The Yom Kippur Acre riots. The Orr Report.

Israeli politicians of all different stripes are moronically calling the moronic riots in Acre on Yom Kippur a pogrom. Accounts in Ha’aretz and the Jerusalem Post.

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.

JTA – Akko riots expose Arab-Jewish tinderbox [PDF]

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.

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9 thoughts on “The Yom Kippur Acre riots. The Orr Report.

  1. Regarding the problems in Akko (oddly hitting the English press world by the medieval French Crusader name of “Acre”). I know Akko well, live nearby, and have been mingling freely and without fear with Akko and Galilee Arabs for a very long time.

    1. Many older Arabs in Akko can and do speak out against violence. The generational divide is getting more significant. The elders can aggree and disagree without violence. Youth, the world over, is showing an alarming trend toward instant reaction, feelins-based decisions, no forethought, and hardly any selfless compassion.

    2. English-language Israeli newspapers are not anywhere enough of a resource for knowing what really goes on here. Nor are often atypical liberal Israelis, even if their voice is legitimate as, well, their own voice and not the voice of all Israel.

    3. The West, meaning the US and the EC, fomented a lot of the problems here by pushing the PLO on the Arabs here. You’ll never hear on mainstream western news just how many Arabs in Gaza, Judea, and Samaria have been beaten, murdered, robbed and degraded by the PLO and their gunmen. Same for Hamas. How many anti-Hamas demonstrations by Gaza Arabs agaist firing rockets into Israel have you scene on the Bebe?

    I sense that many outsiders see the riots in Akko and think, “Oh, those Jews certainly hate those Arabs.” Which is about as true as saying that all Englishmen hate blacks or Asians, or all Scots hate blacks, Asians AND Englishmen.

    I live here. I’ve had friends murdered by terrorist. I have IDF soldier friends who have cried holding dying Arabs in their arms. It really is immensely more complicated that the liberals or conservatives in the Euro-American West will admit to. I do charge Arab leadership with far too much advocay of violence and destruction toward Jews. But I do not condemn Arabs in general for their horrid leadership.

    (And I suppose many think Makhmoud Ahbass is a “moderate”? Listen to him in Arabic some time…)

    All told–Arabs and Jews here, on the average, do far less villifying of each other than the right and the left do in the West. Selective reportage is really doing a number on both Jews and Arabs. Meanwhile, the Western media needs to worry more about the serious erosion of civil liberties in the US, UK and elsewhere, and the continuing concentration of political and economic power in the hands of a very small elite. Now that’s a h-ll of a lot bigger story than the Akko riots!

  2. Thanks Natanel. Clearly the reporting that we get about Israelis and Palestinians in Britain creates the impression of violence. On top of this – and the reason many of us think about Israel at all – trade union members and NGOs have become vehicles for a campaign vilifying Israel (and incidentally Zionists – Jews) in language Hamas would be comfortable with to bring about a total boycott. These campaigns need to make out that Israeli Jews hate Arabs – it fits with the Zionism=Racism comparison which is currently being pushed by the OIC in the U.N.

    What I find interesting is that so many different external groups seem to have a personal stake in little Israel – anti-imperialists, Jewish anti-Zionists, pan-Arabists, pan-Islamists… The scrutiny is intense.

  3. The scrutiny is intense–you said it. Yet all nations examined under a dissecting microscope will be found wanting.

    The sad thing about the anti-Israeli NGOs is that many do a huge service to mankind, and in most of their activities are beyond reproach ..until they speak on Demonic Israel.

  4. Why is Israel the object of this Jekyll/Hyde treatment from NGOs?

    That’s a tough one to answer.

    As bad as racism is, being anti-Israeli/Jewish is worse. We aren’t a race, or even a single culture–we are

    A Faith,
    A Nationality, and
    A Land.

    We came back to life when everyone was satisfied that we were long dead. (Probably made them angry us doing that.) I suspect that it isn’t the Jew himself who has been scientifically observed, and then logically despised. We are too ordinary, too like everyone else. Israel at home, or Israel yet in the diaspora, is as much the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly as any other nation. We must represent something primal in the hater, something that defies the ordinary senses. The return to the Land of Israel has clearly intensified what was always there. (Think now that a little more than half of all Jews in the world live in Israel, and the trend is continuing apace.)

    I am sure that we will be at peace with our cousin Semites the Arabs (of whom I am usually very fond even when they pretend to hate me if the BBC or CNN cameras are running) long before the West, Russia, and China all sort out their burning desire to dominate the planet, and long before I figure out just why an NGO can feed a starving African infant with the right hand, while penning lies and distortions about Israel with the sinister appendage.

    Thanks for letting me have a word here.

  5. Somebody I heard speak the other day put it well – I’ve forgotten his formulation, but he said that antisemitism has never required Jews, only an idea of Jews. This certainly works in countries which are legally Jew-free like Saudi.

