Umm el-Fahm braces for revenge attacks

"There is an escalation in the level of threats against the Arab population in Israel."

security guard 88 224 (photo credit: Bloomberg)
security guard 88 224
(photo credit: Bloomberg)
The Islamic Movement has hired a private security firm to guard mosques and other public institutions in Umm el-Fahm. "Following the recent events and the threats made by right-wing religious leaders such as [MKs Avigdor] Leiberman and [Effi] Eitam, who talked about a religious sanction to seek revenge for the terrorist attack [at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva] in Jerusalem last week, we must not ignore the voices and take precautions," Umm el-Fahm Mayor Sheikh Hashem Abdel-Rahman told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. Abdel-Rahman, a former spokesman for the Islamic Movement, announced the decision to hire private security at a press conference called by the Wadi Ara-Irron Jewish-Arab Mayors Forum. "There is an escalation in the level of threats against the Arab population in Israel. Only a few days ago, a religious Jewish man who sought revenge here was caught in Umm el-Fahm by the police after injuring a policeman. This situation obligates us to be aware of the threats and to take the required measures," said Abdel-Rahman. He added that on recent nights, volunteers have been monitoring local sacred sites and public institutions. "We haven't placed public figures under guard and as far as we know there are no specific threats to Arab figures, but after all this talk of revenge, it is quite safe to assume that there are also intentions, even though I hope this will be proven false," he added. Umm el-Fahm recently started a campaign to convince Israeli Jews it is safe to visit, in an effort to attract tourists. Nevertheless, 5,000 people demonstrated there on March 4, waving Palestinian and Syrian flags and decrying the IDF operations in the Gaza Strip. They chanted slogans such as "Kill the Jews," "With spirit and blood we will liberate you, o Palestine," "Israel is the mother of terrorism," "Israel is a terrorist state" and "Stop the Zion-Nazi." "I don't accept this kind of behavior and I don't accept it when it is done by Jews. There are and will always be marginal groups that call for violence, but I want to see our area flourish and prosper and I will continue to object to those who call for violence in both sectors," Abdel-Rahman said. "Nonetheless, as a mayor, I must take responsibility and ensure the security of residents who say they are afraid of revenge and terrorist attacks against them." When asked about last Thursday's attack at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva committed by Ala Abu Dhaim, a 20-year-old man from east Jerusalem, Abdel-Rahman said: "The terrorist attack was wrong, morally and religiously, and acts like these signal that no lives are sacred. I condemn what happened in Jerusalem just as I condemn what happened in Gaza, but even if I don't succeed in bringing peace to the area, I will strive to make this little change," he said. "I don't think things are on a verge of explosion, but I believe it is better to handle things and feelings when they are still small, and this is what I am trying to do here," he said. A police officer in the Amakim Subdistrict, which includes Umm el-Fahm and all of Wadi Ara, said the police had not reinforced its presence in the area in response to the rumors. He added, however, that officers had been instructed to stay alert for any change in the situation. Rebecca Anna Stoil contributed to this report