UM AL- FAHM, October 27 (JMCC) - Clashes broke out between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in the northern town of Um al-Fahm
Wednesday, as right wing Israelis staged a protest.
Police fired tear gas and stun grenades repeatedly to disperse the approximately two hundred protesters in clashes that lasted over an hour.
The riot began suddenly, with intensive fire of tear gas canisters reigning down on a gaggle of people that had collected near the police barricade, which separated Um al Fahm residents from the rightists.
Masked youth retaliated with stone throwing before being pushed back by police. Eyewitnesses say rubber bullets were used, though the Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld denied this.
“Ten arrests were made,” confirmed Rosenfeld to JMCC.org, “all arrests were those involved in disturbances.”
Religious orthodox Haredi of the group Neturei Karta supported the Arab protesters, carrying signs with the message “Arabs Yes, Zionists no”.
“We came here because the settler’s walk is stirring provocations to the Arabs,” said a member of the group amid the booms of stun grenades. “We lived in peace under the rule of Palestine, and we can again.”
Although none were hurt seriousle, several people were injured in the street battles. Knesset
Members Haneen Zoabi and Afu Aghbaria were lightly hurt by stun grenades and were taken to a local clinic for treatment. An undercover policeman was also reportedly injured.
Dozens were wounded when clashes erupted during the same march the previous year.
OUR LAND OF ISRAEL
Approximately 50 members of the right wing organization Our Land of Israel arrived at Um al-Fahm, the second largest town in Northern Israel
, in bullet proof buses. They left after half an hour.
Um al-Fahm has been on high alert since the Supreme Court authorized the march despite last year’s violence.
One of the leaders of the protest was Baruch Marzel, the Hebron
settler who led the anti-Arab Kach party that was banned in 1994 for its right wing beliefs and deemed a terrorist organisation. The group believes Arabs should be expelled from Israel and from the West Bank
The group was protesting against police inaction against the Islamic Movement in Um al-Fahm and commemorating twenty years since the death of Meir Kahane, and extreme right wing rabbi..
“The Islamic Movement is party to international Islamic Jihad,” Michael Ben Ari, a right wing politician told AFP news agency.
Mayor of Um al-Fahm Sheikh Khaled Hamdan had told the city not to react to what has been received as racist provocation. He declared that the city should continue ‘business as usual’ unlike last year where shops were closed.
“These people, they are Jon Doe’s, they are not important, so as mayor and [along] with the board of Um al-Fahm city we decided not to give them more weight than they deserve,” Mayor Hamdan told JMCC.org.
“They chose Um al-Fahm as they know it is taking a leading role in our national issues relating to the Palestinians,” said Mayor Hamdan. “We are supporting a solution that gives an independent state to the Palestinian people.”
Members of the Islamic movement expressed concern at the police protection afforded them,
“[Residents responded] when they saw the police officers supporting [the protesters], it indicates that Israel supports them,” says Hassan Sanalah of the Centre of Contemporary Studies and member of the Islamic Movement.
“Imagine if any Arab political party tried to demonstrate in Kyriat Arba – would the police forces come to protect us? No they wouldn’t,” said Sanallah.
Residents also criticized police for the speed with which they resorted to tear gas. Some protesters accused undercover policemen purposefully starting the stone throwing.
“Two undercover Israeli police started the fight, we caught them and tried to take their IDs but the police let them through to their side and started to respond,” says Sanallah.
Though this account remains unconfirmed, eyewitnesses from Reuters news say they witnessed undercover police in the crowd arresting demonstrators.