Sharp Drop in Israeli Arab Demonstrations

Community heads warn of more protests as grim images emerge from Gaza.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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A protest in Umm al-Fahm. Some incidents have turned violent, resulting in dozens if arrests.
A protest in Umm al-Fahm. Some incidents have turned violent, resulting in dozens if arrests.
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Tuesday saw a sharp drop in the scope of demonstrations in Arab communities in northern and central Israel, compared to the days that followed the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir. There were demonstrations and local gatherings in some communities and at some intersections, but these ended without violent incidents.

At one rally, hundreds of mainly young people gathered in Sakhnin.

Two days ago there was a small demonstration at the entrance to the Old City in Acre, attended by dozens of people, which highlighted the internal debate among Arab Israelis regarding the protests. Arab public officials and community activists stood as a barrier between the demonstrators and the police, pushing back the demonstrators in order to avoid a confrontation.

Sheikh Samir Assi, the Imam at the Al-Jazaar mosque in Acre, said that protest was legitimate but should not be accompanied by violence and clashes with the police. The local merchants’ association was also opposed to the protests, worried about loss of business during the busy days of Ramadan.

Internal divisions within the Arab community were also noted in the position of Nazareth’s mayor Ali Salam, who earlier this week opposed a decision taken by the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee, which decided to hold a march and a major gathering in Nazareth next Friday. Due to his opposition, the gathering has been moved to Kafr Manda in the Lower Galilee.

At a meeting of the Higher Monitoring Committee with heads of Arab local councils, many mayors objected to holding the gathering in their towns, out of concern that events would get out of hand and property be destroyed.

On Tuesday, the local council heads met with Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar in the Arab village of Jadida Maker, calling for calm. This meeting followed earlier meetings with Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino and Science and Technology Minister Jacob Perry.

Residents of Arab communities say that mayors and other public officials often have no control over demonstrations, particularly when local initiatives start with messages on social networks, in which case there is no specific address that can be approached. They say that the reduction in demonstrations could reverse following escalation in the Gaza Strip and the grime images of dead bodies emerging from there.

Also on Tuesday, the courts considered police requests to extend the remand of dozens of youths from across the country, suspected of taking part in demonstrations in Arab communities. Human rights organizations said there were over 100 arrests, with 70 people still in remand. Notably, half of those arrested are aged between 13 and 17, who aren’t always aware of their rights as minors. The Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights, which is collating the data, noted that these were the most widespread arrests since the events of October 2000.

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