MK Odeh: Our Struggle is Not One of National or Religious Identities

Despite heavy rocket fire earlier in the day, hundreds attended a protest in Habima Square in central Tel Aviv on Saturday evening, May 15, organized by Hadash and the Standing Together movement. The protest was attended by Joint List chairman MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), Labor MK Ibitisam Mara’ana-Menuhin, Meretz MK Mossi Raz and popular singer Achinoam Nini (“Noa”).

“We here are the proof that the struggle is not of one people against another, nor of one religion against another. This struggle is a political one, between those who want occupation and supremacy and those who want peace and equality,” declared Odeh. MK Mara’ana-Menuhin sought to echo his sentiments: “The war here is not between Arabs and Jews. This is the war of men who want to control our lives. More destruction, more widowed women. We refuse to continue this way. I ask you not to lose hope.”

Joint List chair MK Ayman Odeh (third from left, with a Hadash placard – "Opposing the Occupation") at the protest in Habima Square in Central Tel Aviv, Saturday evening, May 15

Joint List chair MK Ayman Odeh (third from left, with a Hadash placard – “Opposing the Occupation”) at the protest in Habima Square in Central Tel Aviv, Saturday evening, May 15 (Photo: Zo Haderech)

In a similar demonstration, six people were arrested, among them Hadash members, at a joint Jewish-Arab demonstration in Jerusalem on Saturday evening. The protest focused on Jewish-Arab solidarity, and was one of dozens of such events that took place across the country on Saturday.

Israel Police attempted to disperse the demonstration in Jerusalem before it began, citing fear of violence from right-wing groups as their reason for doing so. The protest went ahead nevertheless, surrounded by heavy police presence. An estimated 200 people gathered in Zion Square in Central Jerusalem, but before they could begin marching, the police told them that their protest was illegal and therefore could not go ahead.

Both the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem protests focused on the conviction that Israelis and Palestinians can live together in peace, with Hadash signs proclaiming “In Gaza and Sderot, children want to live” and chants of “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.”

Hundreds of protesters gathered in Jaffa on Saturday afternoon, a day after a home in the Arab neighborhood of Ajami was firebombed, injuring two Arab children — a 12-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl. In Ramle, Jews and Arabs called for peaceful coexistence following a week of heavy clashes in the city. Later that night, Jewish ruffians reportedly stoned an Arab car in the ethnically mixed city.

Thousands Rally to Commemorate Nakba Day

In Sakhnin in the north, thousands of Arab-Palestinians citizens of Israel as well as scores of Jewish Israelis participated in the main annual Nakba Day demonstration, while other commemoration events were held across the country on Saturday, May 15 – marking 73 years since the end of the British Mandate over Palestine and the unilateral declaration of the State of Israel; an act that, within two to three years, would establish the legislative framework and machinery for the disentitlement of some 750,000 Arab Palestinians from their lands, homes and other forms of property within the 1949 armistice lines. That is more than 60% of all Arabs who lived in late Mandatory Palestine and in excess of 80% of the Palestinian Arabs who had resided within those areas that would become recognized as the State of Israel.

Former Hadash lawmaker, Muhammad Barakeh, currently the chairman of the High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel and a leading member of the Communist Party of Israel told the crowd: “Arab society has convened here in the thousands today to oppose arrests, Netanyahu’s wild incitement, and the attempt to re-institute a military regime – something that has already begun in Lod, Kafr Kanna and Jadeida-Makr.”

Between 1949 and 1966, the Arab citizens of Israel in fact lived under a military regime which severely limited their freedom of movement, speech, and political organization – and thereby played a central role in enabling the Jewish state to maximize its appropriation of lands of both Palestinians who were displaced during the 1947-49 war as well as those who remained, including the ultimate physical destruction of some five hundred villages.

Detention of 3 Arab Political Figures by the Police and “Shabak”

On Friday, Israeli police detained Sheikh Kamal al-Khatib, the deputy chairman of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel after breaking into his home in Kafr Kanna in the Galilee. Al-Khatib’s son told Al-Ittihad that police officers and agents of the Israel Security Agency (ISA — “Shin Bet”/”Shabak”) violently raided the home and assaulted family members. Clashes erupted between residents and police that left 50 Arabs injured following the arrest.

The same day, Zoher Karkabi, a leading member of Hadash and the Shef’amr city council was also detained by police accompanied by agents of the ISA. A day earlier, Attorney Naked Naked, a member of the Central Committee of the CPI, was similarly taken into custody.

Adalah, an NGO that fights for the legal rights of Arab citizens of Israel issued a statement saying that the involvement of the Shabak in the above arrests is “part of a deliberate attempt to depict a security pretext to justify the denial of civil rights.” Adalah stressed that this involvement “is particularly worrying in conjunction with the prime minister’s recent statements on the possibility of issuing administrative detention orders, a move that could lead to practical martial law” in Arab communities.

MK Ayman Odeh addresses the rally in Tel Aviv, Saturday evening, May 15 (Hebrew):

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