Likud, vying for its place on the Carmiel city council in the upcoming local election, is focusing its campaign on preventing the construction of a mosque in the city, although no such project is planned. In phone calls to residents, a man identifying himself by the Arab name “Nabil” invites people to a cornerstone-laying ceremony of a mosque he says is to be built in the city, with the Likudelection jingle playing in the background.
Attorney Koren Neumark, who heads the Likud roster in Carmiel, said a headline in a local paper a month ago quoted members of a rival party, “Carmiel for all,” saying “if a mosque or a church needs to be built in Carmiel, let it.”
“Carmiel was built with the purpose of ‘judaizing’ the Galilee and that no one can deny,” Neumark told Haaretz. “My goal is to continue working for that issue.”
Neumark also said: “They came out with a call to build a mosque in the highest place in the city, to build a minaret, that’s a statement of takeover of a certain place, an extreme statement on their part. If those are the demands or their will I will work to establish my will.”
Neumark said there is no racism in his statements and that he is not against anyone. “I am for opening the region for everyone,” he said.
The local Likud branch’s Facebook page also denies racist motivation. “We are not working against anyone. We are working to promote Jewish-Zionist interests, a statement that we faithfully represent the public that elected us for the good of all of Carmiel’s residents, that is the essence of democracy.”
A representative the “Carmiel Rainbow for Social Justice” list, which is composed of Jews and Arabs, said: “Anyone who reads our platform knows there is no proposal or demand to build a mosque.”
A source in that party, which is running jointly with the “Carmiel For All” slate, said that Jews and Arabs live together in Carmiel and that it is a district capital for tens of thousands of people from Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Druze communities. “This reality might involve tensions, but it also has the potential for amazing development for all residents of the Galilee if we maintain equality and give up discrimination, separation and exclusion,” the source said.
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, 1,100 of Carmiel’s 45,000 residents are Arabs. According to Neumark, in all of his meetings with the city’s residents, “the fear that is raised it that the city will become mixed.”
Last week Neumark was quoted in a local newspaper as saying: “Mixing puts the main reason for Carmiel’s establishment out of balance. There is a matter of our living on the land, protecting the culture, the tradition, preventing assimilation. The moment the character of Carmiel is not Jewish, like in Acre for example, the strong populations will leave and we want to maintain a strong population here.
“Instead of Arabs coming here, there must be high-rise construction in the villages,” he was quoted as saying.