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Thousands rally in Tel Aviv against 'racist' Israeli state and home demolitions

Feb. 4, 2017 10:41 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 5, 2017 7:18 P.M.)
TEL AVIV (Ma'an) -- Thousands rallied in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv on Saturday evening in protest of home demolitions targeting Palestinian citizens of Israel, with demonstrators calling the Israeli state’s demolition campaign "racist” and an act of “incitement" against Palestinian citizens.

Protesters reportedly called on Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan to resign for “lying” to the Israeli public, saying they held him responsible for the killings that took place during a raid to evacuate the Negev region Bedouin community of Umm al-Hiran last month.

Local math teacher in Umm al-Hiran Yaqoub Abu al-Qian was shot dead on Jan. 18 by police before Israeli authorities demolished more than a dozen structures in the village, with authorities claiming he was carrying out a deliberate vehicular attack, in contradiction to numerous eyewitness reports and video evidence that attested his car spun out of control only after Israeli police opened fired on him.

Some 5,000 Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel joined the march Saturday night, traveling from Jerusalem and across Israel to protest the demolitions and the Israeli state’s discriminatory policies against Palestinian citizens in general.

Members of a local committee from Umm al-Hiran also participated, with at least four busloads of Palestinian and Jewish citizens from the Negev arriving to join the rally.

Demonstrators raised posters in Arabic and Hebrew, which included the slogans: "When the government is against the people, the people will be against the government," “Enough of the government's racism…we demand equality," and "Jewish and Arabs together, we fight fascism."

Abu al-Qian’s widow Amal Abu Saad addressed protesters, denouncing the Israeli government's policies of racism, which she said led to the unnecessary death of her husband and the Israeli police officer who died after being hit by Abu al-Qian’s car.

She reiterated demands previously made by her family calling for an investigation into the deadly raid, and said that she “still believed in the possibility of living together in peace and equality,” in spite of her loss.

“Since the incident, no one has spoken to us and explained what happened,” Israeli news site Ynet quoted her as saying. “We are citizens of Israel and we want to be treated with respect. I want to be like everyone else. I want the same respect they gave to residents of Amona. We demand to know the truth behind the incident.”

After Israeli police evacuated Israeli settlers from the illegal Amona outpost in the occupied West Bank earlier this week, Palestinian leadership highlighted the double standard between use of force in Amona and Umm al-Hiran.

Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List coalition that represents Palestinian citizens of Israel in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, also delivered a speech at the demonstration. Odeh was injured in Umm al-Hiran ahead of the demolitions there, saying at the time Israeli police shot him in the head with a sponge-tipped bullet as he joined locals to resist the evacuation raid.

He addressed demonstrators, calling for the end the illegal Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory and for ”a truly equal society.”

"Umm al-Hiran must be a turning point -- there should be no more racist demolitions. No more," he insisted, also accusing the “racist” and “destructive” Israeli government of lying to the public.

The event was organized by some 20 human rights organizations, including the organization “Standing Together,” the Council of Unrecognized Villages in the Negev, the leftist Israeli parties Meretz and Hadash, Rabbis for Human Rights, and others.

Earlier on Saturday, Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat denounced the Israeli government for its “fascist” and “extremist” escalation against Palestinian citizens of Israel.

"This escalation, characterized by home demolitions and other restrictions against Palestinians in Israel, as well as in the West Bank, and Jerusalem, is a result of fascist alliances between (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu and extremist forces in Israel," Erekat said at a gathering held to show support for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Demolitions in Umm al-Hiran and Qalansawe also came after demolitions of Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem reached a record high over the course of 2016.

Right groups have argued that the aim of home demolitions is to forcibly displace Palestinians from the region, regardless of their status as residents of the occupied West Bank or East Jerusalem, or as citizens of Israel -- despite the varying legal justifications used by Israel in each instance.
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