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Protest by Far-Right Group Stirs Unease in Israeli Arab Community

Residents of Umm el-Fahm confront riot police in response to a march by far-right Jewish activists.

Tuesday's event was a less intense echo. The group of demonstrators, led by former Kahane aide Baruch Marzel, marched for about 30 minutes on the outskirts of town. They carried the Israeli flag, but police forbade any placards or banners.

Yet the protest still prompted a stone-throwing crowd of Arabs to gather in the streets, waving Palestinian flags. The subsequent clash injured 15 police officers and about as many local demonstrators.

"The goal of the march is to make clear to a bunch of unrulies in the Arab sector who is the owner of the state of Israel," said Itamar Ben-Gvir, a former Kach activist and an organizer of the demonstration. "Some parts of this sector do not understand that this is the state of Israel and this is a Jewish state."

Local Arab residents, many of whom identify themselves as Palestinian citizens of Israel, were quick to note that the same Israeli police force that formed a cordon to protect Marzel's group had, over the weekend, shut down a series of Palestinian events meant to celebrate East Jerusalem as the "Capital of Arab Culture" for 2009.

At a downtown cafe on Monday, bus driver Raid Issa and his friends pondered what would happen if they tried to carry their version of Marzel's message to Jewish settlers living in the West Bank.

He said he doubts they would get very far.

"If there was a group that would gather and go to Kiryat Arba, they'd stop us," said Issa, 41, referring to a Jewish settlement near Hebron, a city where religious tensions run high and where Kahane's followers have long congregated. "These are people coming to incite us, to try to get us out of our homes."

Special correspondent Samuel Sockol contributed to this report.

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