In light of the continued attack on the fundamental rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel initiated an appeal to the international community and world public opinion calling upon them to commemorate International Arab Rights in Israel Day, which was held on Saturday, January 30.
Hundreds of activists and representatives from all the Arab political parties and movements in Israel, including Knesset members from the Joint List and Hadash, mayors of Arab communities attended the main event, a conference in Shefamr (Shfarm) on Saturday evening. In parallel, meetings took place in 35 countries around the world including in Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Austria, France, Britain, Ireland, Romania, Spain, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Senegal, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Guinea, South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay, Colombia, Honduras, Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico and Australia. Conferences marking the day were also held in Ramallah in the West Bank and in Gaza.
Former Knesset member Mohammad Barakeh (Hadash), the chairman of the High Follow-Up Committee, said the decision to organize the event was precipitated by rising racist incitement against the Arab population led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, together with the increased frequency of home demolitions and the displacement of Bedouin communities in the Negev. Barakeh also cited what he called the narrowing of the democratic space, including the use of British colonial-era regulations; the state’s recent outlawing of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel and 20 additional civil society organizations linked to it; the collective abuse of Arab citizens at the hands of the Israeli police and ongoing problems of poverty, discrimination, and lack of personal security in the Arab community.
Barakeh stressed that the international day and the related activities are not a substitute for the ongoing struggle of Arab citizens in the public, parliamentary, and legal arenas, alongside the supporters of equality and democracy in Israel. According to Al–Ittihad, the daily Arabic-language newspaper of the Communist Party of Israel, Barakeh remarked that “I expect the public in Israel and all true supporters of democracy to support our battle because it is impossible to talk about democracy when some 20 percent of the nation’s citizens are struggling with racism, with being silenced, with home demolitions, and the with the infringement of basic elementary human and civil rights.”