Afula mayor attends demonstration against sale of home to Arab family

Deputy mayor and council members join protest ‘to ensure the city preserves its Jewish character’; protesters wave Israeli flags, banners from extremist Lehava group

A view of an Afula street (Shay Levy/Flash90)
A view of an Afula street (Shay Levy/Flash90)

The mayor and deputy mayor of the northern city of Afula on Saturday evening joined tens of protesters, including city council members, to demonstrate against the sale of a home to an Arab family.

Council member Itai Cohen said the municipality would continue to “ensure that Afula preserves its Jewish character.”

“Anyone looking for a mixed city — Afula is not the address,” Cohen told Army Radio on Sunday morning. “We are a right-wing place with Jewish characteristics.”

Protesters waved Israeli flags and banners from the right-wing extremist Lehava organization. Lehava opposes intermarriage and the assimilation of Jews as well as LGBT rights, and tries to stifle public activity by non-Jews in Israel. Lawmakers across the political spectrum have tried to designate it as a terrorist group.

The protest was organized via a Facebook page called “Otzma Yehudit Afula,” where organizers wrote: “Our city is sold, we must not give it a hand and we must not remain silent.” Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) is a Kahanist movement that is now a part of the Union of Right-Wing Parties under a merger deal brokered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prior to the April elections. It is not known if the Facebook page is a formal chapter of the party.

Some of those present at the protest told the Haaretz daily that a city council member was handing out Israeli flags to demonstrators.

Afula Mayor Avi Elkabetz has joined past demonstrations against the sale of homes in the city to Arabs. He ran for election on a platform of “preserving the Jewish character of Afula,” and after the elections, city councilors added a pledge to preserve the Jewish nature of the city to their oath of allegiance, Haaretz reported.

After his election, Elkabetz designated some areas of the city’s park for Afula residents only after pledging during his campaign that “the conquest of the municipal park must stop. We must proudly hoist Israeli flags throughout the park and play music in Hebrew.”

Avi Elkabetz, mayor of Afula, in a screen grab captured June 16, 2019 (Facebook)

Last year Deputy Mayor Shlomo Malihi and Elkabetz joined approximately 150 protesters who demonstrated against the sale of a home in the city to an Arab family. Protesters carried banners slamming the sale and the homeowners who sold their house to Arabs, one of which read: “Traitors against the Jews will get no rest,” Haaretz reported.

In 2016, the Nazareth District Court revoked tenders won by dozens of Arab Israeli families to build homes in Afula, months after a spate of racially charged protests rocked the northern city.

Court president Justice Avraham Avraham said in his decision that the 48 Arab families violated housing tender rules by coordinating their bids on several of the 50 lots for homes in a planned neighborhood next to the Afula Illit neighborhood in an effort to fix prices for the homes.

The protesters, primarily Jewish residents of Afula, charged that the bids were a deliberate effort to ensure the new neighborhood would be exclusively populated by Arab residents, and demanded the tenders be disqualified.

Additionally, residents said the bids should be disqualified because they were all won by residents of Arab villages in the area, and not by residents of the city. They demanded that preference be given to Afula residents in all future land projects.

Last year police opened an investigation into anti-Arab graffiti daubed on the home of an Afula man. The man said he discovered the words “death to Arabs” spray painted in red on his front door.

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