Police on high alert in Arab town Umm al-Fahm ahead of extreme rightist march
Marchers to protest the participation of a prominent Islamic movement leader in last May's Gaza-bound flotilla.
Police will be on high alert in Umm al-Fahm and the rest of the heavily Arab Wadi Ara region Wednesday morning, when a right-wing march is scheduled to take place in the city.
The marchers, led by far-right activists Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir, are calling for the Islamic Movement to be outlawed in Israel, said Ben-Gvir.
"I don't understand why, when Peace Now comes to demonstrate at my house in Hebron, it's for the glory of freedom of expression, but when we want to fulfill our legitimate right, suddenly it's a provocation," said Ben-Gvir. "We will teach the left what democracy is and we will demand: Outlaw the Islamic Movement."
On Tuesday, hundreds of people participated in a ceremony in Jerusalem marking the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose Kach party was banned from the Knesset for inciting racism.
In Umm al-Fahm, the marchers will be waving Israeli flags and marching near Islamic Movement offices in the city to protest the participation of a prominent leader of the movement in last May's Gaza-bound flotilla. Police have capped the number of participants at 70.
Sheik Ra'ad Salah, who heads the Islamic Movement's northern branch, has accused the Israel Navy commandos who stormed the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, killing nine Turkish citizens, of deliberately trying to kill him.
Police would not comment on how many police officers would be at the scene, saying they want to keep a low profile to avoid clashes.
No police officers could be seen in the area last night.
"The forces will be prepared for any incident, at the right time and place," a police official said on Tuesday.
Arab leaders decided this week not to declare a general strike, as they did when a similar march took place in the city last year. Instead, the leaders called on residents to go about their daily routines, urging students to attend school and store owners to open shop.
Umm al-Fahm Deputy Mayor Mustafa Ghalin said the plan was for city representatives and political activists, but not regular citizens, to face the marchers.
The marchers will not be allowed into the city's downtown area, where clashes with residents would be more likely to take place. A similar march last year led to scuffles that left 15 police officers and 12 civilians wounded.
"Images of conflict help them raise funds and we don't want to play into their hands, so the decision was to continue with the regular routine for most of the residents, while the municipality's representatives and employees, along with key political activists, will get across the clear message that Umm al-Fahm will never be open to those extreme right-wingers," said Ghalin.
Police have been meeting with city officials and political activists over the past few weeks in what they say is an effort to maintain calm.
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