JERUSALEM: Palestinians held a general strike on Monday to protest Israel’s controversial Jewish nation-state law while also commemorating the deaths of 13 people killed in clashes with police in October 2000.
In annexed east Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, schools and many businesses were closed, AFP journalists reported.
Demonstrations were planned later in the day in the West Bank city of Ramallah as well as in the Arab Israeli community of Jatt in northern Israel.
Jerusalem’s historic Old City, located in the city’s mainly Palestinian eastern sector, was especially quiet.
The strike is “against the policy pursued by Israel in order to erase Palestinian nationalism and the displacement of citizens from their land”, Ramallah resident Khaled Abu Ayoush said.
Mahmud Hamed, however, kept his bakery outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City open.
“We are a bakery,” he said. “In wars, in strikes, people usually need a break.”
On October 1, Arab Israelis and Palestinians commemorate the deaths of those killed in a series of clashes with police in 2000 during protests in support of the second Palestinian intifada.
Twelve Israeli Arabs and a Palestinian were killed in the clashes in October 2000.
Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said the strike was also against Israel’s Jewish nation-state law and to show solidarity with the West Bank village of Khan al-Ahmar.
Israel plans to demolish the Bedouin village, which it says was built illegally, despite international calls for it not to do so.
The nation-state law was passed in July and forms part of Israel’s basic laws — a de facto constitution.
It speaks of Israel as the historic homeland of the Jews and says they have a “unique” right to self-determination there.
Because it omits any reference to equality or the country’s democratic nature, Israeli Arabs charge that it will legalise discrimination.
Arabs account for some 17.5% of Israel’s nearly nine million population.
Monday was also a holiday for Israelis marking the end of the weeklong festival of Sukkot.