Israel and the Palestinian armed group Hamas agreed to a ceasefire two weeks ago that ended 11 days of an Israeli military assault on Gaza and rockets fired from Gaza into Israel, but the unrest in mixed Jewish-Palestinian cities in Israel remains.
The city of Lydd (Lod in Hebrew) is on edge. Israeli security forces guard its streets, weeks after Palestinian protests took place in towns and cities across Israel – from the Naqab (Negev) Desert in the south to Ramla, Yafa and Lydd in the centre of the country, to the “Triangle” region and to Haifa and Nazareth in the north.
The demonstrators were rallying in solidarity with Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, who are facing imminent expulsion from their homes, and against the Israeli storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which left hundreds of Palestinians wounded.
On May 10, the night the latest fighting between Israel and Hamas began, Mousa Hassouna, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was shot dead by a Jewish Israeli resident of Lydd, touching off over a week of violence, and the city was placed under a state of emergency.
Confrontations between hardline Jewish settlers and Palestinian citizens of Israel erupted; the former attacked Palestinian citizens in their homes and on the streets while rioters torched patrol cars, mosques, synagogues and homes.
Similar protests, fuelled by Palestinian citizens’ longstanding grievances over discrimination and lack of opportunities, quickly spread to other mixed areas across the country.
Palestinian citizens of Israel comprise about 20 percent of the country’s population and are citizens with the right to vote. But they have long suffered from discrimination, and their communities are often plagued by crime, violence and poverty.
A 2018 report by the Israel Democracy Institute noted disparities in Palestinian citizens’ representation in mixed municipalities.
Despite holding Israeli citizenship, rights groups have documented several dozen Israeli laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens across a wide spectrum of issues, including education, housing, political participation and due process. They are treated as second- and third-class citizens.
Although Palestinian citizens of Israel make up 30 percent of Lydd’s population, only 14 percent of municipal employees are Palestinian, with only four on the 19-member city council.
The city has not had a Palestinian citizen of Israel as deputy mayor in four decades, the report said.
For years, Palestinian residents of Lydd have complained of institutional racism, which fuels marginalisation and poverty.