Mayor of Arab Israeli town of Nazareth accuses Arab member of the Knesset ‘to incite violence and to ruine coexistence’

Joint (Arab) List leader Ayman Odeh is heckled by the mayor of Nazareth during an Channel 2 news interview (screen capture- Channel 2)Nazareth Mayor Ali Salem launches tirade against Joint Arab List leader Ayman Odeh on live TV, blasts him for inciting violence, damaging Nazareth’s trade and tourism • Salem urges Arabs and Jews to “find a way to live together in peace.”

Danny Brenner and Daniel Siryoti

The Mayor of the Arab Israeli town of Nazareth, Ali Salem, slammed Joint Arab List members of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, for inciting violence and undermining peaceful coexistence in the mixed Jewish-Arab city, as well as harming the trade and tourism vital to his city’s economy.

Salem launched into a tirade against Joint Arab List leader Ayman Odeh on live TV after spotting Odeh giving an interview to Channel 2 News on one of Nazareth’s streets.

Confronting Odeh on camera and yelling in both Arabic and Hebrew, Salem said, “Get out of here! Go back to Haifa, and stop destroying our city. Jews don’t come here anymore because of you! … You’re burning the world down. … Shut up and get out!”

Odeh demanded the cameraman stop filming, but Salem demanded the opposite, and Channel 2 complied.

“It infuriates me that Arab politicians come here, incite violence, and leave us to clean up their mess,” Salem told reporters later.

“If Odeh wants to be a hero, let him go to his city, to Haifa. Don’t come to Nazareth.

The Mayor added: “We invest a great deal in coexistence and tourism. We want to develop our city. I want peace and quiet. … We used to have thousands of Jews and tourists visit Nazareth over the weekends. They don’t visit anymore. This seriously hurts our image and our livelihood, and we won’t allow it.”

This is not the first time Salem has gone head to head with the Israel’s Arab leadership by opposing mass demonstrations in his city.

During the Israel’s July 2014 military operation in Gaza, Salem spoke out against the spread of demonstrations and violent protests in Arab towns and villages.

“Commerce, economy and tourism in the city of Nazareth will be damaged after such events,” the mayor said at the time to Kul Al-Arab, Israel’s most widely-read Arabic language daily. “Tourists will think a hundred times before visiting the city. Patriotic positions are not [expressed] in such a manner.”

Salem’s criticism echoed concerns voiced by other Arab mayors and merchants, who fear the security escalation will result in a Jewish boycott on Arab-owned businesses.

Salem said he believes that “both sides, and by that I mean [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] should sit down and find a real solution. We have to seek peaceful coexistence, and we have to find a solution that would allow both peoples to live side by side in peace.”

Many Arab business owners, especially those with a large Jewish clientele, fear the prolonged tensions will have a detrimental effect on commerce, and some said the decision to call a sector-wide strike was wrong.