Right-wing activists march in Arab town, Musmus

Strong Israel Party protests illegal Arab construction; Zahalka: Why is racism banned in Europe, but not in the Holy Land?

MK Michael Ben-Ari 370 (photo credit: Melanie Lidman)
MK Michael Ben-Ari 370
(photo credit: Melanie Lidman)
The new right-wing Strong Israel Party, established by National Union MKs Arieh Eldad and Michael Ben-Ari, held a march in the Arab village of Musmus on Tuesday, protesting illegal Arab construction.
Meanwhile, the Arabs in the village called a strike, and hundreds of residents arrived at the village’s entrance, calling for the Jewish marchers to leave, according to reports.
There was a large police presence at the protest, but no major incidents were reported.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Eldad said his aim was to use acts like the march as a “tool, just as the Left used the Sasson Report as a tool to destroy Jewish settlements.”
The 2005 Sasson Report – commissioned under former prime minister Ariel Sharon and headed by attorney Talia Sasson – concluded that the government was funding settlements that were illegal. Sasson later ran in elections as part of Meretz.
In 2012, the Levy Report, headed by former Supreme Court justice Edmund Levy, came to the opposite conclusion, that settlements were legal.
Eldad said the aim of the march had been to survey Musmus for illegal building and register all law-breaking that Arab citizens did. He said the police had only allowed his group to go 200 meters into the village, then forced them to turn around.
He added that his party was initiating a national plan to monitor Arab law-breaking.
The Strong Israel cofounder said he hoped to create a new report that would document illegal Arab building, such as the “50,000 illegal units in the Negev, 20,000 in the Galilee, and around 5,000 in Jerusalem. There are also thousands of others here and there.”
Besides the issue of illegal Arab building, one of the main themes of his party’s campaign is that Arab citizens are not fulfilling their national responsibilities, such as paying taxes and serving in the army.
Eldad declared that the government “is closing its eyes and is not trying to enforce the law on the Arabs, and we will demand that it does.”
To do so, he said, “we need raw data in order to go to the Supreme Court.”
He vowed that “[the] law will be applied equally to Jews and Arabs.”
Balad MK Jamal Zahalka, however, came out strongly against the Strong Israel march, saying that the “police shouldn’t permit them to hold demonstrations.”
“Why isn’t Europe tolerating racism, [but] it is being tolerated here in the Holy Land?” he demanded. “'I met with the police in the region and told them not to permit this [march] because it could lead to an escalation, especially on the eve of the elections.”
Eldad’s party, he said, was a racist Kahane group. “There are laws against racism in Israel, and they should be activated,” he declared, noting that in “most democratic countries in the world, [hate speech] isn’t in the framework of ‘freedom of speech’ and should be punished.”
The Balad MK claimed that the 1,000 Arabs from Musmus and surrounding villages who participated in Tuesday’s counter-protest were demonstrating “not only about this, but about racist policies and laws that have passed over the past four years.”
He warned that the situation was causing a “dangerous deterioration,” and called for “a strong reaction in Israel against racism.”
Zahalka went even further, however, suggesting that this was not just a domestic issue and that the international community “should intervene in internal racism cases.”
He said his party was working on combating racism and “explaining to the world” what was going on in Israel.
Comparing the situation to the Austrian government’s inclusion of controversial politician Jörg Haider, who was accused of neo-Nazism and anti-Semitic remarks, he said that “international pressure” was necessary, “like the pressure that was put on the Austrian government of Haider. This group is more extreme than Haider’s was.”