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LEADERS of Israel’s 1.7 million Arabs declared a general strike throughout the country yesterday in protest at the deaths of two Bedouin men in confrontations with police.
Former Knesset member Taleb al-Sana, who is chairman of an umbrella organisation of Arab Israeli groups, said that schools and businesses would close from Galilee in the north to the Negev desert in the south.
“The general strike today is to send a strong message that the entire Arab community… strongly protests against the murders of two citizens of the state of Israel whose only crime was being Arab,” said Mr Sana, who is himself Bedouin.
Protests were held by activists in Jaffa, Nazareth, Beersheba and Rahat, as well as by students at Tel Aviv University and Ben Gurion University. Protesters also gathered in Haifa’s Emile Habibi Square and marched through the city carrying placards and Palestinian flags, chanting slogans against police brutality.
“Oh police, Arab blood is not cheap,” dozens sang out in unison.
Others yelled: “Resist, resist. Don’t compromise on your rights.”
Sami al-Jaar was shot while standing on his patio as police clashed with local youth across the street from his home on Wednesday night in the Negev Bedouin town of Rahat.
And during Mr Jaar’s funeral on Sunday, 47-year-old Sami al-Zayadna died from excessive tear gas inhalation when mourners were cornered by police in the cemetery. Dozens were also injured.
Following Mr Zayadna’s burial on Monday, angry protesters hurled stones at the Rahat police station, police claimed.
Police said that five suspected stone-throwers had been detained and that more arrests were expected.
Salah Mohsen, media co-ordinator for the Haifa-based Adalah Legal Centre, noted that Mr Zayadna was the 50th Palestinian citizen of Israel to have died at the hands of police since October 2000.
Nadim Nashif, director of Baladna, an advocacy group for Arab youth in Israel, expects protests to spread throughout the country this week.
“You can feel the anger,” he said.
“Police brutality and killing shows they do not think twice before killing us. Palestinian lives don’t count here.”
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