Drawing Ire From Far-right Lawmaker, Israeli Arabs Renew Anti-gun Violence Protest

Joint List chairman calls on Jewish Israelis to join nationwide demonstrations, saying 'society without weapons is a joint civil and social goal,' while Yamina’s Smotrich doubles down on Twitter attacks, saying ‘murderous’ Arabs are ‘here just for now’

Israeli Arabs protest against police inaction in Majdal Krum, October 3, 2019.
Gil Eliyahu

Thousands of Israel's Arab citizens took to the streets on Friday in the second day of protests against police inaction on spiraling violence in Arab society.

Demonstrations were held in several Arab cities and towns, including Nazareth, Umm al-Fahm, Shfaram, Tamra, Majdal Krum, and Kfar Qasim.

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee in Israel said that Arab youth movements are rallying protesters to stage demonstrations in predominantly Arab towns. 

The committee secretariat said it would decide in the coming days on how to proceed.

>> Read more: A police force of and for all citizens | Opinion ■ An Israeli problem | Haaretz Editorial

The chairman of the Joint List, an alliance of Arab parties, Ayman Odeh said the "Arab public is sweeping the streets, and I also call on the Jewish public to join the protest. A society without weapons is a joint civil and social goal."

Earlier Friday, Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich and a member of the far-right Yamina alliance took to Twitter, saying "We are in luck that the Arabs boycotted the opening ceremony of the 22nd Knesset. They would have shot into the air to express happiness/sadness/their protest/ because that's their habit, and then, of course, blame the police."

In response, Odeh said "I'm surprised the racist [Smotrich] didn't take our seats and claimed God told him they are his."  

Smotrich then responded saying, "I was just scared to find an illegal gun under the chair so you could also blame the Knesset guard and not just the Israeli police. And since you brough it up then yes – God did promise us all of the Land of Israel, a promise he kept. We've been just been the most hospitable people in the world since the days of Abraham and so you're still here. At least for now." 

This adds on to a Twitter feud between Smotrich and Joint List lawmaker Aida Touma-Sliman, who tweeted that she remembers how in 2015 Smotrich, then a newly elected Knesset member, asked if he can bring his weapon into parliament. “Smotrich is still the same racist he used to be and carries a weapon despite the fact he is poses danger to the public," she said.

Israeli Arabs protest against police inaction in Majdal Krum, October 3, 2019.
Gil Eliyahu
Israeli Arabs protest against police inaction in Majdal Krum, October 3, 2019.
Gil Eliyahu

Smotrich then replied: “When many of your people, who have been doing that [carrying weapons] for a century, will stop wanting to murder us, with the encouragement of you and your terror-backing friends at the Knesset, I will happily give up my pistol.”

On Thursday, schools and local authorities in Arab locales around Israel joined a general strike protesting what Israeli Arab leaders have called a lax police response to violent crime in the Arab community.

Thousands of protestors gathered in Majdal Krum, where two brothers were shot dead in during a brawl Tuesday and another young man, Mohammad Saba, died of wounds sustained in the incident on Thursday.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 70 Arab Israelis have been killed in the country. 

The demonstrators, which included thousands of citizens, mayors, members of Knesset and religious leaders from across the country, chanted slogans denouncing the police and its inaction in fighting crime, and calling Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan a "coward."

They carried signs reading "Violence - not on our streets" and "Living in peace is already a dream" as they passed the town's police station. Many women participated, wearing black shirts as a sign of mourning, as well as young people and children.

Joint List leaders attend a demonstration in the Arab town of Majd al-Krum, northern Israel, October 3, 2019.
Gil Eliyahu

Two relatives of the brothers who were killed in the town, Khalil and Ahmad Mana'a, joined in the protest. "I came here with my children because, two days ago, they lost their father for no reason," Ahmad's wife Fatma told Haaretz.

Muhammad Baraka, chairman of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee in Israel, said at the end of the procession that "If there won't be quiet in Majdal Krum and other Arab towns, there won't be quiet anywhere." 

The Monitoring Committee called on demonstrators to keep the protests apolitical, but a number of young people waved Palestinian flags. According to an announcement released by the committee, a protest is also planned for Friday, on the main roads near Arab towns in Israel's north and center. They are also organizing a protest at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem in the coming days.

Calling the situation an "emergency," Israel's Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said in a Thursday statement the police should "fight violence just as they fight terrorism."