Israeli Arabs decry state 'regression' as thousands march on Land Day -
The sector traditionally protests every March 30 against the expropriation of their lands by the Israeli government.
Some 1,500 Arabs attend Lod rally, launch Land Day events. Demonstrators protest against demolition of homes, plans to expel Arabs.
By Jack Khoury, Hassan Shaalan
Thousands of people gathered in the Israeli Arab "triangle" in the north on Wednesday to mark the 35th annual Land Day, in which the sector traditionally protests the expropriation of their lands by the government.
Demonstrators marched through the town of Sakhnin waving Palestinian flags and black cloths, culminating their parade at the main square in the village of Arabe.
Despite preparation by the Israel Police for possible unrest, the events went on without any disturbances. Police forces stationed patrol cars at the entrance of the towns, but no officers entered municipal limits.
The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee declared a general strike in local Arab authorities and schools, but some businesses and educational institutions operated as usual.
Higher Arab Monitoring Committee chair Mohammad Zeidan said that the discriminatory treatment by the Israeli government is made manifest quite clear with what he called racist bills that were approved by the Knesset recently. "Israel is regressing into dangerous directions in its treatment of its Arab citizens," he said.
Zeidan also made mention of the anti-government demonstrations in the Arab world. He said that Israeli Arabs support freedom, democracy and human rights. He called upon Arab leaders to listen and take the people's message to heart, but warned against international intervention that could fulfill Western interests.
Zeidan also called for unity among the Palestinian political factions.
Arabe mayor Omar Nasser said that the Arab villages are still suffering from a severe lack of land for building expansion. He called upon the government of Israel to expand the legal limits of the Arab villages.
"We cannot continue the policy of throttling the Arab population, while at the same time, the government is always talking about developing and expanding Jewish villages all over the country," Nasser said.
On Tuesday, some 1,500 Israeli Arabs protested in the central city of Lod against government policies which affect Israel's Arab sector, launching the events of Land Day.
The protesters were demonstrating against the government demolition of the houses of the Abu Eid family, which left some 50 family members, 30 of them children, without a home.
The protesters raised Palestinian flags, carried signs reading "Enough with the Ethnic Cleansing" and burned pictures of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Israeli Arab Knesset members and Jewish residents of mixed cities also participated in the protest.
Lieberman photos burned in Land Day rally in Lod
More than 1,500 Arab protestors launched Land Day events in Lod on Tuesday. Some demonstrators burned photos of Foreign Minister Avgidor Lieberman. "It's because he's the most racist person in the country, we can't stand the sight of him and he'll be well advised to stay away from our communities," one protestor explained.
The protest was organized by popular committees in Lod, Ramle, Jaffa, the village of Dahmash, the Khutwa organization and the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee.
The demonstrators protested against the demolition of Arab homes and racism towards the Arab sector. They accused the government of planning to expel Arabs from Ramle, Lod and other Arab towns. "We shall not yield while our lands are being stolen, we shall stay here and survive," one protestor said.
Among the protestors were Knesset members Hanin Zoabi, Ahmad Tibi, Mohammad Barakeh, Afu Aghbaria and Hanna Swaid.
MK Talab El-Sana told Ynet: "There is a plan to destroy Arab neighborhoods and replace them with buildings for haredi Jews and that is why we must support the residents of Lod, to keep them on their lands and stand up to the policy of destruction."
He added that the UN must be urged to fight "these crimes."
"Land for us is identity, existence, survival and our future. It is very important to preserve this."
Muhammad Hadad, a resident of Ramle and one of the organizers of the rally said the Khutwa group's aim is to effect change and noted it is not affiliated with any political party. He further added that 15 demonstrations against house demolitions were held in the past few months.
"We want to put Ramle-Lod on the map, to prevent the razing of homes. There are more than 1,500 razing orders for houses in the Lod-Ramle region to be replaced by Jewish homes. And we haven’t even addressed the issue of attempts to transfer Arab lands."
Hadad admitted that many Arab youths lack awareness towards identity, "both Palestinians and Israelis." He noted that the group has many plans to achieve their goals. "We are willing to stand in front of the bulldozers to prevent the demolitions."
Muhammand Kahtib, a resident of Qalansawe, told Ynet: "To me, land is my life. We shall not let anyone seize the land. I see that the time has come for bigger protests in order stand up to the Israeli government which strives to destroy the Arab sector in Israel. This day appears to be getting closer.
"I am sure there will be sever consequences should Israel continue this policy of injustice because a person can only suffer so much. Eventually it will all explode."
Commenting on Tuesday's protests, Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau called Arab Knesset members who took part in the Land Day protest in Lod "a bunch of scumbags".
He said that MKs Hanin Zoabi, Ahmad Tibi, Mohammad Barakeh, Afu Aghbaria and Hanna Swaid were like the comedians of the Arab population. "They need to be publicly condemned, their funding sources should be examined and their connections to terror organizations inspected," he told Ynet.
Click to view image: 'Burning Lieberman photos '
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Click to view image: 'Land Day in the village of Arabe'
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