Arab Israeli business owners across the country shuttered their shops and thousands turned out into the streets of Nazareth Monday to protest Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, clashing with police and leading to several arrests.
At the same time, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman urged Israeli citizens to permanently boycott any store owner taking part in the demonstrative measure.
“I call to everyone: Do not purchase anything more at shops and businesses owned by those who are participating in the Arab community’s general strike,” Liberman wrote on his Facebook page.
On Monday evening, thousands of Arab Israelis massed in the northern city of Nazareth to voice their opposition to Israel’s offensive in the Hamas-controlled enclave and to pay their respects to Palestinian civilians killed during the operation.
Some 200 protesters hurled stones at police officers, while others attempted to block roads at the scene, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said. Police responded with water cannons and stun grenades, arresting 10 people after the 3,000-strong demonstration in Israel’s largest Arab city.
Demonstrators held up placards reading, “The Israeli army commits genocide in Gaza,” an AFP correspondent said.
Later, at a police station, a fight broke out between protesters, including three Knesset lawmakers, and police.
Involved in the scuffle were Balad MKs Hanin Zoabi and Basel Ghattas, and Hadash head Mohammad Barakeh.
The outburst of anger came after the bloodiest day of Israel’s two-week Gaza operation, when 13 Israeli soldiers and scores more Palestinians were killed in a fierce Gaza City battle Sunday.
Across Israel and the West Bank, thousands of store owners closed their businesses in solidarity with the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
The strike was organized by the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel following the deadly battle in Shejaiya.
Liberman’s call for a boycott of the store owners was heavily criticized by Meretz party chairwomen Zahava Gal-on, who accused the foreign minister of racism.
“Once again, the foreign minister, who should be the presenter of the State of Israel, shows his ugly, racist face,” she said.
“It is the right of Arab citizens of Israel, just like any other citizen, to express solidarity with their brothers who suffer in Gaza and with the suffering of innocent people in Gaza.”
There have been several protests among Israeli Arabs against Israel’s two-week-old operation in Gaza.
On Friday evening, thousands of demonstrators in Haifa, led by Zoabi, clashed with police as they attempted to block several roads in the coastal city during a rally against the IDF’s ongoing ground incursion in the Gaza Strip.
A number of police officers and protesters, among them Balad MK Jamal Zahalka, who also took part in the rally, were lightly injured and received medical treatment at the spot.
Some of the protesters were reported to have waved Palestinian flags as they chanted slogans welcoming Hamas rocket fire at Tel Aviv. The demonstrators also shouted out slogans against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Thirty protesters were arrested, including Zoabi, who was handcuffed by police officers at the site. She was released from police custody a short while later.
Police maintained the rally was unauthorized, as the demonstrators had failed to alert authorities of its existence.
Elhanan Miller contributed to this report.