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Thousands of Jews and Arabs March Together Against Racism and House Demolitions in Tel Aviv

The organizers say the protest, in which the speeches were given in both Arabic and Hebrew, is a new stage in the civil struggle of Jews and Arabs.

by Jack Khoury and Or Kashti   5 February 2017    Haaretz
Protesters waving Palestinian flags in Tel Aviv during a march against racism and home demolitions, February 4, 2017.
Protesters waving Palestinian flags in Tel Aviv during a march against racism and home demolitions, February 4, 2017. Tomer Appelbaum
Thousands of people, Arabs and Jews, marched Saturday evening in Tel Aviv in a protest against the house demolitions in Kalansua and Umm al-Hiran in recent weeks, and against further steps to demolish more homes.
Organizers said some 5,000 protestors participated in the march, which began at the intersection of King George an Allenby Streets and ended in Dizengoff Square.
A number of Jewish and Arab organizations participated in organizing the demonstration, which the organizers termed a new stage in the civil struggle of Jews and Arabs. The speeches were given in Arabic and Hebrew, and marchers waved both Israeli and Palestinian flags.  
Amal Abu Sa'ad, the widow of Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, who was killed during the operation to demolish illegal homes in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev last month, addressed the protesters: "It is important to me to stand here and speak to you and pass on the message to the prime minister and ministers: Despite your wild incitement, the racism and discrimination in legislation, enforcement, infrastructure and government services - you will not succeed in dividing between the country's citizens. All of you, who are standing here today, you are proof that Jews and Arabs can and want to live together and with equality."
Protesters in Tel Aviv during a march against racism and home demolitions, February 4, 2017.
Protesters in Tel Aviv during a march against racism and home demolitions, February 4, 2017.Tomer Appelbaum
She called on the government to establish an independent investigative commission to investigate the evacuation of Umm al-Hiran. Al-Kiyan was killed by police when he ran over and killed police Sgt. Maj. Erez Levi and injured another officer with his car. 
MK Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List, spoke: "Thousands of people have come here today, Arabs and Jews, from all over the country to cry out against the government attack on the Arab population and to call for equality, recognition of the unrecognized villages, and in a demand to establish an official state commission of inquiry to examine all the events surrounding the brutal evacuation of Umm al-Hiran," said Odeh.
Joint List lawmakers marching with Amal Abu Sa'ad, February 4, 2017.
Joint List lawmakers marching with Amal Abu Sa'ad, February 4, 2017.Tomer Appelbaum
MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) said: "The thousands who demonstrated this evening in Tel Aviv are sounding a voice of hope and sanity, facing a government that chooses incitement and hatred. We know that incitement is the last refuge of those who have failed."
The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee said they had decided to step up their appeal to Israeli and international public opinion. Hundreds of Jewish citizens have participated in the recent protests against house demolitions, said Raja Za'atra of Hadash, who chairs the party's subcommittee responsible for contact with the Israeli public. 
Since the establishment of the Joint List, more politicians in the Arab community see strategic importance in building bridges for dialogue and cooperation with the democratic forces in Israeli society, said Za'atra. This is especially true in light of the ramping up of racism and the harsh attacks by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government against the Arab public and democracy, he added.
Jack Khoury
Haaretz Correspondent
Analysis The Israel Police: One Method for Settlers, One for All the Rest
‘Embrace and accept’ was the watchword at the Amoma eviction, but not at protests by Israeli Arabs, Ethiopians and social-justice protesters.
by Yaniv Kubovich   3  February 2017
A police officer accompanying a resident at the evacuation of the Amona outpost, February 1, 2017.
A police officer accompanying a resident at the evacuation of the Amona outpost, February 1, 2017. Olivier Fitoussi
The police got great satisfaction Wednesday when the whole day the media praised their conduct against lawbreakers who came from far afield to help oppose the evacuation of Amona. “Acting with restraint,” “with determination and sensitivity,” “embracing and crying” were just some of the superlatives showered on the cops at the West Bank outpost.
But anyone who has also witnessed protests in the center of the country in recent years couldn’t help but conclude that in Israel there are two police forces. Or even worse, that Israelis have one police force with an agenda, and on Wednesday it was clearer than ever.
If leaders of the social-justice protests, the Ethiopian protests and certainly the Arab community’s protests were in Amona Wednesday, they also would have been surprised.
Daphni Leef, who was roughed up and arrested for merely trying to revive the social-justice protest, surely remembers the police well. When they called out “the people demand social justice” and “democracy” at a demonstration by 6,000 people that had a police permit, they ended up with 85 people arrested and clashes with the riot police.
In 2015, when young people from the Ethiopian community protested discrimination one night at Rabin Square, it ended with tear gas and stun grenades. Forty-six people were injured and 26 were arrested. Twenty-nine Arab students in Haifa who were arrested for protesting during the 2014 Gaza war also know the police well.
But you don’t have to go back two or three years. Last month at a demonstration of 40 people outside the home of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, eight were arrested for “interfering with a policeman and using improper measures,” namely a megaphone.
And last month thousands demonstrated in Arara in the north against the evictions of Negev Bedouin, against home demolitions in Arab towns and villages, and against incitement by the public security minister. They were dispersed by stun grenades and foul-smelling water spray.
Police detaining Daphni Leef at a demonstration on Rothschild Boulevard in June 2012.Alon Ron
So it was hard not to feel uncomfortable in Amona on Wednesday – and not because of the measure of police violence against the rioters. Police brutality during demonstrations is unacceptable and leads to a loss of control on both sides.
The discomfort was because it was clear that in this case the police had received much clearer instructions. As one policeman at the scene said, “‘With determination and sensitivity,’ we were told. ‘Embrace and accept.’”
There’s a video of social activist Maya Gorkin being choked by Cmdr. Yossi Sperling when he headed the Tel Aviv police’s operations branch. “She called me a Nazi enemy,” he said in defense of himself and the police.
On Wednesday the word “Nazi” was used against the police no less than on a routine day in Germany in 1934. But the police chose to “embrace and accept.” The police faced serious violence; stones and unidentified substances were thrown at them, but they had to “embrace and accept.”
The difference could be felt from early in the day. The police came well after dawn without guns and with prominent name tags and blue shirts that made them look like high school students. They were the total opposite of the police who came during the demolition of unregistered Bedouin homes in Umm al-Hiran, or of unregistered homes in the Arab town of Kalansua, where they apparently did a lot less embracing and accepting.
A border policeman at the site Wednesday felt he couldn’t continue with the eviction. He left his comrades in the middle of the operation, saying the assignment was too difficult for him. “The soldier felt uncomfortable so he moved aside; it was hard for him to withstand the situation,” police spokeswoman Merav Lapidot said.
This was said in a tone of understanding, without acknowledging that the worst thing a fighter can do to his comrades is to abandon them in the middle of a mission. But the police decided to embrace and accept; they even went so far as to let the rioters dance with the policeman in question; they praised him as someone who decided to refuse orders.
But at some point the police started to lose the patience they’d been asked to display by the senior officers at the command post.
“We’re trying to repair the damage that happened during the last evacuation at Amona [in 2006], but we’re paying a high price here,” said an officer who was standing outside a house from which demonstrators were being evicted by force.
“There are rioters here we recognize from all the recent confrontations, and we’re being confronted with serious violence and insults, so it has to be a little more aggressive. They have to understand that we’re policemen. The situation here isn’t good.”
Indeed, 24 policeman were hurt, some of whom had to be taken to the hospital. Seventeen people were arrested.
Yaniv Kubovich
Haaretz Correspondent