Garbed in khaki jumpsuits resembling IDF uniforms and holding toy guns, Israeli Arabs declared the square in Nazareth a closed military zone on Saturday night, and set up checkpoints and barbed wire in an act of protest against increased IDF enlistment among Israeli-Arabs.
Other participants, some of whom were gagged and had fake blood smeared on their faces, scuffled with the mock soldiers, as dozens held aloft signs reading, “The IDF is not worth it — mobilized against the occupation.”
The theatrical rally — which also featured music and dancing — was organized by representatives of the left-wing Arab-Jewish Hadash political party and the Communist Party.
Amjad Shbita, a representative of Hadash, said the demonstration had 300-400 active participants, with a total of 1,000, including passersby, attending
Jewish high school students were bused in to the event from Tel Aviv, with a petition at the rally garnering 100 Jewish signatures.
The overarching goal, Shbita explained, was to bring occupation to Nazareth. The local storekeepers and passerby were annoyed by the disturbances, which he said illustrates the cumbersomeness of military checkpoints.
Omar Sa’ad and Orwa Saif, key figures in the Druze opposition to military conscription, attended the rally. Sa’ad took part in the event while on prison furlough.
A pamphlet distributed at the event attacked the “divisive sectarian discourse [which] represents fertile ground for recruitment programs, reveals their central and political objective, essentially cuts off young Palestinians from their belonging to their nation, and undermines the national Palestinian minority in Israel into different sects warring with each other,” according to the Haaretz daily.
2013 saw a threefold increase in IDF voluntary enlistment among the Christian Arab population.
Israel’s 120,000 Arabic-speaking Druze community, which belong to a religious sect founded in the 11th century when it split off from Shiite Islam, is one of only a few Arabic-speaking minorities whose members enter the IDF alongside Israeli Jews.
Israeli-Arab identity became the subject of recent public debate, after a Knesset bill passed in late February offered the first legal recognition of Christian Arabs as a distinct minority. The law was lambasted by Arab MKs, who maintained that it was merely creating a divide in the Israeli Arab community by advancing the the legal status of Christian Arabs in Israel at the expense of Muslims.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.