Umm al-Fahm Residents Fed Up With Politicians' Provocation in Their Town

Dozens of Arab protesters confronted police yesterday at the Al Ghazi school in Umm al-Fahm after they learned that MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) was there to serve as the town's ballot box chairman. Five people were arrested for disturbing the peace, assault and throwing stones.

Major General Shimon Koren, Commander of the Northern Police District, ordered the police to show the demonstrators "zero tolerance."

The clashes began in the morning when rumor spread that MK Eldad was in town. During the disturbances at the school, demonstrators threw stones at police and civilians. One journalist was lightly injured in the leg.

"Politicians are using Umm al-Fahm for publicity and that is wrong," one of the protesters said.

A Druze police officer responded: "I am from Beit Jann. Beit Jann is a lot more respectable." His comments only intensified the confrontation.

The right-wing party had sent Eldad to the Arab town as a backup for extremist Baruch Marzel, leader of the Jewish National Front, who had been authorized by the Central Elections Committee to fill the role of ballot box chairman there. The police had announced their intention to keep Marzel out of the town in order to preserve public safety and let elections proceed unhindered.

Earlier, hundreds of locals gathered at the entrance to the town in order to protest Marzel's planned appearance.

The locals stopped cars from entering the town, checking to make sure Marzel was not inside.

In the end, police stopped Marzel at the nearby Barkai junction, and blocked him from entering the town.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz had sought to block Marzel's request to serve in Umm al-Fahm, saying that while the move was legal, it was "provocative" and was a misuse of his party's freedom to choose its representatives to the committee. The Central Election Committee chairman rejected Mazuz's call.

Umm al-Fahm mayor Sheikh Khaled Hamdan condemned the decision authorizing Marzel or Eldad to serve at the town's ballot box committee.

"This decision is unacceptable to us, especially on a day like this. We would like to see everything go on peacefully, and for everyone to do their jobs without undermining public order," Hamdan told Haaretz.

The people arrested yesterday included Jaffa resident Samih Jabarin, a member of the Sons of the Village movement, which has called on the Arab citizens not to participate in the elections in order not to "continue supporting the Zionist regime."