    Thing is, David, I don’t think there are many haters in my trade union or political party. But there is a worrying amount of antisemitism, mostly around the intense ‘criticism’ of Israel which is expressed in many of the same terms used to demonise Jews in the ’30s, the inexplicable readiness to single Zionism out as an unparalleled evil, the need to diminish or cancel out the Holocaust by comparing it to the Nakba, and the absolute confidence in attributing of all arguments to the contrary – particularly concerns about antisemitism – to “defending Israel”.

    The people pushing this stuff have a very high opinion of themselves as anti-racists indeed.

    Incidentally, I think you can leave off the Land part from your definition. It goes without saying these days. Just like England and Ireland. I hope too that the Palestinians get their Palestine some day soon.

    You are welcome – it’s not every day I get an Israeli in.

  6. Thanks.

    I have a friend in Bethlehem, which, while an ancient Jewish town with an Arabized Hebrew name (almost all Arab town names in historic Israel are Hebrew, and not Arabic, except Nablus which was named after Naples by Italian crusaders), is now in what is called the Palestinian Authority. We are both players and composers for the Highland bagpipe. His family runs the Scottish Centre on Nativity Street, off Manger Square. You can buy kilts and bagpipes right there. He’s a great guy, and he has composed a tune in my honour, and I have done the same for him. Very publically on the net he has addressed me, spoken of having no problem with Israelis. This is risky for a man of Bethlehem, where the Hamas gunmen roam. His family is Christian, and have been there for a long time. Bethlehem can quite legitimately be said a Christian Arab town. Now here’s the paradox which is understood by many Jews and Arabs here, but almost not at all in the West: My friend and I live in the same country physically. I call it Israel. He calls it Palestine. Is this a problem? To the Westerner, perhaps insurrmountable. We have conflicting realities. That is a simple fact which classic European negotiation diplomacy technique (good for Euro-American culture perhaps) cannot handle. Europeans and Americans have, historically, preferred negotiate only AFTER fighting to exhaustion, then shifting populations around, and establishing set boundry lines. Yusef and I handle it Semitic style by talking Scottish Highland bagpipes. Why not–the Union Jack came down for the last time in Israel as a piper from the Highland Light Infantry play.

    Yusef and I can occupy the same place at the same time and yet be in different places. Maybe we have more time/space portals open here in Israel than elsewhere. We certainly have a few more dimensions here. There are not two sides to the arguements, but rather eight or ten, or perhaps a hundred. Well-meaning liberals in the West–and I do mean well-meaning–are just not knowlegeable enough to pass great judgements on Israel or the Arabs.

    My friend’s town of Bethlehem, as said, is a Christian town. Or rather was. When the Palestinian Authority took over there, they annexed the Muslim villages around to Bethlehem, altering the Christian majority to Muslim in a fell swoop. Where are the NGOs to holler about Muslim atrocities against Christian Arabs?

    I guess all I am saying is that only Salvador Dali or God could have designed modern Israel. A million and a half Hebrew-speaking Arabs shouting “Nu?” and “Beseder!” into their mobile phones, and six and a half million Jews greating each other with “Ahalan!” and “Habibi!”. Here, many Arabs fight with Jews to defend Israel. In the West, many Jews fight with Arabs against Israel. Can I figure it all out? No. We Jews and Arabs often laugh together at the feeble, irrelevent American and EC “peace initiatives.” Everyone shudders with disgust when any American foreign secretary lands at Ben Gurion International to scold the little primitives. Yet Washington DC, East LA and Miami are far more violent, and have far more poverty and predjudice! Yes, there are real problems and predjudices here on all sides. But the prognosis, ultimately, is good. It’ll get worse before it gets better finally, but it will get better.

  7. Sorry for the delay David.

    I don’t wish to drag things away from this peaceful place but, I’m trying to figure out where you stand on solving the problem of the occupation, involving as it does heavy restrictions backed with the threat of violence, and which provides succour for some of the most domineering, contemptuous sections of Israeli society exploiting land beyond Israel in direct opposition to a peaceful resolution.

    I’m getting the impression that you support a single state, because you say “Yusef and I can occupy the same place at the same time and yet be in different places.” – but I can’t see how in fact it is possible to be in different places. There is infrastructure to build, healthcare to provide, elections to organise and so on. So this would, if it were a democratic state, be a state with an Arab character. If it is peopled with citizens of your temperament, I think it will be great. But I’m not so sure it would be. Care to share your thoughts?

  8. The western use of the word occupation, and the concept of Jews exploiting “non-Israeli” territory in Judea is not at all a clear or settled matter. And no, I am not interested in living in a state essentially Arab, or Chinese, or Welsh, or Bhutanese, though I may have no personal problem with people of those lands or cultures, and enjoy a visit. Multiple co-existent realities are a fact in many situations all over the planet, and I suspect that de facto arrangements are as real or tolerable as the ones declared to be official or legal by essentially self-appointed authorities.

