Police Crackdown on Arab Leaders Protesting Racist Budget Cuts

Mayors of Arab-Palestinian communities in Israel demonstrated outside the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem Monday to protest Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s suspension of budgetary allocations earmarked for Arab municipalities.

Hadash MKs Youssef Atawne, Aida Touma-Sliman and Ayman Odeh during the demonstration in front of the Knesset on Monday, rejecting the decision of Smotrich not to transfer budgets to Arab towns in Israel, August 21, 2023 (Photo: Zo Haderech)

Racist Finance Minister, Bezalel Smotrich, refused to release NIS 200 million ($55 million) for economic development in Arab towns and villages, drawing accusations of racism from Hadash-Ta’al lawmakers. The National Committee of Heads of Arab Local Authorities, which organized the protest, estimated the withheld sum to be higher, at NIS 320 million ($84 million).

Earlier Monday, a “warning strike” was held across Arab towns to demand the release of the funds. The Israeli Federation of Local Authorities joined the strike on Monday, with local government offices shuttered throughout the country in solidarity with their Arab counterparts.

During the protest in Jerusalem, MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash) was punched by the neck by a Border Police officer as hundreds protest outside Finance Ministry. One regional council head, Fouad Awad, head of the Mazra’a Regional Council in northern Israel, was detained by police. There was similar protest outside the Primer Ministers Office last week and local Arab leaders have also threatened not to open schools at the beginning of September.

Among the protestors in Jerusalem: Hadash MKs Odeh, Aida Touma-Sliman and Youssef Atawne; Mohammed Barakeh, chairman of the High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel and the Communist Party of Israel Secretary General Adel Amer. The participants chanted, calling Smotrich a “racist settler.”

Mansour Dahamshe, secretary of the Arab High Follow-up Committee and leading member of Hadash, told the Voice of Palestine radio that Monday’s strike and protest demonstration in Jerusalem is a first warning step that will be followed by other steps until the government backs down from its racist and fascist approach towards the Arab-Palestinian national minority in Israel.

The protesters on Monday also decried the rampant epidemic of violent crime in their communities. On Monday’s evening, three men were shot in Tira, an Arab city in central Israel, including the director-general of the local municipality, who later died of his wounds.

Director-general Abed al-Rahman Kashua, 60-years-old, was shot next to city hall and a police station in the area. Two additional men, ages 60 and 58, were shot and taken to a local hospital in the city of Kfar Saba in moderate condition. Four people were gunned down Tuesday evening, one of them a mayoral candidate, in the northern town of Abu Snan. One of the victims is Ghazi Sa’ab, who was running for mayor in the upcoming municipal elections. According to Haaretz’s tally, 157 members of the Arab community have been murdered so far this year, compared to 111 in all of 2022.

Related: https://maki.org.il/en/?p=31167