Thirty-five years ago, the Israeli government announced a plan to expropriate thousands of acres of Israeli Arab owned land near the villages of Sakhnin and Arraba. The purpose of the seizure was to “fix” Israel’s “demographic problem” in the Galilee – the high proportion of Israeli Arabs living in the area. Israel’s plan was to seize the land and build Jewish-majority communities, thus Judaizing the Galilee.
Accompanying the declaration was a curfew intended to stifle protests. It failed. Instead, the people of Sakhnin and Arraba declared a general strike and took to the streets in protest. The strikes and protests quickly spread across the Galilee and before too long the Negev and the West Bank rose up in solidarity. Clashes broke out between the Israeli police and the protesters, and in the ensuing violence the police shot dead six protesters wounded one hundred.
The event marked a turning point in Israeli Arab politics. A bond re-forged between Arabs within Israel’s borders and those living in the occupied territories. They both were suffering from the same patterns of discrimination and dispossession. They both felt the same pain.
This suffering continues to this very day. ICAHD volunteers have been attending a number of protests this week at sites where the Israeli government has been trying to dispossess Israeli-Arabs of their land and homes. On Tuesday night, we attended the demonstration in Lod, where the Abu Eid family recently lost their home. Approximately 1,600 houses in Lod are classified as illegal and threatened with demolition. On Wednesday we visited the Bedouin village of Al-Arakib, which been demolished multiple times by the Israeli government over the past year. After each demolition, the people of Al-Arakib still find the courage to rebuild. On Friday, we visited the Palestinian village of Bil’in, which has held demonstrations every week for the past six years to protest being cut off from half of its lands by Israel’s security barrier. This Saturday we attended two demonstrations: In the morning we attended a roving demonstration for Palestinian rights in the South Hebron Hills. We visited the village of Cusya, where Israeli settlers frequently bring their sheep to graze on the villagers’ fields. Later we visited Beit Ummar, where we were attacked by the IDF for our peaceful protest. That evening, ICAHD volunteers attended the Land Day demonstration through Jaffa in solidarity with its Israeli-Arab residents, who have been suffering a lot recently: Two settlements have been built in the center of the city with the acknowledged purpose to Judaize Jaffa and a third is planned. Jaffa residents are being forced out of public housing and multiple houses are under demolition orders. New luxurious apartment complexes are under construction, and many of Jaffa’s residents have found themselves priced out of their own city. Recently the high court has a new Jewish-only neighborhood in Jaffa.
It is time for us to unite and find solutions that allow all Israelis and Palestinians to keep their lands and stay in their homes. Israel’s discriminatory policies that infringe upon the rights of Palestinians and Israeli Arabs must come to an end.