'Rightist Protest in Umm al-Fahm Could Lead to Violence'

State Prosecutor rejects a petition from right-wing activists to protest opposite Islamic National Movement offices in the Arab city, saying police believe it could lead to loss of life.

The State Prosecutor on Wednesday rejected a petition from right-wing activists to protest opposite the offices of the Islamic National Movement and the home of one of the groups leaders in Umm al-Fahm, saying police believe such a rally could lead to violence and loss of life.

Protest in Umm al-Fahm in March 2009

The petition was filed by MK Michael Ben Ari (National Union) and far-rightists Baruch Marzel, Itamar Ben-Gvir and the Eretz Yisrael Shelanu movement.

The petitioners had requested to demonstrate in the Arab village of Umm al-Fahm, apparently in response to the participation of Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, in the flotilla meant to break the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip.

However, the state rejected their request, claiming that police oppose allowing the demonstration to take place in the city center. The state said there are concrete fears, based on previous experience and evaluations from the police and Shin Bet Security Service, that such a protest would disturb the peace and harm public order.

The state said it would allow the demonstration to take place along an alternate route on the southern outskirts of Umm al-Fahm, but the petitioners rejected that offer.

Last March, a similar march took place, during which more than 2,500 police officers deployed in and around Umm al-Fahm, after receiving approval from the High Court of Justice.

The marchers were refused permission to enter the city itself, however, and were only allowed to march on roads outside residential areas, but within the city's municipal boundaries.

That demonstration resulted in violent protests between the rightists, Umm al-Fahm residents and police that left 15 officers and 12 civilians lightly hurt.