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An Arab Knesset member reportedly accused Israel Wednesday of being a terrorist state, saying the government is responsible for systematic discrimination against Israeli Arabs.
Speaking during the main annual Land Day demonstration in the Bedouin town of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev desert, MK Taleb Abu Arar of the Arab Joint List said that Israel is working to expel Arabs from the country, according to Channel 2 news.
“Israel is a state founded upon exploitation, racism and terrorism and is committed to the continuation of the crimes of expulsion [of the Arabs from Israel],” he told the 8,000-strong crowd.
The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, an umbrella organization of Arab advocacy groups, organized the demonstration to highlight what it says are discriminatory polices of Israel against the Bedouin inhabitants of the Negev.
During his speech, Abu Arar also criticized Arab Israelis who have joined the Israeli army, calling on them to “take off your uniforms and come back to the path of our struggle.”
Arab citizens are not required to serve in the Israeli military, and, outside the Bedouin community, very few volunteer. Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics puts the number at under 200.
Among the speakers at the Umm al-Hiran event was Joint List leader MK Ayman Odeh, who accused Israel of “carrying out an apartheid policy in the Negev.”
“Arab villages have no roads, no water, no electricity and no education system,” he said. “They face the twinkling lights of Jewish settlements and isolated farms. I have no other name for this thing except for apartheid.”
The village of Umm al-Hiran has become a flashpoint in the public campaign of the Negev Bedouin against government plans to impose new towns and urban planning on their scattered encampments.
The villagers say this plan amounts to displacing the original inhabitants of the area in favor of Jewish towns. Their struggle was championed in 2013 by Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, because of the perceived strength of their claims to the land, where they have lived since being displaced by Israel from another nearby area in 1948.