Israel's Arabs: Enemies within? : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Wednesday, 11 October, 2000, 00:08 GMT 01:08 UK Israel's Arabs: Enemies within?

By BBC News Online's Martin Asser Far from the Intifada front line, with its established rituals of stone-throwing and sudden, violent death, a new and possibly more ominous phenomenon for Israel has reared its head.

First blood has been drawn between between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs (the Palestinians who did not flee their homes when Israel was established in 1948).

Until last week the two communities had coexisted with little of the rancour characterising other Arab-Israeli relationships.

I call on all Israeli citizens to refrain from violence Ehud Barak But now, battles rage night after night between Arab and Jewish civilians in Galilee and in mixed towns on the Mediterranean coast.

On Monday, a Jewish mob, chanting "Death to the Arabs", burned tyres and attacked Arab properties in Tel Aviv. There are reports of Arabs being stabbed in Bat Yam, riots in Acre.

Fifth column

For the Israeli Government, whose rhetoric has always been focused on ending the violence in the Palestinian territories, scotching this new phenomenon has become a priority.

"I call on all Israeli citizens to refrain from violence," Prime Minister Ehud Barak said in special televised appeal to shore up Jewish-Arab coexistence within Israel's 1948 borders.

He went on to say that the Arab minority - making up about 20% of Israel's population - deserved special protection under the Jewish rule, as the Jews were "a nation that experienced much suffering as a minority".

Arabs fear for life and property from vengence of Jewish mob Of course Mr Barak's solicitude towards this minority reflects a long-held Israeli anxiety that the Arab minority might become "Palestinianised" and eventually prove to be a fifth column.

While it has been mostly able to contain Palestinian unrest inside the occupied territories, the last thing Israel needed was to have to face another front in its own heartlands.

Not that that stopped successive Israeli Governments from neglecting Arab interests and excluding Arabs from the economic and social benefits meted out to Jews.

But now they are facing a wave of Arab Israeli protest, a reaction to historic prejudices and inequalities experienced in the Jewish state, as well as feelings of solidarity with their brethren under military occupation.

Ugly attacks

Jewish Israelis may have been shocked by banner of revolt being raised by "our Arabs", but there were no reports of Jew-on-Arab violence - in the civilian populations - until last Saturday.

The trigger for Jews may have been the abandonment by Israeli forces of a controversial Jewish shrine in the West Bank town of Nablus, and its subsequent ransaking by angry Palestinians.

Their first target was an abandoned mosque in Tiberias; after that came the most serious clashes, in Nazareth on Sunday night, when two Arabs were killed by Jewish mob, possibly right under the noses of the security forces.

Meanwhile, in the occupied territories Palestinians and Jewish settlers were also exchanging tit-for-tat acts of brutality.

The most shocking attack appears to have been on Issam Hamad, whose body, partially burnt and bearing signs of torture, was found dumped near Ramallah in the West Bank on Monday.

On the other side, a US-born settler, Hillel Lieberman - a distant cousin of Senator Joe Lieberman - was found shot dead in cave near Nablus.

Mr Hamad's murder seems to have been the latest in a long and ugly history of attacks by settlers against innocent Palestinians - the murder of people like Mr Lieberman is far less common.

But whatever the outcome of diplomatic efforts to end the violence, the memory of recent events will be a hurdle for peaceful coexistance for a long time in the future.

-- Martin Thompson (, October 10, 2000

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