The Daily Star - AFP
31 mars 2009,
Thousands of Arab-Israelis on Monday demonstrated against what they called Israel’s "racism" at a rally commemorating the killing of six people in a 1976 protest against land grabs. Arab-Israeli MPs, mayors and other dignitaries were among the demonstrators in the annual Land Day protest at Deir Hanna village in Israel’s Galilee region.
Waving Palestinian flags and green banners - the color of the Islamic movement - as well as the symbols of the various Arab-Israeli parties, the demonstrators chanted their support for Palestinians in Gaza in the wake of Israel’s deadly onslaught in December and January.
Organizers said the rally was also aimed at protesting against "racism and fascism in Israel" which will swear in one of the most right-wing governments in its 61-year history Tuesday.
A prominent member of the Cabinet will be ultra-nationalist Avigdor Lieberman, who will serve as foreign minister in the cabinet of hawkish Premier-designate Benjamin Netanyahu.
Lieberman made headlines with his virulent diatribes against Arab-Israelis during campaigning for the February 10 election, in which he ran under the slogan "no citizenship without loyalty to the state."
"This year, we mark Land Day at a time when we face an erosion of democracy and regression of Arab rights ... racism, fascism," the head of the Deir Hanna municipal council, Raja al-Khatib, told the crowd.
As descendants of 160,000 Arabs who remained in Israel after the creation of the Jewish state in 1948, Israeli Arabs vote and have 10 representatives in the 120-seat Parliament.
Their standard of living is 10 times higher than that of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, but they say they are still treated as second-class citizens.
Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert acknowledged before a parliamentary commission last year that Arab-Israelis, who make up 20 percent of the population have been the victims of "unbearable discrimination" since 1948.
Israel Railways confirmed Monday that 40 of its Arab-Israeli employees were told their contracts would not be renewed in April because they had not served in Israel’s armed forces.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel called the move "immoral, illegal and discriminatory."