Demonstrators face off outside Jewish-Arab wedding
Some 200 right-wing protesters demonstrated against what they called ‘assimilation in the Holy Land.’ A counter-demonstration was held by the entrance to the hall.
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Under heavy police guard, Mahmoud Mansour and Morel Malka held their wedding celebration last evening in Rishon Letzion. Mansour, a young Muslim man and Malka, who was born Jewish and converted to Islam, were surrounded by security guards as they arrived at the Shemesh Aduma (Red Sun) wedding hall. Outside, about 150 meters away from the entrance to the hall at the end of the street, some 200 right-wing protesters demonstrated against what they called “assimilation in the Holy Land.” A counter-demonstration was held by the entrance to the hall.
Earlier in the day, the court refused to prohibit the protest outside the wedding hall where the mixed Muslim-Jewish celebrated their recent marriage, and ordered protesters to remain at least 200 meters from the venue, which is located in an area filled with supermarkets and other banquet halls.
The Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s court issued the ruling after the couple applied for an injunction to stop the demonstration organized by Lehava (which is both a Hebrew word meaning “flame” and a Hebrew acronym for Preventing Assimilation in the Holy Land).
Each guest at the wedding was asked by police to identify themselves and answer questions posed by police and security guards to prove they had been invited. The protesters attempted to come closer to the hall a number of times while cursing the couple, but the police moved them back to the area set aside for their protest, as per the court’s instructions.
The protesters shouted racist and threatening slogans such as “Death to leftists,” and waved Israeli flags and blew the shofar. They carried signs saying such things as “Daughter of Israel to the people of Israel,” and “Assimilation is a Holocaust.”
At the counter demonstration they held flowers and sang love songs. Their signs said things such as “Love for everyone,” “Only love will win” and “1,000 flames will not put out love.” A few of the guests thanked them and honked their horns in support.
A number of the right-wing protesters complained about being unable to approach the hall and swore at the guests and the counter protesters. Attorney Itamar Ben Gvir, a leading Kahanist who represented Lehava in court, said the court’s decision to allow the demonstration near the hall was “a victory for the freedom of speech. Only this morning they tried to prevent us from protesting and I am pleased the court accepted in practice our position and allowed freedom of expression. This is a democratic country,” he said. “I think we have the right to protest against assimilation. That is what we have come to do today,” said Ben Gvir.
The couple lives in Jaffa and have already had a legal Muslim wedding; last night’s event was only a celebration. The couple met five years ago and Morel converted to Islam. Mansour said that up until the past few days they had not experienced such blatant manifestations of racism. Malka said her mother, sisters and other relatives were slated to attend; her father, however, is opposed to her marriage to a Muslim and had declared that he would not attend the party.
In court yesterday, the representative of the police proposed holding the demonstration in a parking lot about 200 meters from the hall. Judge Iriya Mordechai ruled that the protesters must remain at least 200 meters from the building, even if they refuse the parking-lot space offered to them. She stressed that her ruling was aimed at preventing friction between the demonstrators and the guests at the event, which was held under heavy police guard.
“Regrettably, the respondents’ actions to prevent the wedding, which have been carried out at a sensitive time for Jewish-Arab relations in any case, have borne rotten fruit and have stirred up a turbid wave of hatred and violence that will peak at a moment that is known and predictable, like its results,” wrote attorney Yaniv Segev on Mansour’s behalf in his request for the injunction. “It is almost certain that the planned demonstration on the day of his wedding will spill over into violent areas.”
Segev called the judge’s decision precedent-setting, saying it was the first time an Israeli court had approved the request of a private person to prevent a demonstration near a private event.
Guy Ronen, one of those behind the demonstration in support of the couple, said he came to protest such gross invasion in private, personal matters. “It is a wedding. The public arena must not interfere in it. The couple has the right to choose their love. They are not a public institution.”
President Reuven Rivlin commented on the wedding and opposition to it in a post on his Facebook page. “There is a red line between freedom of speech and protest on the one hand, and incitement on the other,” he wrote. “Mahmoud and Morel from Jaffa have decided to marry and to exercise their freedom in a democratic country. The manifestations of incitement against them are infuriating and distressing, whatever my opinion or anyone else’s might be regarding the issue itself. Not everyone has to share in the happiness of Mahmoud and Morel — but everyone has to respect them. Among us and within our midst there are harsh and sharp disagreements but incitement, violence and racism have no place in Israeli society. These manifestations are undermining the foundations of our shared life here in the Jewish and democratic, democratic and Jewish state of Israel.”
Rivlin concluded the post with a quotation from the Revisionist Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky: “In the beginning God created the individual,” and added: “We are a free people in our country, in opinion and action, and I wish the young couple health, satisfaction and happiness.”