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Palestinian identity gets stronger in Israel despite the hate crimes

May 15, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Palestinians living inside what is now called Israel call themselves “1948 Palestinians”. They are holding on more and more to their Palestinian identity in the face of the escalation of oppression by the far right in Israel, discriminatory laws and an increasing number of hate crimes committed by extremist Jews.

Ten thousand 1948 Palestinians participated in a rally under the banner “Day of Return” in the village of Loubiya, Galilee, holding Palestine flags to commemorate the passing of 66 years since the beginning of the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe). The 500+ Palestinian towns and villages wiped off the map by Israel since 1948 were remembered by the protesters along with those Palestinian refugees killed in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, which has been under siege by forces loyal to the Syrian regime.

The protest sparked angry reactions from Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who accused the participants of being “part of a fifth column seeking to destroy the state of Israel”. Lieberman wrote on his Facebook page, “I suggest the next time they walk to Ramallah and remain there.”

The Palestinians commemorate the memory of the Nakba on May 15th every year. That is when, in 1948, around three-quarters of a million Palestinians were forced to flee from their homes by the Jewish militias and nascent Israeli state. Nadim Nashef, the director of Baladna Alshababiya association in Haifa, stated that patriotic awareness has never left the Palestinians inside the 1948 occupied territory, despite there being ups and downs. “The policies of the discriminatory Israeli government in the past years has heightened the awareness of the youth,” he added, “even those who tried to separate themselves from the political reality.” He pointed to laws such as the one which bans the commemoration of the Nakba in official organisations, which has achieved the opposite effect to that which was intended. “Instead of weakening Palestinian identity, it has strengthened it.”

The Palestinians of 1948 represent around 20 per cent of the population of Israel, coming from the 160,000 Palestinians who remained on their land after the declaration of the Israeli State in 1948. Despite them holding Israeli nationality, the Palestinians of 1948 are treated more or less as second class citizens and are discriminated against by the authorities, especially in matters relating to work and daily life. Professor Motti Kedar, an Israeli scholar of Arabic literature at Bar-llan University in Tel Aviv, says that the vengeful crimes and practices of the extreme Jews against the Arab minority is racism. “The burning of cars and puncturing of tyres merely inflame nationalist sentiment and add a sense of marginalisation,” he added.

Attacks carried out by extremist Jews have increased in the past weeks and are known as “Price tag” attacks targeting Palestinians and Arabs inside Israel. These attacks include the destruction and vandalism of Palestinian properties, the burning of cars and Christian and Muslim places of worship, and the uprooting and damaging of olive trees. Numerous calls have been made to the Israeli government to pass the issue on to the internal security forces (Shin Bet) and to consider the attackers as terrorists. “There is a feeling of brotherhood towards other Palestinians but the Palestinians of 1948 prefer to live in Israel than any other Middle East alternative,” noted Kedar.

Large numbers of 1948 Palestinians visit the West Bank on their weekends, going to cities like Jericho, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Nablus to shop. Abu Hussein, owner of a clothes store in Nablus in the occupied West Bank, says that customers from 1948 Palestine boost the local market, which is important, “especially in the current economic climate”. One “1948” customer, Shaher Muhamed from Umm al-Fahm, aged 50, commented: “The Palestinian people are one wherever they may be. It’s true that I hold Israeli nationality but my heart is Arabic and Palestinian and will remain so.”

Source: Addustour newspaper, 15 May, 2014