swaps

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Demonstrators wave Palestinian flags during a protest against the Trump peace plan, Baka al-Gharbiyeh, Israel, February 1, 2020
Demonstrators wave Palestinian flags during a protest against the Trump peace plan, Baka al-Gharbiyeh, Israel, February 1, 2020Credit: Rami Shllush

Israeli Arab came out against Donald Trump's Middle East Peace Plan on Saturday in the northern city of Baka al-Garbiyeh, in a protest characterized by a relatively low turnout.

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Around 3,000 protested the deal and denounced proposed land swaps that could see the area incorporated into a patchy Palestinian state.

Four months ago, tens of thousands took to the streets in an impressive demonstration against violence and rising crime in Arab society.

"We, like all Palestinians, are experiencing apathy and detachment from the political sphere, which indicates a very serious crisis," Kafr Bara mayor Sheikh Kamal Rian said. "Unfortunately, not even all the local council heads in the Triangle area came to the demonstration today," he added.

A woman watches as a demonstration snakes through the city of Baka al-Garbiyeh, Israel, February 1, 2020Credit: Rami Shllush

Protesters waved Palestinian flags, shouting slogans condemning Trump and Netanyahu, as the march, which was organized by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, made up of Arab elected representatives at the local and national level, made its way though the city.

"To establish a Palestinian state, they want to establish blocks of Palestinian Arabs with no direct connections, to split the Palestinian people," Mohammad Barakeh, chairman of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, said.

Palestinians do not have the economic power to threaten Israel or the United States, the former Knesset member added, and does not strive for violence and confrontation: "Our strength is in our unity, if we demonstrate unity is the most important message we can send, to the Palestinians as a whole."

"The idea of land swaps, which was until recently treated as marginal and delusional, has now been vindicated by the Israeli and American right," Arab Joint List parliamentarian Yousef Jabareen tweeted during the demonstration. "All forces for peace and democracy, in this country and in the world, should join us in the fight against the Trump plan and this far-right government," he added.

Also on Saturday, Amir Peretz, the leader of the left-wing alliance Labor-Gesher-Meretz, visited the Arab city of Kafr Qasem, which in the southern part of the Triangle, together with Meretz MK Esawi Freige, a resident of the city.

"We, as Jews scattered as a minority in the various countries of the diapora, cannot legitimize a discourse that violates minority rights on the grounds of their religion," the Labor leader said. "The residents of Kafr Qasem and the Triangle are Israeli citizens, and will always remain so."

"The alternative offered by Labor-Bridge-Meretz is partnership and equality as a way of life," said Freige, "and the understanding that the will live together is stronger than all the racist tricks and schemes."

Peace groups Peace Now and Standing Together also called for a protest on Saturday night in Tel Aviv. Around 300 people marched from Dizengoff Square in the city center, through King George street, to Magen David Square.

"It's time to fight for the peace that Israel needs," Peace Now Executive Director Shaqued Morag said. "The Trump plan is bad for Israel, the Palestinians and the entire region."

Any Israeli citizen who prefers peace and security over continuing the bloody conflict, and delusions over the biblical Land of Israel, must resist these moves," she added.