Israeli right-wing activists scuffled briefly with Arab and left-wing protesters holding a ceremony to mark the Palestinian “Nakba” or “catastrophe” of the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 at Tel Aviv University Wednesday.
Two activists — one right-wing and one left-wing — were detained by police for disturbing the peace during the event, which has become a yearly flashpoint between the groups.
The ceremony was attended by the Joint (Arab) List’s head Ayman Odeh along with dozens of others, while right-wing activists Michael Ben-Ari, Baruch Marzel, Bentzi Gopstein and others held a protest nearby.
“We can argue about what happened here in ’47 and ’48, but one thing we cannot argue about — that the Arab, Palestinian nation, the villagers, paid the heaviest price through no fault of their own,” Odeh told Channel 2 news.
Marzel, a firebrand settler who narrowly missed winning a Knesset seat in March elections, accused left-wing activists attending the ceremony of hypocrisy.
“They talk about the Nakba and deportation — if they want to be moral they should evacuate their luxurious offices. What happened in 1948 was too little and too late, we should have expelled, and so we must do today,” he said.
Every May, Palestinians hold rallies to commemorate the Nakba — the defeat and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Arabs in the 1948 war in which Israel gained its independence. Many of those refugees and their descendants, now numbering several million, live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip or in neighboring Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
Heated arguments and fights have become common at Nakba Day commemorations at Tel Aviv University in years past, amid right-wing protests against the vigils.
The Tel Aviv protest came hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended a Defense Ministry pilot plan that would have disallowed Palestinians with work permits from using Israeli buses to enter the West Bank.
The plan, which was reported overnight Tuesday, had garnered fierce criticism from opposition politicians and others, who claimed that it constituted an “apartheid” policy.