A mass demonstration was held in Nazareth, in northern Israel, on Saturday, to protest the ongoing Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip. At least 10,000 Arab-Israelis marched through the streets chanting and carrying signs. Jamal Zahalka, an Arab-Israeli Member of the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) said that “those responsible for war crimes against the Palestinian people must be brought to justice in an international court of law…Killing civilians, starving them and denying them medical care are bonafide war crimes, and those responsible should be held accountable to international law.”
The protest brought together various Arab-Israeli factions and political parties in a united front to call for an end to Israeli aggression against the Palestinian population in the Occupied Territories.
Arab-Israelis are Palestinians who remained in their homes in what is now Israel when the state of Israel was created in 1948. Arab-Israelis make up 20% of the Israeli population – most are connected via family ties to Palestinians who fled to refugee camps in the two Palestinian territories, the West Bank and Gaza. But because the Palestinians who remain inside Israel hold Israeli ID cards, they are unable to go to the Palestinian territories, and Palestinians living inside the territories are forbidden by Israeli authorities from entering Israel.
At the rally Saturday, Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement inside Israel, stated, “In spite of this festive holiday atmosphere our hearts are burdened, and will remain so until the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.”
The protesters called for an end to the siege on Gaza, in which Israel has closed all borders of the Gaza Strip since May, preventing the entire population of Gaza from going in or out, and preventing all imports and exports into and out of Gaza. This has led to an unemployment rate of 90%, malnutrition rates of up to 40% of children in Gaza, and severely impoverished and stressed conditions inside what Gazans call 'the largest open-air prison on earth'. The Gaza Strip is one of the most crowded places on earth, home to 1.3 million Palestinians, many of them refugees from what is now Israel.