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Israeli Nationalists March on Arab Town; Residents Clash with Police

An Israeli Arab boy is detained by Israeli riot police during clashes in the northern Israeli town of Umm el-Fahm, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010

Israeli police have clashed with Arab residents of a town in northern Israel as Jewish extremists staged a march. The confrontation comes as tensions run high among Israel's Arab citizens.

Police fired tear gas and stun grenades as demonstrators pelted them with rocks.

Fueling the anger were hundreds of Jewish extremists who held a march through the town of Um el Fahm, one of the largest Arab communities in Israel.

The marchers were marking the 20th anniversary of the murder of Meir Kahane, a right-wing extremist rabbi who called for the expulsion of all Arabs from Israel and the West Bank. Kahane - an Israeli-American - was killed by an Arab man in New York.

Um el Fahm is home to the radical nationalist Islamist Movement, which some Israelis say is working to incite an Arab rebellion. Organizers said they marched to call on the Israeli government to ban the group.

Witnesses said marchers shouted, "Death to Arabs." Some demonstrators chanted slogans saying "Um el Fahm will be Jewish." Arab residents burned tires in the streets and threw rocks.

Hundreds of Israeli police were deployed in the town.

Town leaders accuse the marchers of trying to create chaos, and condemned the police for protecting the demonstrators who the town's mayor described as "madmen" and "racists."

Arab Israelis, most of whom are ethnic Palestinians, make up 20 percent of Israel's population.

Tensions have been high following moves by right-wing members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's governing coalition to require non-Jews to recognize Israel as a Jewish state - an action that Arabs said targeted them specifically.

A proposal requiring non-Jews who apply for Israeli citizenship to take a loyalty oath was later revised to apply to all immigrants - including Jews.

Also Wednesday, the lawyer for Arab-Israeli activist Amir Makhoul says he has admitted to charges of spying for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. The case has received international attention and has been yet another point of friction between Israeli Jews and Arabs.