Israeli Town Disinvites Arab Leader From Public Event, Citing Pressure From Residents

Lawmaker Ayman Odeh targeted for his participation in protests at Bedouin village last week, where a policeman and Bedouin protester died.

Arab Israeli lawmaker from the Joint Arab List, Ayman Odeh (front row C), wounded during clashes, stands with other Arab Israeli politicians in Umm Al-Hiran, a Bedouin village in Israel's southern Negev Desert January 18, 2017.
AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS

A Jerusalem-area town disinvited MK Ayman Odeh (Joint List) from a public event planned for this weekend, citing pressure from the town’s residents.

Mevasseret Zion council chairman, Yoram Shimon, acceded to the demands after Odeh’s participation in protests that turned violent during the demolition of homes at the Bedouin Negev village of Umm al-Hiran last week.

The lawmaker was also injured in the melee.

The council had already hung signs with Odeh’s image inviting residents to participate in the event, called Shabbatarbut (Culture Shabbat), hosted by journalist Shalom Yerushalmi and media figure Vered Yerushalmi. 

Shimon sent an announcement to council members, stating, “the interviewees were invited well in advance, but in light of the difficult events this week in the south and the despicable murder of a policeman, there is great anger among residents and the atmosphere is uneasy.” 

Shimon said he had decided to postpone Odeh’s participation “until nerves are calmed.”

Shabbatarbut events have hosted many coalition and opposition politicians in recent weeks, among them MKs David Bitan and Isaac Herzog. 

“We are careful to invite interviewees from across the political spectrum to keep maximal balance,” said Vered Yerushalmi.

“It is a council decision, and we hope they will let us invite an Arab representative in the future.

Odeh urged Mevasseret residents to invite him to a similar event soon. 

“The basis of our ability to create a good future for all our children is dialogue,” he said.

“The government is trying to absolutely delegitimize the Arab public and its leaders. Regretfully, its messages are seeping into some of the greater public.”