Residents: Rightist Tour of Arab Town Will Spark Violent Clashes

Hundreds of Rahat residents protest tour planned for Sun.; Arab MK: We won't let 'racist rabble' arrive.

Rahat residents warned on Saturday that a planned tour of the Israeli Arab town by far-rightists on Sunday would spark violent clashes.

"We won't let a racist rabble that is trying to incite against the Arab public to arrive at Rahat," vowed Talab al-Sana (United Arab List-Ta'al). "We won't welcome them with flowers, but with old sandals."

He spoke as hundreds of residents of Rahat, a Bedouin town in the Negev, demonstrated against the planned tour and denounced police for approving it. They branded the move as a provocation and threatened to block it with their bodies.

Police have approved the entry into the town of a group of 50 far-rightists, headed by MK Michael Ben Ari (National Union), a former member of the outlawed Kach movement.

The lawmaker plans to bring two of his parliamentary aides, prominent far-right activists Itamar Ben Gvir and Baruch Marzel, with him on the march.

The group will walk a kilometer into the town, in a march similar to one held by far-rightists in the Israeli Arab town of Umm el-Fahm in March. Fifteen policemen were wounded by stone-throwing demonstrators during protests following the Umm el-Fahm march.Al-Sana added: "The feeling is that this public is suffering an all-out attack that is threatening its identity. There is an attempt to Judaicize the region by the altering of identity and falsifying of history.

"We're worried by the atmosphere of incitement and the witch-hunt of the Arab public in Israel."

The chairman of the Israeli Arab party Balad, MK Jamal Zahalka, said Rahat residents would welcome the rightists in the same manner as Umm el-Fahm residents had greeted them in March.

"The time has come for it to be understood in Israel that racism is a violation of the law and a criminal act," said Zahalka.

MK Afu Aghbaria (Hadash) said: "Marzel and his gang must not be allowed to gain a foothold in Rahat."