JERUSALEM — Arab citizens of Israel have observed an annual day of protest.
Israeli Arabs held marches and rallies to mark Land Day, an annual protest against the confiscation of Arab land by the State of Israel. The event commemorates a mass demonstration against land confiscations in Galilee in 1976, when six Arab protesters were killed by Israeli security forces.
Israeli Arabs make up about 20 percent of the population, and Land Day is an opportunity for them to highlight what they see as discrimination by the Jewish state toward the Arab minority. So there was a general strike across the Arab sector.
Talal Al-Karnawi is the mayor of Rahat, a Bedouin city in southern Israel.
He said all schools, businesses and government offices were closed in protest over the confiscation of land by the State of Israel and the destruction of homes that were built illegally.
The Israeli government has refused to recognize and provide services for many Bedouin villages that were built without permits, reinforcing a feeling among Israelis Arabs that they are second-class citizens.
“People are feeling that they are with less and less land; and the feeling that you are not welcome in your own country, it is a very, very bad feeling,” said Israeli Arab analyst Wadia Abu Nasser.
The Israeli government said the nation has come a long way toward easing discrimination and improving the plight of its Arab citizens. Officials point out Arabs enjoy the same health care benefits as Jews and have representatives in parliament.
Israeli officials said that in the wake of the Arab Spring revolutions, Israeli Arabs are much better off than their brothers in other Middle Eastern countries, such as Syria, Egypt and Iraq.