Bat Yam protest4- Daniel Bar-On
Protesters in Bat Yam demonstrating against leasing to Arabs, Dec. 20, 2010. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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Shin Bet officials earlier this month summoned the rabbi leading right-wing protests in Bat Yam against Arab residents, and warned him not to draw his students into any criminal action.

Rabbi David Hai Hacohen was called in for a meeting with Bat Yam's police chief. He was met there by surprise by four officials from the security service's Jewish unit who told him that that they have been following his actions for some time pertaining to the migration of Israeli Arabs into the predominantly Jewish city.

The officials stipulated a list of students they believed to be involved in criminal measures with this regard, but the rabbi rejected the officials' claim. The rabbi was instructed to update police of any illegal activity and to ensure that protests remain clean of incitement or violence.

Hacohen said following the warning that the job of the police was to fight Arabs, not Jews, accusing them of trying to protect only themselves.

The demonstrations and activity in Bat Yam have taken place amid recent uproar surrounding a religious ruling signed by a number of leading rabbis to forbid renting homes to gentiles – a move particularly aimed against Arabs.

Bat Yam Mayor Shlomi Lahiani on Tuesday denounced a demonstration held a day earlier by right-wing activists, who urged residents to refuse to rent apartments to Arabs in order to keep the city Jewish.

Lahiani told Army Radio that the activists were inciting "hate and racism" among Bat Yam residents, and fervently distanced himself from the demonstration with the declaration that it "has nothing to do with the city of Bat Yam."

Arabs are equal citizens and must be treated as such, Lahiani said, adding that racist action would not be tolerated.

More than 150 took part in the demonstration, which was billed as "Keeping Bat Yam Jewish" and called for maintaining Jewish majority as such.. Protesters held signs proclaiming: "Jews, let's win – daughters of Israel for sons of Israel."

According to the group A Jewish Bat Yam, which organized the event, there has been a recent rise in the number of Arabs moving to Bat Yam - and they have been hassling the local Jewish women.

The protest was met by leftist demonstrators who carried signs reading "I love Arabs – ask me how," and "if your sister is as disgusting as you, who will hit on her?"

The rabbis defended their decision with the declaration that the land of Israel belongs to the Jews.

"Racism originated in the Torah," said Rabbi Yosef Scheinen, who heads the Ashdod Yeshiva. "The land of Israel is designated for the people of Israel. This is what the Holy One Blessed Be He intended and that is what the [sage] Rashi interpreted."