Local Activists Vow to Block Rightist March Through Umm al-Fahm 'With Their Bodies'

When the High Court of Justice decided at the end of October to allow right-wing activists to demonstrate in the northern Arab city of Umm al-Fahm, Menashe Regional Council head Ilan Sadeh asked police to block the protest.

Now, one day before the planned rally, Sadeh says it would seriously harm the social fabric of cooperation and tolerance between ethnic groups in the area, and is planning a counter-demonstration. "We plan to physically prevent the right-wing activists from entering Umm al-Fahm," he said.

Members of the regional council are expected to join volunteers from the Kibbutz Movement, which called on members "to come and form a human chain against the provocative acts of the extreme right."

Senior police officials have said they have the authority to block the rally in order to maintain public order and prevent a confrontation.

Police have yet to announce detailed information about the demonstration's route, nor the hour at which it is expected to take place. Still, demonstrators are believed to be planning to enter the city at its southeastern entrance, from the direction of the community of Mei Ami. They are expected to march about 800 meters, the distance permitted them by the High Court.

Sadeh and outgoing Umm al-Fahm mayor Sheikh Hashem Abd al-Rahman head a forum of Wadi Ara local councils, established in the wake of the October 2000 riots that erupted in the north during the Second Intifada.

"Cooperation between the councils in the Wadi Ara region has led in recent years to a cooperative way of life based on tolerance and mutual respect, and to development in a number of areas," said the two leaders, listing "a program to establish a cooperative industrial area, which has already received the necessary authorization, a sewage treatment facility, joint handling of environmental issues and cooperative educational activities."

"The demonstration is like gunpowder," said Sadeh. "The rightist activists are likely to drag the area and the entire country into a violent confrontation between Jews and Arabs."

Kibbutz Movement secretary general Ze'ev Shor said, "As citizens who support peace and coexistence in Israeli society, the Kibbutz Movement is calling on its members to enlist Monday to block the racist demonstration in an effort to deepen the drive for peace, coexistence and cooperative living."

Yoel Marshak, the head of the movement's special assignments division, said, "We will stand, Jews and Arabs, in a human chain, hand in hand, to prevent the settlers from staging this racist provocation in the streets of Umm al-Fahm."

The Umm al-Fahm municipality is expected to deploy security personnel at every entrance to the city. Newly elected mayor Sheikh Khaled Hamadan said Saturday, "This demonstration presents a danger to relations between Jews and Arabs, to coexistence and to peace. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, against it."

During the court hearing in October, Ben-Gvir said that as long as the court allows left-wing activists to protest outside of houses in the Jewish quarter of Hebron, then rightists must be allowed to march in Umm al-Fahm.