After the Israeli government banned a memorial service to honor recently deceased Palestinian leader George Habash, Arab-Israelis in Nazareth held a protest on Friday afternoon.

George Habash was a leader in the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a group considered by Israel to be a "terrorist" organization.  He died earlier this month.


The Arab-Israeli community, which make up 20% of the Israeli population, are Palestinians who remained behind when Israel was created in 1948 and Israeli militias forced a mass exodus of the majority of Palestinians living on the land designated as the Jewish homeland.


Although many Arab-Israelis have family and friends in the West Bank and Gaza (the occupied Palestinian territories), they are not allowed, as Israelis, to cross the Wall to see their families.


Friday's protest came after a petition was filed with the Israeli High Court asking that the court overturn a decision by the Nazareth police to ban a memorial service for George Habash.  The petition was denied, and the Arab-Israeli groups decided to hold a protest to voice their outrage at what they see as censorship and discrimination. 


Arab-Israeli leaders challenged the idea that the memorial was being planned by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.  "There is no Popular Front within the Green Line.  We will not bow our heads in the face of such lie", said one organizer.


Israeli Knesset member Mohammed Barakeh told the Israeli press, "It's a total lie.  The initiative for the ceremony was mine."


Hundreds of people participated in Friday's march in downtown Nazareth.