Posted by: Lister | October 12, 2008

Acre Riots

Haaretz reports on injuries and the burning of houses:

[…] The riots initially erupted around midnight on Wednesday on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, when an Arab resident drove his car through a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, allegedly playing loud music in what Jewish residents called a deliberate provocation.

Much of Israel routinely shuts down for the Yom Kippur holiday, considered the holiest religious holiday in the Jewish faith. Most streets are empty, save for emergency vehicles.

The driver denied entering the neighborhood as a provocation, telling reporters he drove “slowly and carefully” to pick up his daughter from her fiance’s home.

A group of Jewish residents then proceeded to assault the driver, sparking large-scale riots that lasted well into Saturday.

Israeli Arab MK and Acre resident Abbas Zakour said Saturday that representatives of the Arab public were set to publicly renounce the acts of the man who drove into a Jewish neighborhood on Yom Kippur, “even if he didn’t intend to disrespect the Jews,” in efforts to end the clashes. Zakour added that the man should have thought of other ways to get home other than driving through a Jewish neighborhood.

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  1. The NYTimes:

    Usually at this time of year Acre, also known as Akko, on the coast north of Haifa, would be preparing for the Jewish-Arab alternative theater festival, an annual event that has helped turn this ancient port city into a national symbol of coexistence.

    Instead, the police were blocking the main entrances to the city and checking all incoming vehicles for potential troublemakers, and it was doubtful whether the festival, scheduled to start on Wednesday, would take place. A tense calm prevailed by day, but residents from both sides remained apprehensive about what might happen after dark.

    […] At the start of Sunday’s cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert, the departing prime minister, described the events in Acre as “very sad and worrying.”

    “There is a sense,” he said, “that very many Acre residents have become hostages to small groups of extremists — Jewish and Arab,” resulting in “violence, fanaticism and a loss of a sense of proportion.”

    On the incident with the Arab driver, who had his son with him in the car:

    They escaped, though the son received light wounds to his face. But a rumor spread through Acre’s Old City, where many of the town’s Arab residents live, that Tawfiq Jamal had been killed. According to witnesses from both sides, hundreds of masked Arab youths set out to take revenge.

    […] Though Jewish-Arab relations in the eastern district, as in the rest of Acre, have usually been civil, and in some cases have been warm, the different versions of the events of Yom Kippur underscored the depth of mistrust between the two sides.

    Jewish residents said that Mr. Jamal, the driver, had entered the neighborhood at high speed, playing music. Some even claimed that he had been paid to cause a disturbance.

    […] Some Arabs said tensions in the city had been stoked by a policy of Acre’s Jewish mayor, Shimon Lankry, that encouraged an influx of nationalist religious Jews and their rabbis into the city to establish seminaries there as a means of securing extra financing from the national government.

    Jewish nationalist provocateurs had distributed a leaflet, said Qassem Shaalabi, the Arab owner of a jewelry store in the Old City, calling for a boycott of Arab businesses. It described the Arabs as “sons of dogs,” he said.

    Ms. Yanai, who has lived next door to the Taisir family for 25 years, commiserated with them when she passed by on Sunday. She criticized the police.

    But she and other Jewish neighbors later justified the burning of the nearby Arab house.

    “If we stayed silent,” Ms. Yanai told a reporter after describing the Arab riot in the neighborhood, “in another day or two they would be inside our homes.”


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