The mayor of the city of Afula in northern Israel joined dozens of racist protestors to demonstrate against the sale of a home to an Arab family on Saturday evening, June 15, Haaretz reported.
Afula Mayor Avi Elkabetz and Deputy Mayor Shlomo Malihi were among the protestors who brandished Israeli flags outside the home of an Arab family. The protestors claimed that the flags were provided by the municipality, adding that the municipality must “ensure that Afula maintains its Jewish character.”
Council member Itai Cohen said the municipality would continue to “ensure that Afula preserves its Jewish character.” Protesters from the fascist Lehava organization waved Israeli flags and banners.
In the weeks leading up to the 2018 municipal elections in Afula, council members and Mayor Avi Elkabetz fought against the sale of homes in the city to Arab citizens, and even closed the city park to “outside visitors.” In his election campaign, Elkabetz warned against “the occupation of the park,” which is sometimes used by Arabs from the surrounding communities.
In response to last Saturday’s demonstration in Afula, Hadash MK Ayman Odeh wrote on Twitter that “A government that brings Kahanists into the Knesset will not sweep them from the streets. Only a struggle for full equality will guarantee democracy for all.”
MK Ofer Cassif (Hadash) commented on Elkabetz participation in a racist demonstration: “How would we describe a mayor in Europe who would demonstrate against selling a house to a Jewish family?”
According to MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash), “Afula’s racism mirrors broad sections of Israeli society, the legacy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent years in office. The spirit of the nation-state law – the Netanyahu government’s crowning glory – whirls over the Afula demonstration and legitimizes discriminatory, despicable behavior toward Arab citizens.”
On May 28, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit ruled that when members of the Afula City Council added a racist phrase vowing “to preserve the Jewish character of the city” to the standard oath of allegiance to the State of Israel after last year’s local elections, it invalidated the oath.
The attorney general said that even though adding the phrase in effect undermined the validity of their oath of allegiance, his office decided not to require the council members to repeat the swearing in ceremony. Hadash lawmaker Yousef Jabareen demanded that Mendelblit invalidate the declaration of allegiance. “There are no words for the severity of the racist oath,” he wrote. “Not only is the declaration invalid because it deviates from the legal wording, but it is a racist, inciting ceremony that is a serious blow to Arab residents of Afula and to the Arab public in general.”
Jabareen said to Haaretz that the attorney general “should have invalidated the addition and required the council members to retake the oath.” He said that the addition “is racist and invalid on a legal and moral level … It’s very regrettable that the attorney general doesn’t see fit to express an opinion about the words that were said – which were clearly directed at the Arab minority. The words of the council members encourage hatred and hostility, and should have been condemned without hesitation.”