    Statehood is a big word, and it gets treated like a Holy notion. The Syrians Arabs got their statehood. The Egyptian Arabs got their statehood. The Lebanese Arabs and Lebanese Christians (who were not Islamicized and therefore often claim a seperate, non-Arab identity) got their statehood. The Hashemite Bedouin from Arabia were given the lion’s share of the British Mandate of Trans-Jordan (river) Palestine, though modern Jordan is somewhere around 70 or 80% Palestinian Arab (and Jordan is not a democracy). So, since the fathers and grandfathers of today’s Palestinians self-identified as Syrians in 1948, and their current children self-identify as Palestinians, both modern Syria and Trans-Jordan Palestine already give the Palestinians a major reality on the ground.

    Actually, many Arabs from the 1948 tumult are totally absorbed into Syrian and Jordanian society. Egypt and Lebanon never cared for the Palestinians, and abuse them horribly by restricting them to camps and refugee status as a tool against Jews. Syria and Jordan have been amazingly open, although one mustn’t forget Arafat trying to take over Jordan, and King Hussein brutally crushing the Palestinians with a very high death toll, including women and children. Not to mention that his grandfather Abdullah took Judea and Samaria by force, though these territoties were mandated to be an independent Arab state in 1948, and made them a part of his Palestine on the eat side of the Jordan.

    Israel has only about 21% of Palestine, which it shares with over one million Arab Israeli citizens. The question is, then, what can be done for those in Gaza, Judea and Samaria. Gaza is easy. We’re out of there. Hamas is in control, and Egypt can open up its border to trade and exchange anytime. The Egyptians choose not to. Yet Israel gets blamed for not opening up borders to an openly hostile mini-state. Shades of the ancient Philistines! Meanwhile, unreported in the media Israel continues to supply a lot of goods and services to Gaza in spite of a vehemently hostile anti-Jewish terrorist (as in deliberately targeting civilians, schools and neighbourhoods include–which Israel does NOT do).

    So, Gaza is gone to Hamas. That leaves the Judea and Samaria Arabs yet. Israel is loath to simply let a Palestinian state happen, which then turns into a radical, violence-controlled Hamas state. We are a small people, and the Palestinians are a branch of Syrian and other Arab peoples, with a large population and a huge amount of land already. Irrelevent? In no way. But still, what of the human beings called Palestinians today?

    I am Torah Jew, and I can never see our return as evil, or as an occupation, or compassionate Torah Jews as contemptuous. The BBC/CNN/Amnesty International tec. selective and distorted use of information, and out right fiction like the Dura case, haunt us and make us into evil Jews. Yes, we definately have our baddies, and the western media rushes in to film them, ignoring utterly the real picture. I cannot help the problems in western thinking that are no naive, and so limited in depth. I can love the Arabs around me as my fellow human beings, help them, pray for them, and enjoy their company, and have no conflict with being a Biblical God-fearing Jew and a Biblical (not political) Zionist, and an ardent believer in the Covenant of the Land (which is an accepted Quranic idea, too). We cannot fix all the problems in the world, especially not some of the Mess left by the British or French Empires, or the endless self-serving meddling of the American or Russian Empires. All this high politics and diplomacy, and talk of statehood, is beside the point. We Jews are back in the Land of Israel. Soon the majority of all Jews will be here. The modern concept of state isn’t the “thing,” but rather being in our Land. I attribute that to Divine intervention, and I also attribute the commandment to love my fellow man, be he Arab or Jew, to that same God. I don’t know who Allah is, but the moment I see more Muslim Arabs able live (not just speak of) the brotherhood of all men, and that I am not the offspring of a pig and a monkey, they will find, in the House of Israel, the best and closest friends they could ever which for.

    “Statehood” is no solution to anything. Thus I am happy to meet Divine standards of humaneness, and care little for western political theory or preference. I prize an Arab as a child of God as much as my own Jewish people. He is dear to me, and precious in the eyes of God. Statehood is ephemeral, but I about statehood who knows?

    The idea of Jewish brutality and inhumaneness is so overstated that I refuse to even attempt defense anymore. When people in the west are as versed on all the quiet good deeds done anonymously and compassionatley by Jews for Arabs, and by Arabs for Jews, then they might have credibility to speak. Unlike a lot of westerners (true Biblical Christians excepted, few though they be in numbers), Arabs and Jews have an ethic about not talking up one’s acts of charity.

    Fortunatley our judge is God, and not Brussels or Washington or Moscow.

    Please take no offense at any of my words, as I have not in fact dealt with the statehood issue as might have been expected. But all this is reality where I live, and no theoretical cogitation, and I have to act in the real world.

    But I still believe that Arab-Jewish problems are being blown completely out of proportion to many other problems on this planet.

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