The Police informed extreme right-wing activist Baruch Marzel that he is forbidden from entering Umm al-Fahm.
Brigadier-General Zohar Dvir, commander of the Amakim Subdistrict Police informed Marzel of the decision early Tuesday morning, saying he will not be granted entrance to the Arab-Israeli city due to security concerns. Marzel was reportedly just a few miles away from the city when he received the message.
The decision was made by Northern District Police Commander, Major-General Shimon Koren after police intelligence indicated a concrete risk to public safety should Marzel enter the city. The police also cited a risk to the proper proceedings of the voting process.
"The police are tasked with protecting the general public. The intelligence I was privy to indicated that people would be placed in harm's way and therefore I have decided not to allow Marzel in the city," said Maj.-Gen. Koren.
"This is a dark day for Israeli democracy. The northern District Police has openly and publicly admitted that it has no control over Umm al-Fahm," said Marzel upon receiving the news.
"(The police) are succumbing to incitement and bullying, and it sends out the message to the residents of Umm al-Fahm that they can continue their rowdiness. I will have to consider my legal options now. The police are giving in to thugs. They apparently can’t act against these people the same way they act towards settlers and haredim; and that is very regrettable."
Marzel was set to act as chairman of one the town's polling stations – a move which sparked wide controversy. Fearing clashes between the city's residents and Marzel's supporters, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz went as far as to ask the Central Election Committee to bar Marzel from the city on Election Day. His petition was denied.
'Police gave in to Arab sector's violence, blackmail'
Mass police forces and dozens of Umm al-Fahm residents gathered in the city's entrance in the early morning hours in tense anticipation of Marzel's arrival. "Umm al-Fahm welcomes everyone," said Mayor Khaled Aghbariyya. "But we will not allow National Union activists, who are deliberately trying to harm us, into the city to wreak havoc."
Hadash Chairman Mohammad Barakeh and several others of the party's Knesset contenders arrived at the city as well: "The only response to Marzel's provocation in to increase voter turnout," he said.
Balad Chairman Jamal Zahalka, who also arrived at the Haifa District town, reiterated the sentiment: "I would have hoped to see the anti-racism laws invoked and that I wouldn’t have had to come here. I call on Jews and Arabs alike – we are in the midst of a fascist attempt to oust us from the Knesset - you must cast your vote."
Tensions. Umm al-Fahm residents awaiting Marzel (Photo: George Ginsburg)
Those protesting Marzel's arrival were met with several dozen Jewish demonstrators, who came to show their support: "The fact that fascism is rapidly spreading throughout Israel is not just a problem for the resident of Umm al-Fahm, but for all Israelis. That's why I'm here," said one of them.
National Union Knesset Member Arieh Eldad slammed the police decision: "The Israeli Police Department, probably egged by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, gave into the Arab terror of Israel's enemies from within and decided not to allow a National Union delegate to supervise the purity of elections in the city of Umm al-Fahm.
"We intend to appeal to the Central Elections Committee and ask the city ballots be disqualified, since we fear election tempering, which has long been plaguing the Arab sector's votes. This (move) is a problem for Israel as a whole, since we have openly announced we are giving in to the Arab sector's violence, blackmail and treachery," he said.
Eldad (National Union) is set to replace Marzel as head of the city's Ballot 12 polling station and will arrive in Umm al-Fahm accompanied by heavy police forces. "I am not afraid for my life. I could never truly believe the police caved under pressure," he told Ynet. Nevertheless, the police said that if his arrival in the city proves dangerous, they will pull him out for his own safety.
Once notified of the police decision, Umm al-Fahm Mayor Aghbariyya called on the protestors in the city's entrance to disperse. "We welcome this decision, it was the right thing to do," he said. "We are not looking for provocations here and we do welcome everyone, but not people who pose as heroes when all they want to do is threaten us."
Aghbariyya dismissed Marzel's claims that the police caved under the city's pressure, saying that "the police didn’t give in to anything. We don’t make threats. The police have our full cooperation."
Efrat Weiss and Kobi Nahshoni contributed to this report