Nazareth Mayor Slams Israeli Arab Politician During Live Interview

Screen shot from Ayman Odeh interview
October 12, 2015

JERUSALEM—In a startling display of prime-time street theatre, the Arab mayor of Nazareth braked his car last night next to a leading Israeli Arab politician being interviewed live on the city’s main street by a television crew and shouted at him to get out of town for encouraging street demonstrations.

"Go busy yourself elsewhere," said Mayor Ali Salem. "You’ve ruined the city for us. There wasn’t a single Jew here today. Not even one. Get out. I don’t need to see you in Nazareth."

The mayor of Israel’s largest Arab city was voicing the displeasure of many Arab businessmen and officials, both in Israel and the West Bank, at the turbulence, which has kept Jewish customers from entering Arab areas for fear of stabbings.

The politician being shouted at was Ayman Odeh who heads the Joint Arab List, an alliance of all three Arab parties represented in the Knesset. Odeh is himself a moderate but the party includes firebrands who have been encouraging Arab youths to demonstrate against the Israeli government for ostensibly endangering the Muslim character of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. He was being interviewed live by Channel Two News, Israel’s principal television news platform, after violent demonstrations in Nazareth that included destruction of public property and the burning of garbage bins. A parade led by Odeh and other Arab political leaders preceded the rampage.

"What are you doing to us?" shouted the furious mayor. "You burned the world. Shut up. Get out of here." Holding a microphone, Odeh chose not to reply on air.

One of the members of Odeh’s party, Hanin Zoabi, the only woman on the list, called in an interview for mass support of the militants who have attacked Israeli targets.

"If only individual attacks continue without popular support, they will sputter out within a few days. The outporing of thousands of our people will make these events a real intifada."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed his attorney general to open a criminal investigation into Zoabi’s remarks, which he termed "a clear call for violence."

Mayor Salem said in a radio interview later that he blamed political leaders for the violence sweeping the West Bank and increasingly infiltrating Arab sectors in Israel. "I blame the leaders," he said. "They are destroying our future. They are destroying coexistence."

The mayor said that on an ordinary weekend day 20,000-30,000 Jews shop in Nazareth or eat in its restaurants. "There wasn’t a Jew in the city yesterday," he said. Restaurants were closed. Businesses were closed. (The owners) came to me at City Hall and wept."

The young rioters, he said, burned trees, damaged property and caused losses of tens of thousands a day to the municipality. "This has been going on for a week now."

Salem said he also objected to Israel’s actions on the Temple Mount but that the Israeli Arab leadership, which represents 20 percent of Israel’s population, must make its voices heard in an appropriate manner.

"We (Arabs and Jews) must find a way to live together," he said. "We cannot fight like this. We are damaging ourselves."

"I want to tell all the people who call themselves leaders: We have no other way. The only way is to live together. If we have another intifada it will be worse than anything we’ve gone through before."

Mayor Salem said that 80 percent of Israel's Arabs do not support the violence.

Published under: Israel