Arab protesters say not enough attended thousands-strong anti-Nationality Law protest
As tens of thousands of Arabs and Jews flock to Rabin Square to attend demonstration against legislation where dozens waved Palestinian flags, some express disappointment at what they describe as an insufficient turnout; 'At least 200,000 should have turned up,’ says one Arab protester.
“This protest should be the opening shot of a wave of protests, including at the parliamentary, public and media level,” said Kamil Agbariyah, a resident of Jaffa who attended the protest.
The law has caused controversy since it passed into law in the Knesset last month. The clause stating that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country has been the subject of fierce criticism and has caused offense among the Druze minority, many of whom serve the country loyally in the IDF.
According to Agbariyah, the protest on its own will not suffice in overturning the law. “There’s no doubt that we will have to take many more steps, Arabs and Jews together. The campaign here is not about Arabs against Jews, but rather about equality and democracy.”
While bemoaning the turnout, Agbariyah also said that the protest “proved that there is still a sane camp of Arabs and Jews who are campaigning to live in a fair way. This law is discriminatory, it turns Arabs into class B citizens and it makes it legal to discriminate against them.”
Tens of thousands of Arabs and Jews gathered at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv to protest the law, while dozens waved Palestinian flags while chanting "With spirit, with blood we shall redeem you, Palestine" despite a predetermined ban on waving any flags, prompting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to write on his Twitter page: "There is no better evidence of the Nationality Law's necessity."
Approximately 20-25 thousands people showed up in solidarity against the law, a number in which Agbariyah expressed disappointment.
“I expect that out of a million-and-a-half Arab citizens, at least 200,000 should turn up. It is unacceptable if we don’t manage to bring the Arab public to this protest,” Agbariyah complained. “Arab Knesset MKs have to get the crowds into the street. Committees, mayors of mixed cities, mayors of Arab cities—everyone should be uniting as one.”
Only large numbers, he argued, would pressure the government into switching course, causing it “to understand that this law will not be passed as it wants.”
Another protester, Afif Abu Muh al-Garbiyah, said that he was pleased that the protest took place. “Finally we are hearing the Arab voice in the street in Tel Aviv. We’re hearing the voice of the Arab Joint List, the follow-up committee against the Nationality Law. No doubt, it is extremely late, but that is preferable to nothing. It’s a shame that it has happened three weeks since the law passed,” he said.
Echoing the sentiments of Agbariyah, al-Garbiyah said: “We must continue this campaign until we bring this law down. The distinction between Druze Arabs and non-Druze Arabs is extremely stupid. The leaderships of both have to sit together and cooperate. But it’s good that they got out into the streets.”
Al-Garbiyah also appealed to Jews to unite behind the efforts to repeal the law. “The Nationality Law was not to serve any Jew in the world, but to serve one man only—he’s called Benjamin Netanyahu. This law was made to serve him in his election campaign that began in 1996 and has continued to this day,” he said.