Court Rules Rightists Can March Through Umm al-Fahm After Elections

High Court: Demonstration through Arab-Israeli town to be held within 45 days of election.

The High Court of Justice roundly criticized the Israel Police for postponing a right-wing march through the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm and rescheduled the demonstration for soon after February 10 elections.

Justices Edmond Levy, Edna Arbel, and Yoram Danziger ruled that the march should take place within 45 days after the Knesset elections, rejecting the State Prosecutor's initial claim that the timing of the demonstration be only the result of a security assessment.

Following the High Court ruling, the Israel Police indicated that the march will be held immediately after the Knesset elections.

The exact timing will be set after considering relevant intelligence assessments.

The police said that their role is both to protect freedom of expression and public security, and that any decision of the High Court will be respected and implemented.

At the end of October, the High Court granted a petition filed by far-right activists Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel permitting the two to organize a procession through the Israeli-Arab town in December.

After lengthy deliberations, it was agreed that the procession take place in the outskirts of the city, on an agreed route.

This month, the two again sought the court's intervention contending that the police canceled the march and refused to reschedule it since the outbreak of fighting in Gaza. Michal Tzur of the State Prosecutor's office told the court at a hearing yesterday that the decision to defer the march was based on information received from security officials and that it was not rescheduled based on the situation in Gaza.

She also noted that a security assessment would be made after the elections and that a new date would then be set in consultation with the police.

She refused to commit to a specific time frame.

Justice Edmond Levy asked her, "If a request were made to you today wanting to demonstrate for peace between Palestinians and Israelis while waving Israeli and PLO flags and threats were made from one side or another, would you also tell them to wait until after the elections?"

Levy also expressed amazement that, in the face of a "small demonstration," the state, with its army and police force, says that it cannot maintain order.

Tzur ultimately conceded that the demonstration take place within a month and a half after the elections.

The justices accepted that time frame on the condition that it not be changed due to security considerations.

"We will not allow Marzel and his cohorts to demonstrate inside Umm al-Fahm," MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) said.

"There is a law against racism and it needs to be invoked. Racism is not protected as freedom of expression. Instead it is a criminal act which should be punished. The residents of Umm al-Fahm have the right and the obligation to protect their city from people like Marzel who advocate transferring Arabs out of the country. The problem is that Marzel isn't alone, and racism has become mainstream in Israeli politics."