Last updated: 6 May, 2014

10,000 Israel Arabs hold independence day protest

Some 10,000 Israeli Arabs rallied in northern Israel on Tuesday to demand the right of return for refugees expelled after the creation of the Jewish state in 1948.

The demonstration took place in the Israeli village of Lavi, which was built on the ruins of the Palestinian village of Lubya.

Lubya was home to 2,726 Palestinians until 1948, when Jewish forces captured the village during the Arab-Israeli conflict that led to the creation of the Jewish state.

Demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and read out the names of 530 Palestinian villages that were emptied 66 years ago, before observing a minute’s silence in their memory.

“A demonstration organised by Israeli Arab associations gathered about 10,000 people and two youths were arrested for violence against the police,” Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.

Groups demanding the right of return for Palestinians expelled from their homes in 1948 organised the event under the slogan: “Your ‘independence’ day is our ‘Nakba’,” Arabic for catastrophe.

“There will be no peace, no stability and no reconciliation without the refugees’ right of return,” Israeli Arab lawmaker Mohammad Barakei told AFP.

More than 760,000 Palestinians — estimated today to number 4.8 million with their descendants — fled or were driven from their homes in 1948.

Palestinians mark Nakba day on May 15, but Arab Israelis hold demonstrations on Israeli independence day, which fell on Tuesday this year.

Around 160,000 Palestinians stayed behind and are now known as Arab Israelis. They number about 1.3 million and make up some 20 percent of Israel’s population.

Most of Lubya’s original inhabitants settled in the Yarmuk refugee camp in the suburbs of Damascus.

In Israeli-annexed Arab east Jerusalem, police dispersed a demonstration by Jewish extremists, who marched through the streets of the Old City chanting anti-Arab slogans, the police spokeswoman said.

Police arrested two of the demonstrators who tried to force their way past a checkpoint, she added.