The protest held by right-wing activists on the outskirts of the Negev town of Rahat on Sunday was part of a large-scale effort to voice criticism against the state for ignoring illegal construction of homes by the Israeli-Arab sector, while following a policy of evicting unauthorized Jewish settlements in the West Bank, MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) told the Knesset Channel shortly after the march ended.Ben-Ari said that organizers planned to hold similar protests in other areas of southern Israel in order to raise awareness of the double-standard shown by the Supreme Court in favor of "illegal Beduin construction."
"Unfortunately, the rule of law in Rahat is in danger. We feel the severity of the ongoing illegal Beduin construction in the south, and we are coming to tell them that they are not in charge," Arutz Sheva quoted the MK as saying prior to the march. Ben-Ari said that "evidence collected... in Rahat and all over the south" will be used "to flood the Supreme Court with a series of petitions against illegal construction and lawbreakers."
"Here in the Negev there are thousands of illegal outposts and a complete takeover of land, and no one says a word. We want the lights of the law to shine here as well," he said. "Our message is that there must be one law for all. "The government, [Chief Justice] Dorit Beinisch, and the leftists all want to enforce the law in Hevron and Migron; they are welcome to do so, but we demand that it also be enforced in Rahat, and in Umm el-Fahm, and in all the illegal Beduin outposts in the Negev," he added.During Sunday's demonstration, hundreds of Rahat residents held a counterdemonstration, throwing shoes and rocks at the right-wing activists. Police closed off roads leading to the town and were deployed in large numbers along the route of the protest.
One policeman was lightly wounded by rocks thrown by the Beduin protesters.
"Police must understand the anger felt by the public, who recently have been living as though under threat," United Arab List MK Taleb a-Sanaa told Israel Radio. "[After] legislation to change names of Arab communities on road signs, the Nakba law, the loyalty law and other legislation... comes this thing, which is the straw that broke the camel's back."
"If someone threw a shoe," said UAL MK Ibrahim Sarsour, "it's an expression of anger."
He said that the demonstration didn't seem to justify its cost: "The hundreds of policemen, the dozens of vehicles, this operation which costs hundreds of thousands of shekels to the government, for what? For the protection of three or four outlandish people who come not to strengthen coexistence between the Jewish majority and the Arab minority but to foment and ignite [unrest]."
A-Sanaa said the Arab community wanted to "maintain this precious thing, this valuable asset - coexistence and life together - even during the tough moments, and this is one of those tough moments."
Police did not allow the marchers, led by Jewish National Front leaders Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel, to enter Rahat's center and limited them to a 1.5 kilometer route near the entrance to the Negev town.
One of the Jewish demonstrators explained the purpose of the march to Israel Radio. "I'm not against those who are loyal to the state," he said. "There are also good people here - I'm not making generalizations.
"But whoever acts against the state - members of the Islamic Movement who control this city - must understand one thing: They are not running things in this country. We have come to tell them one thing: There is justice and there is law in this state," he said.
Earlier, one of the Beduin demonstrators warned that the march would be greeted with a violent response.
"If Baruch [Marzel] comes in then he will get what he deserves, a bullet in the head," he told Army Radio. "That's it; the Beduins have now begun to give them a hard time."
"We will stand up and close roads; we will pelt Marzel with shoes that fit his face, the cheapest available," Awad Abu Parach, the chairman of the Rahat Committee against Racism, said.
MK Ben-Ari petitioned the State Attorney's Office with a demand that the state act against all those who leveled threats against the activists in past days.
Speaking to the radio station, a-Sanaa condemned both the threats of violence against Marzel and the right-wing demonstration itself, saying, "This is not a legitimate demonstration, but rather incitement for incitement's sake."
A-Sanaa added, "We are saying that there is a very dangerous situation here, when they allow racism to run rampant. This is not this rabble's freedom of opinion; this is very simply racism."