Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at a Yisrael Beiteinu party meeting.
Emil Salman

Following Riots, Israeli Defense Minister Calls for Boycott of Arab Citizens: 'They Don't Belong Here'

Avigdor Lieberman says residents of Wadi Ara 'are not welcome here'; Minister Bennett: 'Arabs should not test our patience'

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday said that Israeli Arab residents of the Wadi Ara region “do not belong to the State of Israel" and should be boycotted.

Lieberman was commenting on the hundreds who rioted along Route 65 in northern Israel on Saturday in protest over U.S. President Donald Trump's declaration last week that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

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The residents of the Wadi Ara region should be boycotted, Lieberman told Army Radio in an interview on Sunday morning. “They should understand that they are not wanted here, they are not part of us.” According to the defense minister, Wadi Ara residents "have no connection to this country.”

“What is happening in Wadi Ara is intolerable,” Lieberman said. “So I am calling for a boycott of Wadi Ara. Don’t go there and don’t buy there. They need to understand that it is impossible to demonstrate with Hezbollah flags, Palestinian flags and pictures of [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah. To accept billions from the National Insurance [Institute] and to also destroy us from within,” he added.

Also commenting on the riots, Education Minister Naftali Bennett said in an radio interview Sunday that "Israeli Arabs should not test our patience.” In response to a question of whether he was disappointed by the developments following Trump’s decision, Bennett said even if Israel knew there would be some "friction, I recommend to Israeli Arabs, and to those Arabs who are rioting, not to test our patience.” He also delivered the same warning to Hamas. “I think we are nearing the end of this incident and certainly it was a strategic step that is very important to Israel, and I am pleased about it.”

Some protesters along Route 65 attacked a passing bus with rocks and injured three passengers. Some 200 people blocked the main highway at the Arara junction. After the demonstrations, a number of protesters threw rocks at police cars and other vehicles.

Police arrested two residents of Arara, one a minor and the other an adult, on suspicions of throwing rocks at cars.

At the same time, hundreds of Palestinians also protested and rioted in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. In the West Bank, protestors burned tires, threw fire bombs and rocks at security forces, said the IDF. In the Gaza Strip, some 450 people protested in eight locations along the border fence with Israel. They burned tires, threw rocks at the fence and at Israeli troops. The Palestinians reported on 140 people injured in the confrontations.

When asked by the interviewer whether he was making generalizations about all the Arab residents of the area, Lieberman said: It seems you don’t live in Israel. I saw thousands at that funeral of the terrorists in Umm al-Fahm. It was thousands, and I heard those sermons in the mosques – in all of them – sermons of incitement by those so-called spiritual leaders.”

In another radio interview on Reshet Bet on Sunday morning, Lieberman made similar comments.  He added that “formally, the residents of Wadi Ara are Israeli citizens, but they are not a part of Israel and must be part of the Palestinian Authority. He later repeated his call for a boycott of businesses in Wadi Ara. 

The chairman of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh, responded to Lieberman's comments, saying the minister is “a representative of the dark fascist regime of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s extreme right-wing government.”

“The call to boycott citizens just because of their national and religious origin reminds one of the darkest regimes in human history. The thought that such a person is responsible for the security of the country should worry every rational citizen.”

MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) said the protest by Arab citizens of Israel against Trump’s decision is a legitimate protest, “and we have not heard the [Defense] Minister call to boycott Haredim or Ethiopians who blocked roads in the demonstrations they held.”

The chairman of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, the former MK and leader of the Hadash party Mohammed Barakeh, said “every protest by the Arab community is considered a security incident. I did not see tear gas grenades at the demonstrations by the disabled.”


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