Israel finds peace at home more elusive after Hamas ceasefire
Tensions between Arabs and Jews in mixed Israeli towns continue to escalate, but some argue the cause is more criminal than nationalist
While a tenuous ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has taken place since the early hours of May 20, the Jewish state is finding the more elusive peace within between Jews and Arab Israelis.
In so-called mixed towns, such as Ramla and Haifa, violence between Arabs and Jews has peaked in the past two weeks with the arrest of 1,548 people. Most of those arrested, 85%, were Israeli Arabs.
Y., a self-proclaimed right-wing Jewish activist who spoke to The Media Line on condition of anonymity, participated in the unrest in central Israel after his car was damaged in the violence.
“I’m not going to sit down and let them hurt us and destroy everything,” he told The Media Line. “The Arabs don’t want peace with the Jews. They don’t want Israel to exist at all. “
While sectarian violence was sparked by the Gaza-Israel outbreak from May 10, some say the violence is less nationalistic and more the result of unchecked inter-Arab violence.
“The violence is triggered by the religious and ultranationalist sentiment of groups on the Arab side fueled by Hamas, which spreads anti-Jewish hatred. They appealed to the Arabs to attack random Jews, ”Arab Israeli activist Muhammad Zoabi told The Media Line. “What fuels it even more are the extremist Jewish groups that turn the situation into a confrontation between two different populations, doing a nationalist thing when it is mostly a criminal thing.
He argues that the vast majority of rioters in detention are people with troubled backgrounds and are not religious or nationalist ideologies.
Zoabi says the violence is part of a long-standing problem of illegal weapons and violence in the Arab-Israeli sector that has so far been ignored by police. They are interested now, he says, because it has an impact on the Jewish population.
“The government didn’t give as long as it was inside Arab communities, as long as it didn’t target Jews and turn into a national situation,” he said. “The indifference that the police have expressed towards this phenomenon in the Arab community is now turning against everyone: Arab-Arab violence has turned into Arab-Jewish violence.”
Zoabi says parts of Arab towns have become “no-go zones” for police, effectively rendering them lawless.
“What we saw in the streets of Lod, Ramla, Jaffa, is only the reflection of what different people see in different Arab communities in the country where the police are literally afraid to enter these different spaces”, did he declare. “If the government doesn’t collect the tens of thousands of illegal weapons from the Arab community and enforce the law, it will get worse.”
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In response, Commissioner Waseem Bader, police spokesperson for the Arab sector and media, told The Media Line in a written statement:
“Unfortunately, incidents of violence and shootings happen too often in Arab society in Israel, most of them in the context of internal conflicts that escalate into violence. … In the past year, under complicated circumstances, until the spread of COVID-19, the Israeli police have stepped up their activities against illegal weapons offenses in Arab communities and arrested more than 5,000 suspects in commission of shooting offenses and those related to illegal weapons.
In the meantime, mixed towns and villages are trying to restore peace. In Haifa, Israel’s most integrated large city, the local government has launched a solidarity campaign called “I have no other Haifa,” which features photos of Jewish and Arab professionals, such as teachers and leaders, working together.
“Our mayor, Einat Kalisch-Rotem… immediately made the decision, along with the police, to call for restraint, and met with the leaders of the three religions here in Haifa and they spoke to their own communities,” Gil Meller, deputy spokesman for the municipality of Haifa, told the Media Line.
“On every occasion, the mayor underscored the message that Haifa is a symbol of coexistence and that it always will be and always will be a beacon of reason. This represents a direction for a better future, ”he added. “In these times, we Jews and Arabs must be strong and act with responsibility and care.”
A Jewish-Arab football match was held in Lod on May 25 to promote coexistence.
Mayor Yair Revivo, according to a Hebrew press release, “called on all residents of the city to avoid violence, to choose dialogue, friendship and brotherhood and to promote good coexistence and good neighborliness. “. The Arab inhabitants of the city are “an integral part of Lod society” and “full partners … in the creation of the public space in which they live”.
Devorah L., a Jewish resident of Lod, hopes calm will be quickly restored.
“It’s not who we are,” she told The Media Line. “I love that it’s not ‘just’ a Jewish town; this is part of what makes Lod unique. “
“I think the majority of Arabs and Jews want peace,” she added. “It’s the extremists on both sides who are the real obstacle.”