Israeli Arab leaders convene in bid to calm passions

After violent demonstrations, mayor calls on Arab youth to stop congregating, preserve public order

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Rioters facing off against police in Arara Saturday. (photo credit: Tamer Khalifa/FLASH90)
Rioters facing off against police in Arara Saturday. (photo credit: Tamer Khalifa/FLASH90)

Arab Israeli politicians and community leaders met to call for calm in Arab cities Sunday, even as riots in several locations reignited for a third evening.

The High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, an umbrella organization representing Arab civil society and municipal politicians, held the meeting in ‘Arara in the Wadi Ara region Sunday afternoon, after Arab Israelis burned tires and clashed with security forces over the weekend to protest the death of Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir, 16.

Police made 31 arrests and said more were expected.

On Sunday evening, rioters faced off against police in Tamra; near Nazareth; and at other locations in the lower Galilee, hurling stones, shooting fireworks and setting tires on fire.

On Friday and Saturday, protesters hurled stones and at least one Molotov Cocktail at an Israeli bus traveling through Wadi Ara, shattering windows but causing no physical injury.

Around 35 Palestinians and 13 police officers were lightly wounded over the weekend events.

Peaceful demonstrations have also been taking place in all major Arab cities since Abu Khdeir’s killing on July 2.

“The situation in the Arab towns and in Wadi Ara is very worrying,” said Muhammad Athamneh, head of the Kfar Qara regional council, according to the website of Kul Al-Arab daily. “The youth are still at the entrance to the Arab towns and we must take responsible decisions to ensure the safety of Arab towns.”

Athamneh called on parents to rein in their children and not disrupt “public order” by congregating.

Mazen Ghanayem, mayor of the Galilee city of Sakhnin and head of the Follow-up Committee’s national committee, said that an emergency meeting was scheduled between Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Arab leaders Sunday evening. He said that President Shimon Peres has made a number of phone calls to Arab leaders “in order to restore things to normal.”

According to Kul Al-Arab, the media was closed out of the meeting, attended by Islamic movement chief Raed Salah and his deputy Kamal Khatib, so members could discuss “secret propositions.”

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