High Court to state: Allow rightists to march through Umm al-Fahm
The High Court of Justice yesterday instructed the state to formulate a plan that would allow right-wing activists to march through the northern Israeli-Arab town of Umm al-Fahm.
The activists, led by former Kach movement activist Itamar Ben Gvir, claimed that the police's refusal to let them carry Israeli flags through the town was a gross violation of their freedom of expression.
Hadash chairman MK Mohammed Barakeh said the High Court ruling crossed a dangerous line by giving a stamp of approval to an organization "that has terrorist characteristics and should be outlawed." Barakeh said Umm al-Fahm residents would band together with other Israeli Arabs to prevent the march from taking place.
Police told the court that allowing the march could spark unrest that would threaten the public order. The justices rejected this argument, and also dismissed a police proposal to move the march to an alternative site on the town's periphery. Security sources said they do not oppose holding a procession at the southern entrance to the town, near the Jewish community of Mei Ami, but expressed concern that the march was planned for the town's main street.
Ben Gvir said yesterday that since the state would not dare tell the organizers of Jerusalem's Gay Pride parade to hold the procession outside the city, they could not banish him and his colleagues to the town's outskirts.
He added that just as leftist protesters are allowed to march through the Jewish areas of the West Bank city of Hebron, his group should be allowed to hold their own procession in Umm al-Fahm.
"If the court doesn't agree to our request it will send a very strong message. Public trust in the court will be harmed, but more than anything it will send the message that what is permitted for Arabs and leftists is prohibited for Itamar Ben Gvir and Baruch Marzel," he said.
Marzel said he is sure that if half of the police officers deployed to Jerusalem during the Gay Pride parade were stationed in Umm al-Fahm, not a single stone would be hurled.
Attorney Michal Tzuk Shapir, deputy to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, said that sources in the police and Shin Bet security service believe that should the march go ahead, "emotions are likely to heat up."
"We are worried about a repeat of the events of October 2000," she said, referring to the unrest in Arab communities during the al-Aqsa intifada that left 13 people dead by police fire, two of them in Umm al-Fahm.
The attorney added that government officials did change the route of the Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem, and that the parade planned by Ben Gvir and his partners would be akin to leading a homosexual procession through the capital's ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood.
Umm al-Fahm, located in the Wadi Ara region directly north of the West Bank, is the hub of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement.
A 1984 visit to the town by radical rightist Meir Kahane drew fierce condemnation from various local political bodies as well as predominantly Jewish organizations from across the country.
Mayor Hashem Abd al-Rahman, who represents the Islamic Movement, told Haaretz yesterday that the town was open to everyone, not only Arabs or Muslims, but not to those whose purpose is to antagonize residents.
The mayor said that recent years have seen deepening cooperation between the heads of Jewish and Arab communities in the region in the areas of industry, economics and education. "Such a step will cause damage to the entire region, both Arabs and Jews," he said.