Clashes erupt at <i>Nakba</i> procession

5 policemen and several Arab protesters wounded as Arab Israelis remember their 'catastrophe.'

nakba 2008 (photo credit: Channel 2)
nakba 2008
(photo credit: Channel 2)
A march held by Israeli Arabs to mark Nakba (catastrophe) Day, which mourns the establishment of the State of Israel, deteriorated into a full-blown riot on Thursday near Nazareth, resulting in the hospitalization of two police officers and an Arab Knesset Member. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowds, but not before the Northern Police District commander, Shimon Koren, and the head of the Amakim Subdistrict Police, Lt.-Cmdr. Zohar Dvir, suffered light wounds from rocks thrown at police. Five police officers were wounded in total, and six demonstrators were arrested for rioting. Hundreds of Israeli Arabs walked toward the former Arab village of Saffuriya, today Moshav Tzipori. A large number of youths became inflamed during the march, which included praise for Hizbullah and calls for attacks on Jews, police said. "There were several instances of incitement during the march," Amakim police spokesman Supt. Gary Aviad said. "Calls were shouted in praise of Hizbullah, an illegal organization. Despite the incitement, we did not stop the march, and only became involved when violence broke out." The march was also attended by MKs Muhammad Barakei (Hadash) and Wasal Taha (Balad). Taha was hospitalized for a head injury he said was caused by a plainclothes police officer striking him with a rock. "An undercover officer hit me with a rock on the head," Taha told The Jerusalem Post. "Before I was injured, the officer struck me in an attempt to provoke me." Taha denied police reports of pro-Hizbullah slogans at the march, saying, "This is a technique designed to incite against the Arab community. At the march, we condemned the Israeli police state, which proved itself with these provocations. We also called for the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in their villages." But Aviad dismissed out of hand Taha's claim of being struck by a plainclothes officer armed with a rock. "We had no undercover police in the crowd. We acted in full, plain view of everyone. How does Taha know he wasn't injured by a demonstrator? It's the rioters who, through their conduct, began endangering lives, forcing us to dispel them." Route 79 in the area was closed for several minutes as police attempted to regain control.