Palestinians joined Israeli Arabs in a general strike Monday protesting Israel’s controversial Jewish nation-state law and commemorating the deaths of 13 people killed in clashes with police in October 2000.
The action was also to protest steps taken by the Trump administration vis-a-vis the Palestinians, including the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem and the cutting of funding to the UNRWA relief agency.
In the Arab Israeli community of Jatt in northern Israel, 1,500 participated in the central march in memory of the October 1 victims, killed in a series of clashes with police in 2000 during protests in support of the second Palestinian intifada.
Twelve Israeli Arabs and a Palestinian were killed in the clashes in October 2000.
Carrying pictures of the victims, Palestine flags and signs against Israel’s nation-state law, the protesters marched along with members of the Knesset including Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint (Arab) List.
“We’re striking today to remind that this wound is still bleeding,” Odeh said, pledging to continue to fight against the treatment of Israeli Arabs as “second-class citizens, and racist legislation.”
Joint (Arab) List MK Yousef Jabareen said the strike was a protest by Israeli Arabs who say the bill turns them into second and third class citizens
“The strike sends a message of opposition to the continued discrimination and racism towards the Arab public, which will not receive inferior citizenship status as second or third class citizens,” he said, according to the Ynet news site. “We were born in this country and will fight for national equality. Full and equal citizenship for all.”
In East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, schools and many businesses were closed, AFP journalists reported. The Arab Quarter in Jerusalem’s historic Old City was especially quiet.
Demonstrations were also held in Ramallah, where minor clashes erupted by a checkpoint on the West Bank city’s outskirts. Clashes were also reported in the tense southern West Bank city of Hebron.
Ramallah resident Khaled Abu Ayoush said the strike was “against the policy pursued by Israel in order to erase Palestinian nationalism and the displacement of citizens from their land.”
Mahmoud Hamed however kept open his bakery outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City. “We are a bakery,” he said. “In wars, in strikes, people usually need a break.”
Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said the strike also aimed to show solidarity with the West Bank village of Khan al-Ahmar, near Jerusalem.
Israel plans to demolish the Bedouin community, which it says was built illegally, despite international calls for a reprieve.
Critics argue that the nation-state law, which enshrines Israel’s status at the nation-state of the Jewish people, contravenes the basis of Israel’s legal system as well as its Declaration of Independence by institutionalizing inequality among its citizens.
Many Israelis and some in the international community have condemned the legislation, which they say turns minorities into second-class citizens.
MK Jamal Zahalka and Hassan Jabareen, general director of rights group Adalah, met this week with Senator Bernie Sanders and a number of US congressmen as part of the campaign against the legislation, the Walla news site reported.
Zahalka asked the members of congress to put pressure on the Israeli government to repeal the law, and after the meeting, the American lawmakers apparently expressed willingness to work against the bill and agreed to maintain contact with the Joint List.
The Netanyahu government says the legislation does not harm anybody’s rights and the new law merely enshrines the country’s existing character, and that Israel’s democratic nature and provisions for equality are already anchored in existing legislation.
Multiple petitions against the law have already been filed with the High Court of Justice by Druze, Arab and Bedouin leaders, rights groups, academics, and the Meretz and Joint List political parties. Several more petitions are currently being drafted.
Earlier this month, a delegation of Arab Israeli lawmakers from the Joint List met with the head of the Arab League in Cairo to discuss the Jewish nation-state law and its implications for a peace deal with the Palestinians.
Last month, 30,000 Israeli Arabs and Jews demonstrated against the legislation in Tel Aviv. An earlier, similar rally of the Druze community drew around 50,000 people.
Netanyahu has said a government team will review ways to strengthen the state’s ties to minorities, but has stressed he opposes altering the controversial legislation.