Israeli Arabs march to mark ‘catastrophe’ of Israel’s independence

Event goes ahead after police reverse ban, reach compromise; thousands wave Palestinian flags, hold photos of prisoners

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

Palestinians march in the Western Galilee to mark the 'Nakba' ('catastrophe'), the day when the State of Israel was created in 1948. The annual event coincides with Israel's Independence Day. May 2, 2017. (YouTube screenshot)
Palestinians march in the Western Galilee to mark the 'Nakba' ('catastrophe'), the day when the State of Israel was created in 1948. The annual event coincides with Israel's Independence Day. May 2, 2017. (YouTube screenshot)

Thousands of Israeli Arabs from all over the country gathered on Tuesday for the “March of Return,” an event which marks the Nakba (“catastrophe”) for Palestinians of the Jewish state’s creation, which is held annually on Israel’s Independence Day.

The march — held close to the Western Galilee kibbutz of Kabri — went ahead after police retracted their original prohibition. Police had initially barred the event from taking place for security reasons, citing police manpower shortages due to the number of Israelis who would be celebrating the country’s 69th anniversary nationwide.

According to the compromise, marchers were to take a different route and convene at a different location close to the Kabri Regional School, which is built on the remains of the pre-state Arab village of Al-Kabri, the Haaretz newspaper reported last month.

Participants at Tuesday’s event waved Palestinian flags and pictures of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails as well as banners demanding the right of return, according to the Arabic-language website arab48.com.

“We commemorate the remembrance events for the Nakba not only with our eyes on the past, but with demands to change a historical injustice and establish the basis of a shared future built on recognition of our pain and mutual respect,” MK Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint (Arab) List, wrote on Twitter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ebnm8iSBpU

Al-Kabri was captured a week after the State of Israel was declared, on May 21, 1948. By the time Israeli forces took the village, most of its residents had fled.

For Palestinians, the right to return to homes they fled or were forced out of in 1948 is a prerequisite for any peace agreement.

Israeli governments have rejected the notion of a “right of return” for Palestinians, arguing that a mass influx of Palestinians would spell the end of the Jewish state. Israel has called for Palestinian refugees to be absorbed into a future Palestinian state, just as Israel took in hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab states in the Middle East and North Africa.

Israel also rejects the UN designation of second, third and subsequent generations of descendants of Palestinians who used to live in what is now Israel as “refugees,” noting that only Palestinian descendants of refugees are treated in this way by the UN.

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