Alex Stein’s notes on a counter-protest at Umm Al Fahm

Um Al Fahm is a primarily Arab village in Israel, and a place of anti-Zionism. Some far right Zionists organised a march there this week – which the Israeli Supreme Court permitted according to the right to free expression.

Alex Stein took a bus there with members of Peace Now, Meretz and Hadash (two parties on the Israeli left) to demonstrate in solidarity with the residents of Umm Al Fahm, and describes what happened.

“As we came down the hill with our banners and our sloganeering (“Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies”, “Fascism won’t pass”), I became aware of a clear division among the protesters already in place. On one side Israeli-Arab men, some with Palestinian flags, many in keffiyehs, pastiches of their counterparts in the territories or abroad. On the other side Jews and Arabs, Zionists and anti-Zionists and non-Zionists, earnestly shouting the shouts of peace, holding banners up high. This was the welcome the 100 far-rightists could expect.

If fascists marched through my parents’ neighbourhood in London, I’d expect that non-Jews would oppose them. This is why I came to Umm-el-Fahm. I try to be a libertarian, and I think the Supreme Court took the correct decision in permitting the march, but in doing so it also implicitly gave people the right to stand in opposition, and this is the reason I came. Baruch Marzel thinks he’s oh-so-clever, asking what’s wrong with him marching through sovereign Israeli territory with the sovereign Israeli flag. Needless to say, he won’t be taking a similar march through Mea Sharim, another place known for its ambivalence bordering on antipathy for Zionism.

I have little time for the Balad-style nationalism or Islamism that some people suggest is dominant in Umm-el-Fahm. But I’m aware of the context. Having visited the city I found that our government has done precious little to win hearts and minds in places like this, and that only when I am confident we are doing everything we can to fully integrate Israeli-Arabs into the broader polity will I feel comfortable chastising Israeli-Arabs when they demonstrate hostility against the state. By standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Umm-el-Fahm, then, I hoped to show Marzel and his clique that they were hopelessly outnumbered and that Israeli-Arabs could count on Jewish support when threatened by fascism.”

So, they waited. Needless to say, it started to rain. Read on.

One thought on “Alex Stein’s notes on a counter-protest at Umm Al Fahm

  1. Duane Miller

    Um al Fahm is not a a village, it is a small city. I was just there today and I will say that (as a Wester Christian) I felt very welcome–much more so than in Jewish parts of Jerusalem, say–though I have had positive experiences there as well, just not many.


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