Otzma Yehudit to march in Arab town

At a packed Supreme Court session today, the justices ruled in favor of right-wing party over the warnings of the police.

Rachel Kaplan and Eliran Aharon,

Baruch Marzel at the Supreme Court
Baruch Marzel at the Supreme Court
Eliran Aharon

The Supreme Court has ruled that Otzma Yehudit party members will be allowed to march from Ara to Arara, in a predominantly Arab area in the north, if they follow certain conditions for the march proposed by the Coastal District Police.

The main adjustment includes a new route for the march, suggested by the Coastal District Police, who will work to prevent "disturbance of the peace" during the march.

According to the proposal, Otzma Yehudit activists will be allowed to march inside the municipal area of Ara, next to the family house of Tel Aviv terrorist Nashat Melhem, who shot up a bar in January. His father immediately condemned the attack.

Melhem was later killed by security forces in Arara, around two kilometers away from his hometown.

The discussion today, attended by Otzma Yehudit activists Dr. Michael ben Ari, Baruch Marzel, Attorney Itamar ben Gvir, and Bentzi Gopstein, came after more than half a year of opposition from the police.

When right-wing activists submitted a proposal for a march from the terrrorist's parents' house to the house where he was found and killed, the police had opposed the request. They claimed that it would arouse the feelings of the local residents, and cause a "disturbance of the peace."

Today, the Supreme Court convened to consider the issue. At the beginning of the discussion, Baruch Marzel asked the head of the panel, Judge Rubinstein, to remove himself from the proceedings, citing his personal dislike of Marzel.

Rubinstein was one of the nine judges who voted that Marzel could not run for the Knesset.

Rubinstein declined the request.

Later in the discussion, attorney Ben Gvir argued that their right to march falls under freedom of expression. Against claims that potentially violent protests lose that right, Ben Gvir cited the Supreme Court ruling that radical left-wing Meretz party members could stage a protest on Shabbat at Bar Ilan Street, which is a haredi neighborhood.

That Supreme Court ruling went against the recommendations of the Jerusalem District Police that the protest would almost certainly lead to violence. Police also complained that the leftist demonstration, guarded by cops, would sour the relationship between police and haredim.

Ben Gvir pointed out the remarkable similarity between the concern of the Jerusalem police, and that of the Coastal District police, who argue that the Otzma Yehudit protest would sour their relationship with the residents of the Ara valley.

He also emphasized that the court has, over the past several years, allowed Otzma Yehudit to march in Arab towns Umm al-Fahm (twice), Nazareth, Rahat, and Musmus, and that the violence resulting from these protests has decreased dramatically, in line with the courts' insistence that the protesters hold security checks, and work avoid violence.

State Representative Attorney Ron Rosenberg presented a new layout for the march during the discussion. According to him, it would create an appropriate balance between freedom of expression and public safety.

The commander of the Coastal District Police, Nitzav Amos Yaakov, added that the police will uphold any decision the court makes, but reminded the court of the high rate of arrests and injuries which accompanied an Otzma Yehudit Umm al-Fahm protest.

At the judges' recommendation, the two sides left the discussion to check the new marching route. It was decided that the representatives of Otzma Yehudit will go over the route, test it, and inform the court as to whether the route is acceptable to them.


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