Schools in Israel's Arab Towns Close for Land Day Marches

Arab MKs and the leaders of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee are scheduled to participate in a large Land Day rally Wednesday; Police will be on alert but do not anticipate difficulties.

Schools in the country's Arab towns will be closed today for Land Day Wednesday, commemorating 35 years since the Israeli government announced a plan to seize thousands of dunams of land in the Galilee.

Arab MKs and the leaders of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee are scheduled to participate in a large rally in the Galilee town of Arabeh Wednesday afternoon.

Israeli Arab protest
Yaron Kaminsky

Smaller marches will leave from Sakhnin and Dir Hanna and meet up in Arabeh, after making stops at the graves of the six Israeli Arabs killed in clashes with security forces while protesting the seizure of land during the first Land Day on March 30, 1976.

A rally is also set to take place in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Arakib in the Negev, which has become a symbol of the Israeli Arab struggle to hold onto land. During Land Day events last year, violent clashes broke out between village residents and security forces evacuating them from the area.

Police will be on alert Wednesday, especially in the north, but they said they do not anticipate difficulties.

Police officials said they have held talks with Higher Arab Monitoring Committee representatives over the last few days in an effort to maintain calm during today's rallies.

As in previous years, police officers will be deployed on main roads near Arab areas in the north, but will avoid entering the towns to avoid friction with the residents.

Israeli Arabs began commemorating this year's Land Day Tuesday, when some 1,500 protesters demonstrated in Lod against the demolition of the homes of some 50 members the Abu Eid family, including 30 children, in the city.

The protesters waved Palestinian flags, carried signs reading "Enough with the ethnic cleansing," and burned images of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Arab MKs and Jewish residents of mixed cities also participated in the protest.

Ibrahim Abu Saluk, a member of the Popular Committee in Lod, condemned the burning of Lieberman's photo.

"That is not the point of the protest, and whoever [burned the photo] did it of his own accord," he said. "We want to show that the policy of demolitions is not the solution."

The demolition in Lod, which took place in December, "requires an urgent solution," Abu Saluk said. "The authorities report 1,600 illegal houses throughout the city of Lod, and if they carry out the demolitions the same way they did with the Abu Eid family, a serious humanitarian problem will emerge. There is a problem here and the authorities are ignoring it. People are living here as though they were in a refugee camp."

Earlier this month, Israel also demolished the preparatory infrastructure for trailers that were supposed to house the members of the Abu Eid family until more permanent housing could be found.