Israeli police arrested an Arab man who drove his car on a holy Jewish holiday, an incident which sparked five days of clashes between Jews and Arabs in the northern town of Acre, police said on Tuesday.
Israeli media reported that Tawfik Jamal was arrested on Monday for speeding, endangering life, and for "harming religious sensitivities" on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when virtually all of Israel observes a religious ban on driving and observant Jews fast and pray.
Arab lawmakers said the arrest was politically motivated and the charges trumped up. They demanded Jamal’s immediate release.
"I am sure some Jews also drove on Yom Kippur. Will the police arrest them?" asked Arab legislator Abbas Zkoor of Acre.
"It is the first time anyone is arrested for harming religious sensitivities," Arab-Israeli MP Ahmad Tibi said, urging police to immediately release Jamal, who was detained on Monday.
"Police caved in to pressure from the fascist right which demanded his arrest, demonstrating it is a Jewish, racist and idiotic police," Tibi told AFP.
"I wonder if the Israeli government will in future arrest Jews who eat or drink in mixed cities during Ramadan," he said in reference to the holiest month in Islam when most Muslims fast from dawn to dusk.
Jamal appeared on Sunday before parliament’s Interior Committee and apologized, saying he had "just wanted to get home".
"If what I did caused this, I am ready to sacrifice my neck right here on this table… just to return peace and quiet back to the city of Acre, to bring coexistence back to its place," he said.
At least three people were injured during the clashes that broke out when Jamal drove through a Jewish neighborhood.
A group of Jewish youths assaulted him, accusing him of deliberately making noise and disrupting the sanctity of Yom Kippur.
Hundreds of rioters then took to the streets, damaging around 100 cars and 40 shops, according to police.
On the ensuing four nights, Jewish and Arab rioters clashed with each other as Jews called for "death to Arabs" and Arabs chanted "Allahu Akbar."
Arabs with Israeli citizenship, the descendants of those who remained in the Jewish state after the 1948 war that followed its creation, make up around 20 percent of the Israeli population.
(Alarabiya.net and Agencies)