Far-Right in Jaffa calls on residents to raise Israeli flag

One police officer injured as about 50 far-right activists hold a march to protest "the Islamic Movement's efforts to take over the city."

jaffa rally right wing 311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
jaffa rally right wing 311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
A police officer was lightly wounded and 16 counterdemonstrators were detained in Jaffa on Wednesday, as about 50 right-wing activists held a march down the city’s main thoroughfare to protest what that they said was the Islamic Movement’s efforts to take over the area.
Police said the officer was wounded by a rock thrown by someone in a group of counter-demonstrators in a Jaffa park.
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The marchers, led by MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) and far-rightists Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir arrived on a single bus around 10:15 a.m., where they were met by dozens of riot police who escorted them down the street as several dozen reporters and cameramen scrambled for pictures.
During the march, Arab businesses closed their doors in protest, reopening only after the procession had passed.
At the march, Ben-Ari called on “all loyal residents of Jaffa to raise the Israeli flag on their houses,” and offered to supply them with the flags. He described Jaffa as having been “abandoned” by police.
Marzel referred to leftists as “collaborators with Israel’s enemies,” and said that he and his supporters were looking to “expel Israel’s enemies from Jaffa.”
There was an especially high police presence at the march. Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said “several hundred police from the Yassam Special Patrol Unit, mounted police officers and undercover units were deployed to protect the marchers and the locals and to ensure that things remain calm.”
Police helicopters circled overhead, as did a police blimp.
On Sunday, the Eretz Yisrael Shelanu NGO petitioned the High Court of Justice after the Tel Aviv Police refused to explain its refusal to allow the Jaffa march to go forward.
The court accepted the petition, allowing the group to march.
On Wednesday, the marchers walked up Yefet Street to Yehuda Margoza Street near the Andromeda residential complex, before marching past the park and back to the Old City, where they boarded the bus back home.
They carried several Israeli flags as well as a sign saying “Jaffa is Jewish.” They chanted “Jaffa is for Jews” and the songs “Am Yisrael Chai” and Eyal Golan’s anthem “Mi Shema’amin (The One Who Believes).”
Throughout the march, counter-protesters stood off but there were few confrontations.
Plans to hold the event were met with opposition by the heads of the small national- religious seed group living in Jaffa, who issued a statement last week saying “we are stridently against any attempt by any groups, Jewish or Arab, to inflame the sentiments in Jaffa in order to reap political capital at the expense of the city’s residents.
“Just as we were against provocative protests by extreme politicians and individuals from the Arab sector, we are also against similar rallies held by Jews.”
The statement continued, “There is a place for waving Israeli flags and marching in Jaffa, but there is no place for a march whose purpose is to inflame tensions.”
The statement compared such efforts to those carried out by “extreme leftist working against the Torani seed group in Jaffa.”
Tel Aviv-Jaffa Mayor Ron Huldai also expressed disapproval of the march, issuing a statement earlier this week criticizing “this attempt by right-wing figures who come from outside Jaffa to disrupt our coexistence through provocation.”
In the Old City on Wednesday, lifelong Jaffa resident Hussein Haj, 49, shouted at the marchers and said, “In all my life we’ve lived here together, Arabs and Jews, without problems. We’ve never had problems. But all it takes is one rock, one person throwing one rock and it’s over in an instant. And it would take us years to make things the way they were again.”
Jaffa is home to around 50,000 people, of whom over two-thirds are Jews. The march mainly passed through the Ajami neighborhood, which predominantly Arab, though like other areas of Jaffa it has gone through an extensive process of gentrification in recent years and attracted more and more Jewish residents.
Wednesday’s event took place only a few days after Tel Aviv-Jaffa City Hall announced plans to construct an affordable residential project for Jaffa’s Arab residents, who have suffered a housing crunch in recent years, mainly brought on by gentrification and soaring prices.
Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.