The Arab sector on Thursday marked the ninth anniversary of the October riots by calling a general strike across Israel. The strike is lead by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee under the banner: "For the martyrs that were killed in October 2000".
During the riots that broke out with the start of the al-Aqsa intifada, 13 Arabs and one Jew were killed.
There was high participation in Thursday's strike - the third time the Arab public goes on such a general strike. The previous strikes in the sector took place on the first and third anniversaries of the riots. In recent years the committee has refrained from calling a general strike, since it believed the public would not be so responsive.
Almost all Arab cities and towns, including Umm al-Fahm, Sakhnin, Arraba, Tayibe, as well as Arab neighborhoods in mixed cities such as Haifa and Jaffa, closed their businesses, local authorities, schools and kindergartens.
Protest marches will take place during the day in the hometowns of those killed in the riots, and a central rally will be held at 1:30pm in Arraba in the Lower Galilee. In addition to Arab public figures and representatives of the families of those killed, representatives of various embassies are also slated to attend the rally.
"Representatives of nine different embassies confirmed their attendance. They are afraid of Israeli diplomatic pressure, so they said they would rather it not get out," HAMC secretary Abed Anabtawi said.
According to Anabtawi, there was 90% participation in Thursday's strike. "It should be taken into account that the strike is not just about the October events. The Arab public is very aware of the institutional trends in all aspects of life, be it Lieberman, the fascist and racist legislation, discrimination and the demolition of houses," he said.
Empty school in Umm al-Fahm (Photo: www.PLS48.net)
MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List – Ta'al) said, "Our strike is a clear and lucid cry against the racism and discrimination that have become mainstream both on the streets and within the government. The poverty and unemployment are hitting the Arab towns and he who shot and killed 13 of our sons is walking free."
Minister for Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman told Ynet Thursday morning, "It's about time the Israeli government implement the recommendations of the Or Commission, thus beginning a stage of taking responsibility for the situation of Israel's Arab citizens.
"It is my opinion that a strike is not the suitable means, since its repercussions harm the citizens. On the other hand, the Arab public's right to a democratic protest is indisputable, and I am certain the Israel Police will conduct itself with the understanding and sensitivity during the day."
Protest rallies marking the events of October 2000 are also slated to take place abroad. Representatives of various human rights organizations responded to a letter sent to them by Balad Chairman MK Jamal Zahalka, and said they would hold rallies outside Israeli delegations in Europe.
In a statement published earlier this week, HAMC urged the Arab public to hold the strike in an "organized and civil" manner. The committee urged police not to enter Arab towns and stressed that police presence would be viewed as a provocative, unnecessary act.
"As long as the police don't enter the towns, the protests will end in an organized manner. We know how to protest in a civilized way, but police entering will constitute a provocative act, and there will be a response to such an act," Anabtawi said.