The Arab man who is said to have triggered the whole thing is Tawfik Jamal. The young men attacked him on the pretext that his stereo was loud and he wouldn’t take it elsewhere, but why would we trust a bunch of thugs who attack a man on Yom Kippur? And if he was playing his music loud when he drove through the Jewish neighbourhood on the holiest day of the year and refused to leave, then he is an insulting arsehole who is responsible for harassment and provocation, but he shouldn’t be rioted over. However at this stage his acts are only alleged. In any case, driving on Yom Kippur is not against the law in Israel on Yom Kippur. Neither is being disrespectful of Jewish religious observance. (Israel is a far better place to live than Saudi and Iran, say, in this respect.)
The Jews who attacked Arabs and Arab property (assuming completely baselessly that Jamal was a nationalist provocateur and moreover, representative of the other Arabs in Acre, shouting “Death to Arabs”) are vicious hateful morons who need to be prosecuted and investigated for systematic harassment of Arab Israelis. The Arabs teens who – also on the basis of uncorroborated rumours – attacked Jews and Jewish property in response shouting “Allahu Akbar” are vicious hateful morons who need to be prosecuted.
There are also hints in the papers that it isn’t unusual for things like this to happen on high days and holy days over the years.
None died and only few were injured (included five police officers). Police in that part of the country work closely with the Co-Existence network, specifically The Abraham Fund – it’s their Community-Police initiative. I am sure this helped. However, I’m not sure there was a lot of talking going on – they got the tear gas and hoses out pretty early on to separate groups of rioters bent on doing each other damage.
And, although both Jews and Palestinians have collective memories of violent expulsion from their homes which may resonate at times like this, the MPs who called the violence a ‘pogrom’ are self-serving wreckers who encourage the far right and aggravate reactionaries, and don’t deserve their place on the Knesset.
I’d like to hear the views of the majority of Jews and Arabs in Acre who stayed home. In a nutshell, for Arab Israelis, “my state is at war with my nation”. This is the reason Arab Israelis are not compelled to serve in the army. It is a very difficult position to be in, even without the social exclusion and difficulties forging an identity in a Jewish state many experience on top of this. Yossi Beilin takes the opportunity to remind readers of Ha’aretz that the recommendations of the 860-page September 2003 Orr Report – the report (only available in Hebrew, English summation available) of the Orr Commission which investigated the thirteen Arab Israeli fatalities at the hands of police at the beginning of the Second Intifada – have not been acted upon. These recommendations, which were consolidated by the Lapid Report, included, according to Orr Committee member Shimon Shamir:
- A government authority for promoting minority sectors
- Budget allocation to address inequality
- Empowering Arab Israeli local government
- Master plans and local outline schemes for the planned expansion of Arab Israeli towns
- The allocation of land for this expansion
- Industrial development and employment schemes
- Proper representation in government and public services
- Improving education
- Improving the circumstances of the Bedouin
Another contributing factor touched on by Shimon Shamir is that Israeli Arabs haven’t been blessed with an abundance of good leaders, political or religious. There is resistance to mandatory civil service (in place of military service) and Islamist extremists who hope to end Israel’s existence, such as the Al Aksa Martyrs, have too easy a time.
However, it remains Israeli government own state-sanctioned commission has told the Israeli government what it can do to remove those causes of civil unrest among Arab Israelis which are within its control. Failure to act on its own findings will contribute to squawks like the Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel, to mutual distrust and, in certain constellations of circumstances, to riots.
Update 13th: According to a JTA release today (attached below) 60 people have been arrested but there is a hell of a lot of reconciliation work going on in Acre. Tawfik Jamal, the driver, attended a televised Knesset meeting where he said he had made a terrible error of judgement in driving his car to his home in the mostly-Jewish neighbourhood on the holy day. The release points out that the majority of the Arab leaders unequivocally condemned the violence and called for co-existence, and that this is particularly significant in a political time where Arab MKs are competing for an increasingly radicalised youth. Shimon Peres said that he was surprised by the willingness for dialogue on both sides.
Update 16th: Visualisation is very important for hope and for plans. OneVoice asked young Arab and Jewish Israelis in Acre to look to the future.