Motzei Shabbat (after Shabbat)
Acre, or Akko — an ancient Mediterranean port city in the north of Israel with a mixed Jewish and Arab population that has prided itself on coexistence — is currently in the midst of violence with most serious implications.
The violence — which started on Yom Kippur eve — began with a car driven at high speed by an Arab resident of the Old City of Acre through the main street of the Jewish Ben Gurion neighborhood with his radio blaring. In the solemnity of Yom Kippur, cars are simply not driven in Jewish neighborhoods here in Israel, and certainly not with radios blaring. Acre police say this was clearly a provocation.
According to the Post, when he was asked by local residents to leave, the man refused. And then what began as a verbal confrontation became more violent as Jewish residents began tossing things at the car. False rumors were then carried into the Arab Old City saying that Jews had killed the Arab, and a crowd of hundreds of Arabs marched into the Ben Gurion neighborhood saying “Kill the Jews” and Allah Allahu Akbar” [the traditional praise of Allah used when killing Jews], wielding axes and truncheons and smashing cars and store windows.
According to YNet, there are suggestions that this was a planned attack by Arabs, some of whom didn’t even live in Acre. This report indicates that the fasting Ben Gurion residents were unarmed — that the attack by the Arabs didn’t occur because the Arab driver was attacked by the Jewish crowd.
Police intervened that night to prevent severe Jewish – Arab clashes, for Jews had gathered in preparation for a response to the violence of the Arab mob. The city was actually shut down briefly.
Tonight, however, is the fourth consecutive night in which Arab-Jewish clashes have erupted. This time an Arab home was set on fire. The mayor of Acre, Shimon Lankry, says he is determined to handle this with a firm hand.
The mayor has brushed aside a conciliatory gesture made by the leaders of the Arab community of Acre. They have announced that they will be releasing a flier condemning the man’s drive through the Jewish neighborhood on Yom Kippur. What I noticed, however, is that it was to be in Hebrew and distributed in the Ben Gurion neighborhood. That is, it is designed to placate the Jews and not to advise the Arab community regarding appropriately respectful behavior.
From my vantage point, most serious is the statement by a spokesman from Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza: He said that the anger by “Jewish settlers” [settlers??] in Akko “should serve as a wake-up alarm to those who are betting on reaching peace with an occupation that rejects everything Palestinian or Arab.” He defined Acre — which is well within Green Line Israel — as having been occupied in 1948, and accused “extremist Jewish settlers [in Acre] of acts of terror that could be the start of the final phase of ethnic cleansing.”
This is an attempt by Jihadist Arabs to provoke Israeli Arabs to respond with hostility to Israel — to see Israel as the enemy — and it is something we are seeing with increasing frequency. This makes credible the claim that some of the Arab rioters that first night were not from Acre. The Jews were provoked and threatened on their holiest day and then their response is cited as evidence of “ethnic cleansing.”
It should not be taken lightly.
There have been two attempted stabbing attacks by Arabs in Hevron:
In one last night, a man at a checkpoint near the Machpelah (Tomb of the Patriarchs), when called on to submit to inspection of his package, then pulled out a knife and started to attack a border policeman. He was stopped.
Tonight something similar happened in the Jewish neighborhood of Hevron.
Egypt, which has been working on ways to heal the “rift” between Hamas and Fatah, has met with some tentative success — although I have no confidence that the factional tensions can be genuinely and permanently smoothed over. A Hamas delegation, headed by Musa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, met recently in Cairo with Egyptian Intelligence Chief Gen. Omar Suleiman. Abu Marzouk has now announced that Hamas will be meeting with Fatah before the end of the month. Next month the Egyptians hope to convene a conference with all the Palestinian factions.
“We want national unity,” said Abu Marzouk. The last unity government lasted just months.
Issues to be dealt with include: the status of the Palestinian government, reforming the PLO, reconstructing the Palestinian security forces, preparing for the next parliamentary and presidential elections and restoring the pre-June 2007 situation to the Gaza Strip.