UPDATE – Palestinians, Israeli-Arabs protest ‘nation-state’ law


By Abdul Raouf Arnaout, Hidaya al-Saeedi

JERUSALEM (AA) – Palestinians staged a general strike in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Monday in support of Israeli-Arabs protesting a controversial law recognizing Israel as the “nation-state” of the Jewish people.

Businesses and schools closed doors across the occupied territories and Arab towns inside Israel.

"I can say that there is a complete commitment to the strike,” Arab member of Knesset (Israel’s parliament) Massoud Ghanayem told Anadolu Agency.

The action was staged in support of Israeli-Arabs, who called the strike in protest of the “Nation-State” law, which was passed by Knesset in July.

The legislation defines Israel as a Jewish state with a “united Jerusalem” as its capital. It has also promoted Hebrew as the only official language, stripping Arabic as an official language while recognizing its “special status”.

The controversial law risks further alienating the Arab minority who argue they already face discrimination from Israeli Jews and the government and already feel as though they are second-class citizens.

"Palestinians throughout the occupied territories are taking part in the strike,” Ghanayem said. “This unity was necessary since the nation-state law targets all issues of the Palestinian people, whether refugees, their right to self-determination and presence of Arab citizens inside Israel,” he said.

Palestinians, who have Israeli citizenship make up 21 percent of the population, are known as Israeli-Arabs and have members in the Knesset.

– Discrimination

Palestinian group Hamas said the strike aims to highlight discrimination against the Palestinians living inside Israel.

“Today’s strike aims to show solidarity with our people in the occupied territories, who are facing a wave of racial discrimination,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told Anadolu Agency.

"[Nation-state] law is a serious legislation that paves the way for treating the Palestinians, who are the owners of this land, as strangers and deporting them,” he said.

Talal Abu Zarifa, a member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), said the general strike “aims to send a message to the world to put an end to this aggression”.

"This law, which seeks to strip all civil and social rights of all minorities in Israel, must be terminated," he said. “This legislation also undermines the right of the Palestinians to return [to their homes in historical Palestine].”

Monday's strike coincides with the killing of 13 Israeli-Arabs by Israeli police at the start of the 2000 Palestinian intifada, triggered by a controversial visit by then opposition leader Ariel Sharon to East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world's third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the "Temple Mount", claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.

Jerusalem remains at the heart of the Middle East conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem — occupied by Israel since 1967 — might eventually serve as the capital of an independent Palestinian state.