Arabs in Israel mourn birth of Jewish state

Umm el Fahm (Israel) (AFP) –


Thousands of Arabs rallied in Israel on Thursday to mark the 1948 Nakba, or "catastrophe", which left hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced by the war accompanying the birth of the Jewish state.

As Israeli Jews celebrated Independence Day, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians from annexed east Jerusalem protested at the site of a Palestinian village that was demolished in the war.

Under the slogan "Your Independence Day is our Nakba", demonstrators gathered near the northern Israeli Arab town of Umm al-Fahm where they held Palestinian flags and sang the Palestinian anthem.

Israel celebrated its founding holiday on Thursday, in accordance with the Hebrew calendar.

By international reckoning the 1948 declaration of independence fell on May 14 that year.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled in the fighting and millions of their descendants now scattered around the world demand the right to return to their historic homes.

Israel says such a demographic change would mean its end as the Jewish state.

Israeli Arabs, who make up around 17.5 percent of Israel's population, are Palestinians who remained on their land in 1948. They are largely supportive of the Palestinian cause.

"The commemoration of the Nakba has gained exceptional importance this year, with the need to confront and thwart the American deal of the century," said Ayman Odeh, an Arab member of Israel's parliament.

His comments at the rally referred to a much-touted peace plan from Washington, which Palestinians expect will fall far short of their key demands.

The Palestinian leadership has boycotted Washington over a series of moves -- including recognising the bitterly disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel's capital -- and says it can no longer trust the United States as a broker.