Border policemen arrest an Arab rioter on Land Day in Jerusalem. (Muath Al Khatib/Flash90) Border policemen arrest an Arab rioter on Land Day in Jerusalem. (Muath Al Khatib/Flash90)
Land day riots
MK Jamal Zahalka speaks at the Knesset. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

MK Jamal Zahalka speaks at the Knesset. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Israeli-Arab leaders, alleging discriminatory policies by the state, threatened “stubborn resistance” if the government attempts to “confiscate” land in the Negev.

Approximately 2,000 Arabs with Israeli citizenship marked the 39th annual “Land Day” on Monday, a day of protest against what they claim are discriminatory land policies.

The demonstrators, led by Arab Members of Knesset (MKs), waved Palestinian flags and chanted slogans in the northern Israeli town of Deir Hanna. Several hundred also demonstrated in the southern Bedouin city of Rahat, and a few dozen gathered in Jerusalem.

Land Day is marked annually on March 30 and commemorates the day in 1976 when Israeli security forces killed six Arab rioters during demonstrations over confiscated land.

These demonstrations are often marked with violence, but this year they were fairly peaceful. However, Deputy Commander of the Gush Etzion Brigade, Lt. Col. Dotan Rovner, was injured Monday afternoon by a Palestinian who threw a rock at him during rioting near Beitar Illit.

Arab citizens make up 20 percent of Israel’s population. Equality is guaranteed by Israeli law, yet many complain of discrimination. Despite these allegations, being an Israeli is a source of pride for Israel’s Arabs, as 65% said in a recent poll that they were proud to be citizens.

As Citizens, Arab Israelis Have Obligations, Says NGO

Thousands of Bedouin land claims over past decades were determined to be baseless, Emily Amrousi of Israel Hayom pointed out in an in-depth analysis last year.

Ari Briggs, international relations director of Regavim, an NGO that seeks to ensure responsible, legal and accountable use of Israel’s national land, told United with Israel: “As we approach the 68th year since independence, instead of protesting, it is about time the Arab sector act as full citizens, understanding that it entails not only rights, but also obligations to the state.”

Nevertheless, Israeli Arab leaders threatened an “explosion” over land seizures that they allege Israel is conducting in southern Israel.

Mohammad Zeidan, chairman of the High Monitoring Committee for Arab citizens of Israel, claimed that Israel was “confiscating” land from Arabs in the Negev.

MK Jamal Zahalka, speaking in Rahat, said, “We will not allow a second nakba [catastrophe – referring to the establishment of the State of Israel] in the Negev.”

Any move by the Israeli government to impose a deal in the Negev “will encounter stubborn resistance, and the government will be responsible for the deterioration of the situation,” Zahalka threatened.

By: United with Israel Staff and AP