Arab Towns Plan Jerusalem Rally, Strike Action Over Freezing Funds

Arab municipal leaders said Sunday they will ramp up their protests against racist Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s refusal to transfer hundreds of millions in budgeted funding, calling for a general strike in the community next week and threatening to not open the coming school year at the beginning of September.

“We want to live”, the protest tent set up in Jerusalem by the National Committee of Heads of Arab Local Authorities opposite the Prime Minister’s Office (Photo: Umm el-Fahm Municipality)

The National Committee of Heads of Arab Local Authorities set up a protest tent opposite the Prime Minister’s Office and the adjacent to the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem, where they held a meeting to discuss protest strategy. Some 300 people participated in the protest, joined by Haim Bibas (Likud), chairman of the larger national umbrella group the Federation of Local Authorities and Mohammed Barakeh, chairman of the High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel.

Smotrich has taken flack — including from other cabinet ministers — for refusing to release NIS 200 million ($55 million) for economic development in Arab municipalities, and maintaining a hold on a higher education program for occupied East Jerusalem residents. Smotrich, head of the fascist Religious Zionism party, has drawn accusations of racism from Hadash lawmakers.

Following the meeting in the Jerusalem protest tent, the committee of Arab authorities said it will call a general strike in the community for next Monday, August 21. In addition, a mass rally will be held in Jerusalem the same day. The committee further declared that without the promised government funding it will not be able to open the school year on September 1.