TAIBA, Israel (Mar. 30)
Israeli Arabs sent dual messages to their Jewish fellow citizens Wednesday.
One was that they stand in complete solidarity with their Palestinian brethren in the administered territories, as demonstrated by their nearly total general strike on the occasion of Land Day.
At the same time, they stressed they consider themselves “part and parcel” of Israeli society, which they proved by keeping disorder at a minimum in their towns and villages.
Even Amos Gilboa, Premier Yitzhak Shamir’s adviser on Arab affairs, tipped his hat to the local Arab leadership for their success in keeping the events of Land Day under control.
Contrary to gloomy forecasts earlier in the week, the roads in the villages of the so-called “Arab triangle” between Kafr Kasim and Umm el-Fahm, in the heart of Israel, were free of barriers. There were no incidents of stone-throwing and no Molotov cocktails.
Few Jewish-owned cars were to be seen on the roads. Those that ventured into the Arab populated areas moved freely. Most were rental cars driven by foreign journalists barred from entering the administered territories.
Israeli police kept a low profile. They sat in cars parked outside Arab villages and avoided contact with the local population. Israeli officials had warned that the police would intervene if disorders erupted. In any event, there was little for them to do.
Only here in Taiba, an Arab town of some 20,000 near Kfar Sava, did the situation threaten to get out of hand, but in a way not anticipated by the authorities.
Moslem fundamentalists and secular nationalists marched together here chanting slogans in favor of a Palestinian state and for Jewish-Arab coexistence. But when the procession arrived in the center of town, the fundamentalists refused to allow Knesset member Meir Wilner of the Rakah Communist party to speak.
Fistfights broke out between supporters of the Communist party and the religious Moslems. Attempts to break up the melee failed, and the rally ended sooner than planned.
Several attempts were made to raise the Palestinian flag here. This is illegal under Israeli law, but organizers of the march got around the law by raising separate white, black, red and green banners, the Palestinian nationalist colors.
Throughout the rally, a police helicopter hovered over the town, a visible and noisy warning to the crowd not to let their emotions overcome their better judgment. As things turned out, the demonstration ended without the need for police intervention.