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Cops clash with Jaffa Arabs for 2nd straight night as tensions flare

3 detained, including a minor, at protest in solidarity with mixed city’s Arab residents; comes day after assault on rabbi looking to move yeshiva into Arab area

Arab Israelis and left wing protesters hold a demonstration against right wing groups taking over houses in Jaffa, near Tel Aviv, on April 19, 2021. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
Arab Israelis and left wing protesters hold a demonstration against right wing groups taking over houses in Jaffa, near Tel Aviv, on April 19, 2021. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

For the second night in a row, police clashed with dozens of protesters demonstrating in solidarity with Arab residents of Jaffa on Monday, as tensions in the Jewish-Arab coastal city continued to boil over efforts to move a yeshiva into a largely Arab neighborhood.

Three protesters were arrested, including a minor suspected of setting off fireworks at the scene. Plainclothes officers were filmed pouncing on the boy and dragging him into an unmarked van. Demonstrators sought to block the van from leaving the scene, leading police to employ riot dispersal measures to scatter the crowd. The minor was released from a nearby police station later that night.

The demonstrators were a mix of Jaffa residents and left-wing activists from outside the city. They marched from Haj Khalil Square to a construction site in the nearby Ajami neighborhood that Orthodox Jewish residents were planning to purchase for a yeshiva.

The yeshiva’s head, Rabbi Eliyahu Mali, was violently assaulted on Sunday by a pair of Arab locals while visiting the site. The documented beating sparked an immediate outcry, particularly among religious lawmakers who demanded a crackdown against Arab crime in the city. The two suspects were arrested later that day and had their remand extended until Tuesday.

Israeli police detain a boy as Israeli Arabs and Israeli left wing protesters hold a demonstration against right wing groups taking over houses in Jaffa, near Tel Aviv, on April 19, 2021 (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Police charged the two with nationalistically motivated assault, though the suspects denied the attack was driven by hate motives in their initial investigation.

Hours after the attack, a protest of predominantly religious Jews took place near the proposed yeshiva site, denouncing violence against Jews in the city. At the same time, a counter-protest of local Arab Israelis formed across the street from the Jewish protest, chanting, “Settlers, go home.”

Cops formed a human barrier between the two protests, and came under attack from rocks and fireworks hurled in their direction, police said in a statement, adding that two officers suffered light injuries.

Israeli Arabs and Israeli left wing protesters hold a demonstration against right wing groups taking over houses in Jaffa, near Tel Aviv, on April 19, 2021. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Jaffa, which has been incorporated into Tel Aviv, is traditionally Arab, but recent years have seen many Jewish residents move in, drawn by new luxury housing developments. The gentrification — along with the presence of the yeshiva and the expansion of its community into Arab areas — has fueled tensions in the city.

Mali is a former senior rabbi at the ultra-nationalist Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva, which seeks to populate the Old City and other East Jerusalem neighborhoods with Jewish residents by purchasing properties from Arabs.

Speaking to reporters as the Monday protest dispersed, local imam Bilal Dacha lambasted police conduct in the city, noting how quickly officers had acted to arrest the suspects in Mali’s beating while murder cases involving Arab residents remain unsolved.

“Dozens of people have been murdered and not a single person has been arrested. It’s a disgrace!” he shouted.

Protesters burned a flag of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality.

Two residents of Jaffa filmed beating Rabbi Eliyahu Mali on April 18, 2021. (Courtesy)

While demonstrators dismissed the connection, Mali’s beating came against the backdrop of an apparent trend of assaults on visibly religious Jews by Arab civilians who have then gone on to post the footage on social media platform TikTok.

One such incident that was widely covered took place in the capital over the weekend and involved a Palestinian from East Jerusalem slapping two ultra-Orthodox boys on the light rail.

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