Thousands of Israeli Arabs on Saturday marked the 16th anniversary of the October 2000 riots, in which 13 Israeli Arabs were killed in a series of clashes with police at the start of the Second Palestinian Intifada.
The march commemorating the deadly clashes in the northern city of Sakhnin was attended by all 13 members of the Joint (Arab) List faction, the local mayor and other senior Israeli Arab officials.
During the rally, the head of the High Monitoring Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, Mohammad Barakeh, said that Israel had not learned the lessons of the October riots and instead of embracing its Arab minority, was trying to tear it apart and destroy its political leadership.
“They will not break our spirit,” he said, according to the Ynet news website. “We are excluded from all events, and all of a sudden its important for Israel if we participate in the funeral Shimon Peres?”
The Joint List drew criticism after its party members unanimously decided to boycott the funeral of the late Israeli president Peres.
“All of the sudden we’re missed?” Barakeh said. “This is not our priority — we have problems with land, house demolitions and so on.”
On Friday, the head of the Joint List Ayman Odeh defended the Arab MKs decision not to attend the funeral, and said the suffering of Israeli Arabs did not interest Israelis.
“Can someone understand our pain [from those events] or does that not interest anybody?” he asked during an interview on Channel 2. “Will anyone from the government attend [the ceremonies marking the deaths]?”
In 2000, as the second Palestinian intifada gained momentum in the West Bank, Israeli Arabs took to the streets to protest the visit of then opposition leader Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount — a move that angered Palestinian and Israeli Muslims and sparked the violence.
In clashes with Israel police officers, 13 protesters were killed.
Israel’s Arab communities commemorate the deadly protests on October 1 every year.