On Independence Day, thousands of Arab-Israelis march for Palestinians’ right of return


(JTA) — Several thousand Arab-Israelis at a protest march in the Galilee on Israel’s Independence Day commemorated Palestinian villages destroyed in 1948.

Near Tiberias, the participants in Thursday’s March of Return, as organizers called it, carried Palestinian Authority flags and chanted slogans on the need to fight court-ordered demolitions of homes of perpetrators of terrorist acts, according to the news site Ynet.

Israelis celebrate their country’s independence on the the Hebrew date of Israel’s declaration of independence, the fifth of Iyar. The holiday was celebrated this year a day earlier out of consideration for Jews who observe the Sabbath.

In 1948, the year that Israel was established, Iyar 5 fell on May 15. Palestinians commemorate May 15 as a day of mourning, which they call Nakba Day. Nakba is the Arabic word for catastrophe.

Israel’s victory in its War for Independence resulted in the departure of approximately 700,000 Palestinians from present-day Israel.

Officially, the Palestinian Authority is conditioning a final peace agreement with Israel on the return to its territory of any refugees still alive and at least 3 million of their descendants, which the Palestinians say have a right to settle in Israel as well. Unofficially, negotiators say Ramallah will agree to compromise on what it calls the right of return.

“The march is the biggest event to commemorate the Palestinian Nakba and to call for the implementation of the Right of Return for the Palestinian refugees and the internally displaced,” organizers of the event from the Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced wrote in invitations to the march.

Zochrot, a Tel Aviv-based group devoted to raising awareness to the Nakba among Jews, arranged for transportation from Tel Aviv to the march.

Organizers did not say why April 23 was selected over May 15.

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