Thousands of Jews and Arabs March Together Against Racism and House Demolitions in Tel Aviv

The organizers say the protest, in which the speeches were given in both Arabic and Hebrew, is a new stage in the civil struggle of Jews and Arabs.

Protesters waving Palestinian flags in Tel Aviv during a march against racism and home demolitions, February 4, 2017.
Tomer Appelbaum

Thousands of people, Arabs and Jews, marched Saturday evening in Tel Aviv in a protest against the house demolitions in Kalansua and Umm al-Hiran in recent weeks, and against further steps to demolish more homes.

Organizers said some 5,000 protestors participated in the march, which began at the intersection of King George an Allenby Streets and ended in Dizengoff Square.

A number of Jewish and Arab organizations participated in organizing the demonstration, which the organizers termed a new stage in the civil struggle of Jews and Arabs. The speeches were given in Arabic and Hebrew, and marchers waved both Israeli and Palestinian flags.  

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Amal Abu Sa'ad, the widow of Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, who was killed during the operation to demolish illegal homes in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev last month, addressed the protesters: "It is important to me to stand here and speak to you and pass on the message to the prime minister and ministers: Despite your wild incitement, the racism and discrimination in legislation, enforcement, infrastructure and government services - you will not succeed in dividing between the country's citizens. All of you, who are standing here today, you are proof that Jews and Arabs can and want to live together and with equality."

Protesters in Tel Aviv during a march against racism and home demolitions, February 4, 2017.
Tomer Appelbaum

She called on the government to establish an independent investigative commission to investigate the evacuation of Umm al-Hiran. Al-Kiyan was killed by police when he ran over and killed police Sgt. Maj. Erez Levi and injured another officer with his car. 

MK Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List, spoke: "Thousands of people have come here today, Arabs and Jews, from all over the country to cry out against the government attack on the Arab population and to call for equality, recognition of the unrecognized villages, and in a demand to establish an official state commission of inquiry to examine all the events surrounding the brutal evacuation of Umm al-Hiran," said Odeh.

Joint List lawmakers marching with Amal Abu Sa'ad, February 4, 2017.
Tomer Appelbaum

MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) said: "The thousands who demonstrated this evening in Tel Aviv are sounding a voice of hope and sanity, facing a government that chooses incitement and hatred. We know that incitement is the last refuge of those who have failed."

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee said they had decided to step up their appeal to Israeli and international public opinion. Hundreds of Jewish citizens have participated in the recent protests against house demolitions, said Raja Za'atra of Hadash, who chairs the party's subcommittee responsible for contact with the Israeli public. 

Since the establishment of the Joint List, more politicians in the Arab community see strategic importance in building bridges for dialogue and cooperation with the democratic forces in Israeli society, said Za'atra. This is especially true in light of the ramping up of racism and the harsh attacks by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government against the Arab public and democracy, he added.