AMMAN: Nineteen Palestinian citizens of Israel were released on Monday after they were arrested during rare protests inside the country against the massacre in Gaza.
The protests in Haifa, the third largest city in Israel, which has a mixed Arab and Jewish population, started last week.
At a demonstration on Friday, witnesses said that police violently broke up the protesters, arresting 19 and breaking the leg of Jafar Farah, a prominent human rights researcher.
The protests were sparked by the killing of dozens of people in Gaza by Israeli forces last week. While Palestinian demonstrations in Gaza and the West Bank are common, it is much rarer for Palestinian citizens of Israel itself to come out and protest. Haifa has traditionally been held up as an example of peaceful coexistence.
Palestinian lawyers succeeded in getting the 19 arrested released early on Monday after marathon court sessions.
The court in Haifa threw out police claims that protesters attacked officers.
“We turned the courtroom into a space where police violence was exposed and rejected,” said Hassan Jabareen, a representative of the Adalah legal center for Arab rights.
Haifa sources told Arab News that the release of the protesters led to an increase in incidents of incitement against Palestinian citizens of Israel, where many feel they are treated as second-class citizens.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, minister of internal security Gilad Erdan and the mayor of Haifa Yona Yaha all criticized the protests and the wider Arab population in Israel, calling them disloyal.
Johnny Mansour, historian and political science lecturer at Beit Beril University in Israel, said that the country’s leadership wanted to divert attention from their own problems and find a scapegoat.
“Now the Palestinian minority in Israel are the easiest target that they can attack,” he told Arab News.