Palestinian citizens of Israel demonstrated this week over Israel’s aerial bombardments in Gaza, widely described by them as a “massacre”.
But Arab leaders and police both said confrontations had not reached the same degree of violence which characterised the October 2000 clashes at the start of the second intifada, when 13 Arab protestors were shot dead.
Thousands turned out in Arab communities across Israel to protest. In the northern village of Deir al-Assad, security forces used tear gas and stun grenades after youths pelted them with stones. Demonstrations also took place in Umm al-Fahm, Arara and Kafr Kara. About 50 people were arrested around the country.
“The pictures from Gaza are those of a massacre and there is a very high level of anger,” said Jafar Farah, director of Musawa, a Haifa-based Arab advocacy group. Mr Farah said that unlike 2000, the police were using non-lethal means in the face of protests. “But we are worried that the mentality of killing 250 Palestinians in four minutes doesn’t have borders and that this same mentality could lead to the killing of Arab citizens of Israel by security forces and citizens,” he added.
Labour’s Ghaleb Majadale, Israel’s first Muslim minister, boycotted Sunday’s cabinet deliberations on the war. “Expansion of the war is liable to bring about the collapse of the political process with the Palestinians and the Arab world,” he said in a statement.
MPs from the nationalist Balad party also stayed away from a Knesset session on the campaign, explaining that they had no desire to join in “dancing on the blood” of the Gazans.
Mr Farah said the Arab political leadership was trying to keep the protests non-violent. “No party in the Arab community is calling for violence against the police or authorities. Efforts are being made to ensure the protests are inside cities and villages and to keep them under control. But the anger is so high that here and there is violence on the margins.”
Sami Abu Shehadi, a member of the nationalist Balad party’s central committee, said: “Some of the teenagers might do stupid things. But there is nothing planned. Of course, when people are angry they might do things no one wants them to do. You can’t expect people to see all these images on television from Gaza and do nothing.”