Israeli Arab unrest could intensify as military operations in Gaza expand

Arrests of Arab demonstrators continue; Negev District commander says police will not allow acts of violence.

Israeli arabs take part in a protest in Acre earlier this week. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
Israeli arabs take part in a protest in Acre earlier this week.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
“Spontaneous” protests by Israeli Arabs are likely to continue – particularly in the Galilee and Arab areas of the Triangle in the center of the country, east of Kfar Saba – Khaled an-Naftawi, an Israeli Arab political activist associated with the Balad party, told The Jerusalem Post.
Naftawi pointed out three factors that would determine if the demonstrations would continue beyond the next few days.
First is the regional factor, depending on Israel’s current activity in Gaza and the West Bank. Heavy activity in these areas could ignite more unrest, he said.
Second is how the police deal with the protesters. The use of force or more arrests could be a factor.
Third, is the Arab leadership.
If it decides to support the protests, “they are sure to continue,” he said.
Naftawi says that the beginning of the protests last weekend were planned, but as of late more unrest is breaking out spontaneously, and so it is difficult to predict where and when protests will occur.
The protests were largely seen as an immediate reaction to the murder of Shuafat teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir, but underlying tensions were also at play.
Israeli Arab news portals carried news about the war in Gaza at the top of their websites on Tuesday.
Ghazal Abu Raya, the spokesman of the Sakhnin Municipality and the director of the northern branch of Givat Haviva, which is located in the city, told the Post that there was an event today in the city and our message was that “the current situation does not serve anyone’s interest.”
“Only peace can bring us to a better place, not force and violence,” he said.
The majority of Arabs want to live a normal life and integrate into Israeli society, but feel that they are treated like unwanted foreigners and second-class citizens. The spontaneous protests reflect these feelings, he said.
Adalah, an Arab legal rights group, said that according to its calculation, 75 protesters were detained on Monday, including 37 minors. On Tuesday, an additional 33 Israeli Arabs were arrested, mostly from several locations in the Galilee: Sakhnin, Sha’ab, and Jadida.
Overall there are currently 108 detainees, according to Adalah.
Adalah, along with volunteer lawyers and other organizations, filed appeals on Monday and Tuesday against the decision to extend the detention of minors and the release conditions of some of the other detainees.
The Beersheba District Court has not yet made a decision on the appeals, though the Nazareth District Court did order the release of one minor and one adult, who were expected to be released on Tuesday.
A police spokesman said on Tuesday that so far 46 suspects have been arrested for disrupting public order and throwing stones over the past two days in the Negev, with more arrests expected in the coming days.
They have been questioned on suspicion of endangering lives in traffic, illegal protest, rioting, and conspiracy to carry out aggravated assault, said the police. Negev District Cmdr. Peretz Amar said the police will not allow acts of violence.
In the Coastal District, 61 have been detained so far since the riots broke out, including 6 minors, according to the police.