Akko ri­ots get buried by credit crunch

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment&analysis -

Re­poRt­ing fRom the mid­dle east has be­come more scarce in the Bri­tish press in re­cent weeks, with the credit crunch and the Amer­i­can elec­tions tak­ing up the col­umn inches. But, not for the first time, the He­brew month of tishri has proved to be a pe­riod of ten­sion be­tween Jews and Arabs. the Yom Kip­pur War erupted on Ju­daism’s most solemn day in 1973 and it was an erev Rosh Hashanah walk on the tem­ple mount by Ariel Sharon that sparked the Sec­ond in­tifada in 2000. this year, while we were seek­ing news about our sav­ings, Akko (Acre), a city of 45,000 peo­ple where Jews and Arabs gen­er­ally co­habit peace­fully, was the scene of se­vere in­ter-com­mu­nal vi­o­lence.

UK press re­ports on th­ese trou­bles have largely been based on news agency ma­te­rial. James Hilder in The Times noted that it all be­gan “when an Arab man drove through a pre­dom­i­nately Jewish neigh­bour­hood play­ing his car stereo loudly, prompt­ing a group of Jewish youths to at­tack him for dis­turb­ing the sanc­tity of the Day of Atone­ment hol­i­day”.

Don­ald mac­in­tyre gave a fuller ac­count in The In­de­pen­dent un­der the head­ing, “the Arab driver, Yom Kip­pur and how a city was in­flamed”. this ap­peared on oc­to­ber 15, sev­eral days af­ter the ri­ots, and sought to re­con­struct the events. He de­scribed the ini­tial in­ci­dent and re­ported that the Arab driver’s son was slightly in­jured.

Ru­mour had spread that the driver, taw­fil Jamal, had been killed, which pro­voked re­tal­ia­tory at­tacks on Jewish prop­er­ties by hun­dreds of Arabs. Jewish shops and cars were at­tacked. three nights of vi­o­lence against Jewish tar­gets re­sulted in 64 ar­rests.

in a spi­ral of re­tal­i­a­tion, Jewish ri­ot­ers at­tacked Arab homes, from which the res­i­dents fled. mac­in­tyre quoted is­rael’s north­ern com­man­der of po­lice, gen­eral Shomon Koren, sug­gest­ing that Jewish “dom­i­nant el­e­ments” were the main in­sti­ga­tors of the ri­ot­ing. A mas­sive po­lice pres­ence has now been sta­tioned in Akko. The In­de­pen­dent ar­ti­cle as­cribes this to the rec­om­men­da­tions of the 2000 or Com­mis­sion in­quiry into sim­i­lar vi­o­lence in which 13 Arab demon­stra­tors died.

poignant on-the-ground re­port­ing by mac­in­tyre records how Akko’s Arabs and Jews nor­mally co-ex­ist quite hap­pily. He quotes one Arab woman as say­ing that she in­tended to re­turn to the Jewish neigh­bour­hood in which she lived de­spite a fire in their home. “i am not blam­ing every­one for what one per­son has done,” she says.

the ri­ots’ broader po­lit­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance was ex­am­ined by Jack Khoury in Ha’aretz. is­raeli Arab groups, he ar­gued, have sought to ex­ploit the events by claim­ing the events were “a pre­med­i­tated at­tempt at eth­nic cleans­ing”.

in Syria, the ri­ots were re­ported in the state-run Tishrin Daily as ev­i­dence “of the spread­ing of racism through is­raeli so­ci­ety”. But there also have been ef­forts to en­cour­age rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. the Akko the­atre fes­ti­val, which was ini­tially can­celled, is go­ing ahead, fea­tur­ing a play in which is­raeli Arab ac­tor mo­hammed Bakri ap­pears. the kib­butz move­ment erected a “peace suc­cah” in Akko’s old city area, invit­ing Jewish and Arab teens to visit.

Al­though the vi­o­lence re­ceived low me­dia cov­er­age for such events in the re­gion, The Tele­graph did com­ment that it drew at­ten­tion to the claims of hu­man rights groups that is­raeli Arabs “fre­quently suf­fer dis­crim­i­na­tion in the Jewish state”.

As for the driver whose loud ex­cur­sion pre­cip­i­tated the ri­ots, his ar­rest and sub­se­quent driv­ing ban was seen as heavy-handed by most com­men­ta­tors — though most also failed to ob­serve that, had not the is­raeli po­lice learned the lessons of the past, things could have been far worse. Alex Brummer is City Ed­i­tor of the Daily Mail

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