Palestinian citizens of Israel have today begun a general strike, supported by Palestinians from across the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt).
The strike was called in protest of Israel’s recently-passed Nation State law, which chair of the Joint List Hassan Jabareen said “turns [Palestinian citizens of Israel] into second and third class citizens,” the Times of Israel reported.
Jabareen added that:
The strike sends a message of opposition to the continued discrimination and racism towards the Arab public, which will not receive inferior citizenship status […] We were born in this country and will fight for national equality. Full and equal citizenship for all.
A number of Palestinian factions have also come out in support of the strike. Member of the Revolutionary Council of Fatah, Abdul-Elah Al-Atiri, said in a statement to Palestine News Network (PNN) that the “adoption of the colonial racist law on the nationality of the Jewish state of occupation […] seeks through the enactment of such laws to expel the indigenous Arab inhabitants of this land.”
In solidarity with Palestinians inside Israel, Palestinians across the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip are also participating in the strike. According to Wafa, life has “almost come to standstill in these areas as shops were shuttered down, government and financial institutions did not open to business and schools and universities suspended classes. The strike was also observed by the public transportation.”
The strike is given additional significance by its commemoration of the killing of 13 Palestinian citizens of Israel in October 2000. The events took place in the Galilee and Wadi Ara regions, near the cities of Nazareth and Hadera respectively, in northern Israel. Tensions were ignited by the storming of the Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem by Israel’s Ariel Sharon on 28 September 2000, with widespread protests across Israel and the oPt following. Both Sharon’s storming of Al-Haram Al-Sharif and the killing of 13 Palestinian citizens of Israel are often seen as key events which sparked the Second Intifada, which continued until 2005.
The Nation State law being protested by Palestinians was passed in July of this year and declared that: “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it.” The law also demoted the status of Arabic from an official language of the State of Israel to one with “special status”.
The law was lambasted by many inside Israel, with Israel’s minority Druze community calling the law a “betrayal” and several Palestinian MKs resigning. Prominent Israeli figures also condemned the law, with best-selling author Yuval Noah Harari refusing an honour by the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles in protest. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was also critical of the law, allegedly saying he would sign the document in Arabic.
Of Israel’s 8.9 million population, 1.8 million (20.9 per cent) are Palestinian Arabs. A further half million (4.7 per cent) belong to other minority communities, all of whom are affected by July’s Nation State Law.