Rahat march 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Dozens of far-Right activists seeking to highlight a perceived government bias against illegal West Bank settlement outposts marched through the Beduin town of Rahat on Sunday and protested unregulated construction in the area.
The marchers, led by Jewish National Front leaders Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir, were secured by hundreds of police officers and were opposed by hundreds of local residents who threw shoes and rocks during a separate counter-demonstration.
A policeman was lightly hurt by rocks thrown by the Beduin protesters. He was released from hospital after receiving treatment.
"This went off better than could be reasonably expected," said Negev Police spokesman Tamir Abatbi. "Our operational plan took into consideration the need to give locals the right to hold their own demonstration, while at the same time ensuring a proper march for the right-wing activists. We needed to accomplish both of these things without injury, and that is what we did."
The right-wing rally was attended by MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union), who vowed that organizers would hold similar protests in southern Israel to highlight the Supreme Court's "bias in favor of illegal Beduin construction."
"Unfortunately, the rule of law in Rahat is in danger. We sense the severity of the ongoing illegal Beduin construction in the South, and we are coming to tell them that they are not in charge," Arutz Sheva quoted Ben-Ari as saying prior to the march.
Ben-Ari said that "evidence collected... in Rahat and all over the South" would be used "to flood the Supreme Court with a series of petitions against illegal construction and lawbreakers.
"Here in the Negev, there are thousands of illegal outposts and a complete takeover of land, and no one says a word. We want the lights of the law to shine here as well," he said. "Our message is that there must be one law for all.
"The government, [Supreme Court President] Dorit Beinisch, and the leftists all want to enforce the law in Hebron and Migron; they are welcome to do so, but we demand that it also be enforced in Rahat, and in Umm el-Fahm, and in all the illegal Beduin outposts in the Negev," he added.
United Arab List MK Taleb a-Sanaa told Israel Radio, "Police must understand the anger felt by the public... [After] legislation to change names of Arab communities on road signs, the Nakba bill, the loyalty bill and other legislation... this thing comes, which is the straw that broke the camel's back."
"If someone threw a shoe," said UAL MK Ibrahim Sarsour, "it's an expression of anger."
Sarsour said that the demonstration didn't seem to justify its cost.
"The hundreds of policemen, the dozens of vehicles, this operation cost the government hundreds of thousands of shekels - for what? For the protection of three or four outlandish people who come not to strengthen coexistence between the Jewish majority and the Arab minority, but to foment and ignite [unrest]?" he said.
A-Sanaa added that the Arab community wanted to "maintain this precious thing, this valuable asset - coexistence and life together - even during the tough moments, and this is one of those tough moments."
Earlier, one of the Beduin demonstrators had warned that the march would be greeted with a lethal response.
"If Baruch [Marzel] comes in, then he will get what he deserves - a bullet in the head," he told Army Radio.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.