UMM EL-FAHM, Israel (Reuters) – Israeli police on Wednesday fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse Arabs who were protesting against a rally by ultranationalist Jews in an Israeli-Arab town.
Riot police, some on horseback, charged about 200 Arabs who threw stones at them before retreating, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Ten masked Arabs were arrested.
About 30 Jewish demonstrators had traveled from Jerusalem to Umm el-Fahm in northern Israel, the seat of an Islamic movement whose leader, Sheikh Raed Salah, says Israel endangers Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.
The right-wing group held a brief rally in the city then were escorted away on buses by police.
The Jewish demonstrators want Israeli authorities to outlaw Salah’s movement. One leader said that as Umm el-Fahm was a part of the Jewish state, they had the right to march there unhindered.
“We have there a cancer of the Islamic Movement that wants to destroy the state of Israel…from the inside and we want to protest that the government will outlaw the Islamic Movement, leader Baruch Marzel told supporters before the march.
Hassan Sammalah, an Umm el-Fahm resident, accused the Jewish demonstrators of seeking the expulsion of Israel’s Arab minority, which makes up 20 percent of the population.
“Their goal is to initiate a situation where they can transfer the Arabs out of Israel to Lebanon or Jordan, not even to the West Bank,” Sammalah said.
Ahmed Tibi, an Arab legislator in Israel’s parliament, said the anger displayed by Umm el-Fahm residents was understandable.
“The unified position of the people of Umm al-Fahm was to repel those (ultranationalists) and the reaction was a natural one to this incursion by the security forces,” Tibi said.
Police said they moved against the Arab protesters to prevent violence between residents and the marchers. When Marzel and his group held a similar march in the town in March 2009 clashes erupted and dozens were wounded.
Salah, an Umm el-Fahm resident, was jailed by an Israeli court for disorderly conduct and assault after scuffles with police who confronted protesters during engineering work near at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest site in 2007.