Israel, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine

38 years on, Israel still doesn’t understand Arab protests over land seizures.

Author: Jack Khoury/ Haaretz

Israel’s Palestinian Arab community on Sunday observed Land Day, an annual event commemorating protests that broke out on March 30, 1976 against government land seizures in which six Arabs were killed by Israeli security forces.

That first Land Day began with a general strike in Israel’s Arab communities, in the wake of a cabinet resolution approving the expropriation of 20,000 dunams (some 5,000 acres) in an area known as Area 9 or the Sakhnin valley, as part of the government’s goal of increasing the Jewish population in the Galilee.

In the intervening 38 years, two events stand out in shaping the often rocky relations between the state and its Arab citizens. The first was the second Rabin government and the Oslo peace process, when for the first time Arabs in Israel were seen as genuine partners and a number of Galilee Bedouin communities received official recognition. The second watershed moment was the events of October 2000, which precipitated the complete collapse of Israeli Arab trust in the establishments.

Over the past decade, many issues have risen to the surface. The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee and human rights organizations have released documents emphasizing the desire of Israel’s Arab citizens to preserve their national identity while accepting Israeli citizenship based on full equality and their recognition as a minority. The state, however, went in the opposite direction, stressing the state’s Jewish character at every opportunity, to the current juncture in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state a precondition for discussion of ending the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Specific proposals, such as the so-called Prawer plan for relocating tens of thousands of Negev Bedouin from unrecognized villages to recognized communities and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s population exchange proposal, send Israeli Arabs a clear message that the state wants as few of them as possible within the state’s borders, and in the smallest area possible.

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