MK Jamal Zahalka
MK Jamal Zahalka Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

The Arab leadership in Israel is preparing to mark “Land Day” on March 30, in a series of protests.

Land Day commemorates the initial government takeovers of land in the Negev and Galilee which were first announced in 1976. During ensuing riots and clashes with Israeli security forces, a number of Arabs were killed.

Israeli Arabs and Palestinians call these takeovers land "expropriations," though Israel notes that these lands were taken over by authorities for security purposes, and were never actually legally owned by the Arab claimants. 

In an interview on Monday with Hamas's Palestine newspaper ahead of “Land Day” protests, MK Jamal Zahalka (Joint List) called on Arab Israelis to take part, saying that Arabs in Israel “are in conflict with the occupation to restore our land, and this is our right.”

Zahalka added, "We try to continuously work for the return of Palestinian lands to their owners through international law.”

He called on the Arab public to participate in Land Day events, stressing that “the Palestinian people” managed to thwart the implementation of the Prawer plan to resettle residents of illegal Bedouin settlements, and are determined to protect their presence on lands in the Negev.

Last year during “Land Day” protests, Zahalka was among several Arab MKs to openly attack the Israeli government, saying, "We will not allow a second Nakba in the Negev."

"Today, hundreds protested. Here in Rahat, there were many demonstrations. If the government thinks it can compel us to giving up, through confiscation, hundreds of thousands of dunams, and the uprooting of tens of thousands of people from their houses, it is making a mistake," Zahalka charged.

Zahalka has previously vowed to work against the Israeli government, and defended other Arab MKs for boarding anti-Israel flotillas as a means of protesting "suppression".