|Police separated the marchers from the town’s population, but their message was still clear [AFP]|
Violent clashes have broken out between Palestinian-Israelis and Israeli police in response to a demonstration by members of a right-wing Jewish group in the town of Umm al-Fahm in northern Israel.
Israeli police fired tear gas at a crowd of Palestinian-Israelis who had gathered to protest against the march by about 70 Our Land of Israel supporters through the mainly Arab town.
The Jewish protesters were calling for the Islamic Movement in Israel, led by Sheikh Raed Salah, to be made illegal.
Dozens of young Palestinians threw stones at police, who had been deployed to prevent a repeat of the violence that took place last year.
The police responded with tear gas and baton charges, Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros reported.
“Certainly police were expecting this kind of violence and it has manifested itself,” she said.
Fifteen of the Palestinian demonstrators were injured, two of them members of the Knesset.
No Our Land of Israel protesters were arrested, but ten from the Palestinian side were.
Plainclothes Israeli police officers were seen amongst the Palestinian protesters with handguns firing shots.
Protesters have said that they believe live ammunition was used, a charge which Israeli police deny.
Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesperson for the Israeli police, told Al Jazeera their level of response “did not involve live fire or rubber bullets”.
“Soft balls were used, which in fact only cause minimum amount of damage and no one was injured seriously, in terms of those causing the riots,” he said.
“Unfortunately five Israeli police officers were injured, they were on standby when they were attacked.”
Hundreds of riot police had been deployed in anticipation of violence on Tuesday. Other units are also on alert across northern Israel and helicopters were patrolling the skies.
But while police acted to separate the marchers from the town’s population, the messages on their signs – that Israel should “be cleansed” of its Palestinian inhabitants – were still visible.
“This is part of a long-term provocation that’s been taking place,” Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said.
“This is one of the multiple fault lines between the Palestinians and Israel.
“This is a struggle that’s been going on for a while now between the Palestinian minority and some on the fringe of Israeli society that in Europe you would certainly call a fascist movement.
“One of its main goals is the expulsion of the Palestinian citizens in Israel.”
The march roughly coincides with the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane, a right-wing religious leader who routinely referred to Palestinians as “dogs” and called for their expulsion from Israel.
Afu Agbaria, an Arab parliamentarian who joined other officials in protesting against the march, called it a “provocation against the people of Umm al-Fahm and the Arab minority in the country”.
“They are attacking the legitimacy of the Arab presence in the country in co-ordination with the right-wing extremists in the government,” he said.
Most Palestinian-Israelis live in the north of Israel.
Salah is a resident of Umm al-Fahm, the second biggest Arab city in the county and the centre of the Islamic Movement.
“Given the context, really of the timing of this march and the fact that the Arabs here, the Palestinian citizens of Israel, very much feel discriminated against – both on a public level and in terms of Israeli government policy,” Tadros reported.
In the past few weeks, far-right Jewish groups have spray painted Palestinian property with racist graffiti.