President Shimon Peres
President Shimon Peres Photo by Itzik Ben-Malkhi
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President Shimon Peres was met by a crowd of protesters as he arrived in the Israeli Arab town Galilee town of Shfaram on Sunday to celebrate its centennial.

More than 200 demonstrators gathered outside the main event hall where Shfaram Mayor Nahad Hazem greeted Peres, and urged the president Peres to drop the charges against those suspected of lynching a Jewish terrorist who opened fire on a bus there in 2005.


Eden Natan Zada, a 19-year-old Israel Defense Forces deserter, killed four Israeli Arabs when he used his military rifle to shoot up a civilian bus. He was killed by a mob that swarmed the bus following the shooting.

Among the protesters in Shfaram on Sunday was Balad faction chairman MK Jamal Zahalka, who accused Peres of reneging his promise to protect those suspected in the lynching. "Peres had promised after the attack in Shfaram that the town's residents would not be prosecuted, but what has happened is the exact opposite," he said.

"We demand that Peres keep his promise and act on this matter," he added.

Another protester shouted out "Kafr Kana murderer" at the president, referring to Operation Grapes of Wrath during Peres' tenure as prime minister, in which 102 Lebanese were killed and another 100 wounded.

Shfaram Mayor Nahad Hazem tried to calm the protesters and defend having invited the president to the festive event. "He is the president of Israel and all of its citizens, and therefore we thought inviting him to the celebration was the right thing to do."

Nevertheless, Hazem said he stood behind his constituents' demand that "along with his work for equality and social justice [Peres] act to protect the 14 residents of Shfaram who are being prosecuted.

"The president has said in the past that the residents of Shfaram were the victims of a heinous crime," Hazem added. "It cannot be that the victim has now becomes the criminal."