Arab Israelis, police clash after Jewish extremist march

Israel Materials 24 March 2009 13:11 (UTC +04:00)

Hundreds of Arab Israelis clashed with Israeli police after a group of Jewish extremists marched through their town Tuesday, an event they condemned as a provocation, dpa reported.

One demonstrator and one Israeli police officer were lightly injured in Umm el-Fahm, the largest Arab town in northern Israel, as residents threw stones and concrete blocks at the police, who used tear gas and stun grenades to contain the clashes, Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

Some 2,500 policemen had been deployed at the entrances to the town to prevent contact between the extremist Jewish marchers and the town's Arab-Israeli residents.

Israeli police had tried to prevent the event, postponing it several times in recent months. But the activists petitioned Israel's Supreme Court, which upheld their right to march.

Police allocated a route for the march that stretched about 800 metres on a side road on the town's outskirts. The event, during which the marchers waved Israeli flags, ended after less than an hour, but angry Arab-Israeli residents continued protesting afterwards.

One of the marchers, Baruch Marzel, had demanded to head a polling station in Umm el-Fahm during Israel's February 10 elections. Police prevented him from reaching the town after Israel's Central Elections Committee refused to disqualify him, saying it feared setting a democratically dangerous precedent by forbidding him to serve at the polling station.

The Jewish extremists claimed they insisted on marching through the Arab-Israeli town to demonstrate Israeli sovereignty over all of the country.