While Israel was busy celebrating its 60 years of independence, Israeli Arabs chose to mark the 60th year of the Nakba in a mass rally attended by all Arab Knesset members, as well as public figures such as the Head of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Ra'ad Salah, and Shawki Khatib, Head of Higher Arab Monitoring Committee.
The march, traditionally marking the expulsion of Palestinian refugees from their land during the War of Independence, led protestors from Nazareth towards the deserted ruins of the village of Suffurriye – today's Zippori.
Upon closure, clashes broke out between police forces and demonstrators. Northern Region District Commander Shimon Koren and Brigadier Zohar Dvir were injured.
Three more officers were injured in the clashes, as well as a few Arab demonstrators, including Balad’s MK Wasil Taha. Taha reportedly told his aides that he was struck by Police Special Patrol Unit officers. He was taken to the Italian hospital in Nazareth along with his 16-year-old son who was also reportedly injured.
The police arrested six Arab demonstrators. The rally's organizers will be called in for questioning.
“It all happened when I tried to send the police away and calm the situation down," Taha told Ynet. "I saw a police officer in civilian clothing…He hit me three times on the head. They evacuated me to hospital. ..There were also provocations by the (Israeli) rightists, but the police did nothing to stop them.”
Police violence? MK Wasil Taha (Photo: Hagai Aharon)
The police claims that the demonstrators wild incitement seeking provocations that caused the riots. However, the rally attendants, including Hadash Chairman MK Mohammad Barakeh said that the riots were caused because the police did allow the rally-goers to properly disperse.
Barakeh: “The police was nasty to the demonstrators, expecting them to simply vanish. I condemn the police’s behavior. The event was perfectly organized, only the police prepared itself for provocation against the mass.”
“When the rally was granted permission its organizers gave their explicit obligation to avoid provocation. Unfortunately, the organizers were not able to control the wild incitement,” said Koren.
According to him, the riots began when If You Will group, Israel’s largest volunteer student and young adult movement, who was picnicking across the road, raised the Israeli Flag. The participants asked them to lower the flag and the two sides began to exchange words that led to a violent clash.