Schools and businesses closed for the day as organizers said earlier that they expected thousands of people to demonstrate outside government offices.
“Land expropriation in the Negev is a very sensitive issue, especially at a time when there are racist laws against Arab-Israelis,” Iman Haj Yahia, from the city of Tayibe, was quoted as saying by Ynet.
The strike is in response to a report by the Praver Committee, which called for the forced relocation of Bedouin communities from their homes in the Negev. The report was approved by the Israeli government in September 2011.
The plan to demolish Bedouin homes in the southern Negev region and move 30,000 people to government-authorized villages connected to power and water lines has been hailed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “historic opportunity” to improve Bedouin lives.
But Palestinian-Israeli leaders, who have long complained about discrimination against their community in Israel, call it “ethnic cleansing,” and aim to thwart the project with protests, a general strike and appeals to the United Nations to intervene.
“We must protect our existence and we’re prepared for more strikes,” member of a school parents committee Ziad Sharfah said.
Around twenty percent, or 1.3 million people, of Israel’s population are of Palestinian origin.
They are largely the descendants of Palestinians that managed to remain during the 1948 war, when an estimated 700,000 were expelled from or fled their homes during fighting that would see the establishment of the state of Israel.
Rights groups say that Israelis of Palestinian origin face discrimination in employment, education and public funding within Israel.
(www.maannews.net / 11.12.2011)