Police Clash With Arab Protesters as Rightists Rally in Umm al-Fahm

Police fire stun grenades, tear gas to scatter crowd; extreme rightists protest in Arab town and call for the Islamic Movement to be outlawed in Israel.

Dozens of extreme rightists held a protest against the Islamic Movement in the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm on Wednesday, which resulted in clashes between Arab residents of the town and police forces stationed at the scene.

Several Arab protesters hurled rocks at the rightists, and police forces fired tear gas and stun grenades at them in order to scatter the crowd. Several people have been arrested, though no serious injuries have been reported.

Itzik Ben-Malki

Hundreds of police officers were sent to Umm al-Fahm to try to prevent clashes between the two sides after an Israeli court allowed the right-wing activists to march in the city.

About 30 right-wing demonstrators traveled in buses from Jerusalem to Umm al-Fahm on Wednesday morning, led by far-right activists Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir, in order to hold a protest march calling for the Islamic Movement to be outlawed in Israel.

The rightists also protested the participation of a prominent leader of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Raed Salah, in last May's Gaza-bound flotilla.

"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 on Tuesday. "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.

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 Tuesday that the plan was for city representatives and political activists, but not regular citizens, to face the marchers.