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The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY BEN LYN­FIELD JERUSALEM

WHILE LEAD­ERS of Is­rael’s Arab mi­nor­ity were gear­ing up for a bat­tle to as­sert their his­tory and griev­ances as a com­pet­ing nar­ra­tive to the state-or­gan­ised cel­e­bra­tions of Is­rael’s 60th an­niver­sary of in­de­pen­dence, one mosque took a dif­fer­ent line.

In the small north­ern vil­lage of Taibe, res­i­dents painted their mosque in the blue and white colours of the Is­raeli flag in what they said was a ges­ture of co­ex­is­tence.

This was, how­ever, an ex­cep­tion to the rule. Abed An­abtawi, spokesman for the Higher Fol­low Up Com­mit­tee of the Arab Cit­i­zens of Is­rael ex­plained the po­si­tion of the ma­jor­ity: “We do not term it a boy­cott, but we are call­ing for non-par­tic­i­pa­tion and a pre­sen­ta­tion of a dif­fer­ent side of the truth.

“We ex­pect that most Arabs will not par­tic­i­pate in the [state’s] ac­tiv­i­ties and that many will join the ac­tiv­i­ties we are or­gan­is­ing to mark the an­niver­sary of the nakba,” he said, us­ing an Arab word mean­ing catas­tro­phe and re­fer­ring to the ex­pul­sion or flight of more than 600,000 Pales­tini­ans dur­ing Is­rael’s 1947-49 War of In­de­pen­dence.

As Jewish Is­raelis cel­e­brate on May 8 in the com­pany of US Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush, Arab cit­i­zens will be hold­ing “marches of re­turn” to de­stroyed or aban­doned vil­lages, Mr An­abtawi said. The main one is in Saf­fu­riya, known in He­brew as Tzip­pori, which was con­quered by Jewish forces in 1948 and whose lands were dis­trib­uted to three kib­butzim in 1949. “It must be un­der­stood that when Is­rael marks its 60th an­niver­sary, we mark the other side of the coin,” he said. Arab lead­ers are also or­gan­is­ing a con­fer­ence ti­tled “The Right of Re­turn and a Just Peace” with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of mem­bers of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment on May 15. Many Is­raeli Jews con­sider the right of re- turn a eu­phemism for de­stroy­ing the state’s Jewish char­ac­ter through an in­flux of Arab refugees.

Ilan Mar­ciano, a spokesman for the state cel­e­bra­tions, said there had been an ef­fort to in­clude lead­ers from the Higher Fol­low Up Com­mit­tee in prepa- ra­tions for events but it was “po­litely re­fused”.

Mr Mar­ciano took is­sue with boy­cotters of the cel­e­bra­tions, or those ar­gu­ing that the 98 mil­lion shekel (£14 mil­lion) cost is too high. “In­de­pen­dence is not some­thing to be taken for granted in our re­gion.”

He un­der­stood the “com­plex­ity” of the sit­u­a­tion of Arab cit­i­zens, but doubted “the po­si­tion of the lead­er­ship serves the de­sire for co-ex­is­tence”.

One of the main events be­ing or­gan­ised by the state is “an as­cent to Jerusalem through the bat­tles of 1948” by 45,000 youths, cul­mi­nat­ing in a large cer­e­mony at the West­ern Wall.

A Jewish-Arab youth co-ex­is­tence meet­ing is be­ing planned and there are hopes to hold an event in the Arab town of Shafa Amr.

Yesh Gvul (There is a limit), a group sup­port­ing con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tors to army ser­vice, will main­tain its 11-year tra­di­tion of hold­ing an al­ter­na­tive in­de­pen­dence cer­e­mony with hon­ours to those deemed to have made a con­tri­bu­tion to peace and so­cial jus­tice. Yoav Haas, a Yesh Gvul ac­tivist, took is­sue with the mil­i­tary her­itage ac­tiv­i­ties. “If you make a cer­e­mony aimed at say­ing how much we are right and how much our en­e­mies want to de­stroy us, it be­comes a self-ful­fill­ing prophecy. It will lead only to our de­stroy­ing them and their de­stroy­ing us.”

PHOTO: YGAL LEVI

The mosque in the vil­lage of Taibe was painted blue and white in a ges­ture of co­ex­is­tence

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