Date for far right Umm el-Fahm march announced

Prominent right-wing activists Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir reignite controversy over the expression of free speech.

ben gvir marzel read 248.88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
ben gvir marzel read 248.88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Reigniting controversy over the expression of free speech, prominent right-wing activists Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir have announced that their Jewish National Front organization will embark on a "Jewish Pride" march through the Arab Israeli city of Umm el-Fahm on December 15. The duo made headlines in October when the High Court of Justice ruled in favor of their petition to hold such a march, which the court said could not be held until after municipal elections on November 11. On Sunday, police confirmed that they had reached an agreement with the activists regarding the rules and regulations that applied to the demonstration. The chief of police must still sign off on the march before it will be allowed to proceed, as the demonstration will require a large police deployment to secure the participants and prevent the outbreak of violence. Leaders of the Umm el-Fahm Municipality, however, have vowed to not allow the parade to happen even with police approval. After the High Court announced their decision in October, MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) called it a "legitimization of racism." "We will use our right of protest and defend Umm el-Fahm from these fascists and racists," Zahalka had said. Town residents, speaking to The Jerusalem Post in October, also vowed to oppose the march, with some even advocating the use of violence to stop the activists. "If you come to Umm el-Fahm as a visitor, to eat in our restaurants or shop in our stores, I will welcome you with open arms," said Dawood, who owns a restaurant near the city center. "But if you come here to cause problems, to insult us or try to antagonize us, then what would you expect? Of course we will react." But Marzel and Ben-Gvir are not the first to lead such a march. In 1984, Rabbi Meir Kahane led a similar demonstration in Umm el-Fahm, which was subsequently dispersed by police. During a hearing in September, Ben-Gvir said that the court's previous decisions to allow left-wing activists to protest outside homes in the Jewish quarter of Hebron meant that right-wingers must be allowed to march in Umm el-Fahm. "If they do not approve our petition, it will cause serious damage to the public's trust in the courts and will send the message that what is OK for Arabs and leftists is forbidden for us," Ben-Gvir told the court. Marzel has previously referred to the High Court's decision to allow the Gay Pride Parade to take place in Jerusalem, against heavy opposition from the city's residents. Regardless, marchers will not be permitted to enter the center of town, and the number of activists will be limited to 100. The activists will be allowed to march through the city only with Israeli flags, and due to security concerns, the exact location of the march is being kept secret. "The date is a convenient window between Id el-Adha, Hanukkah and before the New Year," said Brig.-Gen. Zohar Dvir, commander of the Israel Police Ha'amakim District. "It's in the middle, it isn't too close to any sensitive event." "We are prepared for this march. Those marching will do so with the approval of the court, through the municipal jurisdiction of Umm el-Fahm and along one of the bypassing roads. And in accordance with the court's decision, no more than 100 people will take part in it. We will not allow those marching to enter the city itself and create a provocation," said Dvir. But Marzel was not tempered by the apparent restrictions, saying, "We will prove with this march that Umm el-Fahm is also our Israel, the rule of law does not stop at Umm el-Fahm, and there are some elements that need to internalize this." Umm el-Fahm is a stronghold of the Northern Islamic Movement, which has run the city's municipality since the 1990s. In 2003, ex-mayor Sheikh Raed Salah was arrested on charges of raising millions of dollars for Hamas, and was freed after two years in prison.