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Ra’am leader urges Arabs to protest government, but without Palestinian flags

MK Mansour Abbas says demonstrations represent broad section of Israeli public, but should avoid provoking clashes with police; 50,000 expected at Tel Aviv rally this weekend

Ra'am party head MK Mansour Abbas at the Federation of Local Authorities conference in Tel Aviv, December 7, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Ra'am party head MK Mansour Abbas at the Federation of Local Authorities conference in Tel Aviv, December 7, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Ra’am party leader MK Mansour Abbas called on Tuesday for Arab Israelis to join anti-government protests, but urged them not to display the Palestinian flag at such events to avoid provoking clashes with police.

“We want to be partners in the protest using democratic means and in accordance with the law, and not bring about any direct confrontation,” Abbas told the Arabic-language Ashams radio station, according to a Haaretz report of his remarks.

Though it is not illegal to display the Palestinian flag, newly installed far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has recently instructed Israel Police officers to remove any such flags from public areas. Police are said to have disregarded his directive and to have told him there was no legal basis to confiscate them as long as no incitement was taking place.

Abbas told the radio station that the anti-government protest movement represents broad interests shared by a considerable portion of the Israeli public, and therefore displaying the Palestinian flag is not fitting. He said his Ra’am party has not yet decided what efforts will be invested in recruiting activists for the demonstrations.

On Saturday night, thousands of Israelis attended a large anti-government rally against plans by Justice Minister Yariv Levin to controversially refigure the judicial system, weakening the Supreme Court so that it can no longer curb the Knesset, among other changes.

Among those who addressed the crowd was MK Ayman Odeh, leader of the Hadash-Ta’al alliance, the other Arab faction in the Knesset.

Israelis protest against the government, at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, on January 7, 2023. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

As leader of the Islamist Ra’am, Abbas participated in a meeting of opposition party chiefs on Monday that was called by opposition leader MK Yair Lapid, though Odeh did not.

At that gathering, Lapid urged party leaders to encourage their supporters to join the protests. However, Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman said his faction would not participate in another upcoming Tel Aviv rally against the sweeping judicial reform package, citing concerns that “there will be radical leftists and Palestinian flags there.”

A small number of Palestinian flags were seen at last weekend’s protest, which drew some 10,000 people, according to organizers.

Ahead of another planned demonstration in Tel Aviv this weekend, police were reportedly rebuffing Ben Gvir’s demands to toughen their stance toward protesters blocking roads or flying the Palestinian flag during the rallies.

Opposition figures have been urging people take to the streets in greater numbers — sparking coalition accusations of “treason” and “sedition.”

A senior police official told Channel 12 news on Wednesday that they were expected up to 50,000 protesters to take to the streets of Tel Aviv on Saturday night.

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