Umm el-Fahm plans to block march

"This is a provocation" mayor says of planned right-wing group's march through Muslim city.

Marzel 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Marzel 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The municipality of Umm el-Fahm and its supporters plan to construct a human chain at the city's entrances to block leaders of an outlawed, far-right Jewish movement from marching inside its city limits on Monday, the city's new mayor said on Tuesday. Israeli Jews, from the left and right of the political spectrum, "always come" and are welcome to Umm el-Fahm, Israel's largest Muslim city, said Mayor Khaled Hamdan. "They walk around Umm el-Fahm. They eat in the restaurants of Umm el-Fahm... This happens every day. But this (march) is a provocation. This is a challenge." In October, the High Court of Justice approved the march inside the city's limits, organized by leaders of the former Kach movement, despite opposition by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) that it could trigger disturbances. The route of the march approved by the court will pass through the fringes of Umm el-Fahm, near the southernmost residential neighborhoods of the city. Police have limited the march to no more than 100 persons, who are allowed to carry only Israeli flags. In a December 7 press release, the municipality of Umm el-Fahm called on all "peace and co-existence seeking people in Israeli society" to stand with them at the entrances of the city to protest and "to block the racists." The Jewish National Front, a party led by Baruch Marzel, is organizing the march. Marzel is a former spokesman of the Kach movement, which was outlawed in 1994 and is considered a terrorist movement by Israel, the United States and the European Union. Its founder, the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, was a militant proponent of forcing Israel's Arab population to leave the country. In response to the news that the municipality would try to block their entrance, Marzel said: "I have news for them. The land of Israel is ours. And Umm el-Fahm is ours... And that we won't think twice about going there. We will arrive and we will march. "We aren't taking them into account." Umm el-Fahm leaders are also urging people to send telegrams to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, cabinet ministers and Israel Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen in an effort to change the route of the march. When asked about the potential for clashes, Hamdan said he hoped that no such confrontations would take place. "And even more than that," he said, "we hope that the police will not allow them to enter Umm el-Fahm." The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, however, has welcomed the High Court's decision to approve the march, arguing in a written statement that "freedom of expression is a cornerstone of democracy, and its most genuine test is in the facilitation of its most outrageous, extreme and controversial forms." Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.