Opinion |

The Military Governor of Haifa

Haifa mayor Yona Yahav would have erected barriers at the city entrance to ascertain the intentions of the Arabs who come to Haifa

Odeh Bisharat
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Demonstrators protesting against the Israeli military's actions along the border with Gaza throughout weeks of Palestinian protests that resulted in violent clashes.
Odeh Bisharat

Let there be no misunderstanding – Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav likes Arabs, but only up to a certain size; like those connoisseurs who choose small fish to serve at a special meal.

But times are changing, so we must inform Yahav that the era of military rule is over. It must be made clear to him that when he tries to revive this abominable legacy, he looks ridiculous and the military governors themselves today look like archeological artifacts whose grandchildren may be ashamed of their heritage.

>> Attorney says policeman struck, humiliated rights activist arrest in Haifa protest

Jafar Farah, a public figure in Haifa, whose leg was broken at the police station following a Jewish-Arab demonstration that took place in Haifa 10 days ago, says that Yahav involved the city’s local police patrols in dispersing the protest.

Farah adds that Yahav put the municipal operations parking area at the police’s disposal, and that Bnei Zion Medical Center was turned into a military base for all intents and purposes, with complete cooperation between the police and the hospital security apparatus. Even Farah’s medical file was transferred to the police without his permission.

The day after the demonstration, Yahav said, “Together with the public leadership in Haifa, we are working to stop any incitement by those who come from outside the city to initiate a disturbance.” Would anyone imagine the mayors of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem making such a declaration? Is it because many of the residents of the Haifa area are Arabs that he allows himself to strike at them with all his might?

Haifa mayor Yona Yahav.

Well, it’s a shame that the military government has long ended, because if not, Yahav would have erected barriers at the city entrance to ascertain the intentions of the Arabs who come to Haifa. Dear Arabs, if you come to enrich the coffers of the city, you are welcome. But to express an opinion – no. And if you insist that people be humane to those suffering in Gaza, then demonstrate in your own villages, where there is barely room to walk. What’s so bad there? Haifa does not believe in solidarity.

Farah says, “After Nazareth has been weakened, Haifa has become the central city attracting Arab residents of the north, while Tel Aviv is the city that attracts Jews who live in Haifa. If the Arabs stay away from Haifa, it will be a tough blow to all branches of Haifa’s economy.”

So it’s true that Yahav is a nice guy who loves Arabs, but at the moment of truth he’s been exposed as a man without mercy, so much so that even Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan looks like a snow-white dove compared to the hawkish Yahav, with his unqualified support for the police. “It is good that the police do not allow illegal demonstrations,” Yahav said.

And while Erdan admits halfheartedly to the illegal actions of the police, Yahav continues to embrace them. Nor does the image of Farah’s leg in a cast move a muscle on the face of Haifa’s tough sheriff. Break the Arabs’ bones, dear policemen. Yahav supports you.

Incidentally, four years ago, hundreds of extreme rightists invaded Haifa’s pastoral Carmel district and attacked an Arab-Jewish demonstration. Many of the demonstrators were hurt, but for the mayor these fascists were not outsiders; they were apparently comrades in arms.

During that melee Deputy Mayor Dr. Suheil Assad and his son, Khaled, were injured by right-wing thugs. Did the mayor condemn the attackers? No. Yahav abandons the residents of his city to the fascist right, and then complains.

Writer Emile Habibi wanted to engrave the words “Remained in Haifa” on his gravestone. Habibi wanted to stay in the shining Haifa, the one that shows solidarity with the suffering, and not in the brutalized Haifa of Yona Yahav.