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No rejoicing for Israeli Arabs on Independence Day
Mon Apr 27, 2009 9:56am EDT
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By Joseph Nasr
UMM EL-FAHM, Israel (Reuters) - When Israel marks its 61st anniversary this week, most of the Arab citizens who make up 20 percent of the population will not celebrate.
To many in the Arab minority, the birth of a state that describes itself as a Jewish homeland is no cause for rejoicing.
"Of course I will not celebrate (Independence Day). Why would I when I feel discriminated against? I don't feel Israeli," said Mahmoud Agbaria, 23, a student from Umm el-Fahm.
Israeli leaders have acknowledged institutionalized discrimination against Israel's 1.5 million Arab citizens. Arabs say little has been done.
"There is no doubt that the government has failed with regard to Israeli Arabs," said Mohammad Darawshe of the Abraham Fund, a group advocating co-existence between Arabs and Jews.
"As long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unsolved, problems between Jews and Arabs in Israel will persist," said Darawshe, who takes pride in instigating mandatory spoken Arabic and Arab culture studies in 39 Jewish elementary schools.
Israeli Jews mark Israel's creation 61 years ago with official ceremonies, military aerial shows, parties and barbecues Wednesday. Streets are adorned with blue and white Israeli flags emblazoned with the Star of David.
But there will be no festivities in the town of Umm el-Fahm, where Arab residents clashed with Jewish ultranationalists who last month tried to march into the city to assert Jewish dominance.
Violence between Arabs and Jews in the mixed town of Acre last year on the Jewish day of atonement, Yom Kippur, and an Israeli offensive that killed hundreds in the Gaza Strip in January further fueled tensions.
In Umm el-Fahm, on the border with the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Israeli flags can be seen only outside the police station and atop the Arab town's only government building.
Veiled women walk past the imposing golden dome of the Abu Ouwaida mosque on a narrow, winding road dotted with green and white flags of the Islamic Movement in Israel, whose leader, Raed Salah, was indicted last year for inciting violence.
"NO LOYALTY, NO CITIZENSHIP"
The appointment by Israel's new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, of ultranationalist Avigdor Lieberman as foreign minister has raised Arab concerns.
Lieberman's far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party accuses Israeli Arab lawmakers of seeking Israel's destruction and voicing support for attacks by Palestinian militants against Israelis.
"No loyalty, no citizenship," was Yisrael Beiteinu's campaign slogan in the February parliamentary election. It emerged as the third largest party and key coalition partner in Netanyahu's right-leaning government. Continued...
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