The Arab pogrom in Acre on Yom Kippur was yet another wake-up call. The 200 Israeli Arabs who shattered the windshields of 110 Jewish cars, and burned and looted dozens of Jewish businesses in the city on the eve of Yom Kippur while shouting out, "Death to Jews!" "Allah Akbar!" and "We'll kill you if you leave your homes!" couldn't have made their point any more clearly.
They don't like Jews. They don't want peaceful coexistence with Israel. They don't recognize the authority of Israel's laws. They don't accept their identity as Israeli citizens.
If the actual violence wasn't enough to clarify matters, then we have the invitations for the Arab theater festival that began on Thursday, and its program.
Acre's Arab leaders decided to organize their festival in response to Mayor Shimon Lancry's decision to postpone indefinitely Acre's annual Alternative Theater Festival. Fearing continued violence, Lancry opted over the weekend to postpone the annual event that was scheduled to take place this week.
The Arabs called their festival, "Acre Is Not Alone." In the invitations distributed to the Arab residents of the city, the organizers wrote: "We will not surrender to the emergency laws that were enacted after the settlers' [that is, the Jewish residents of the city's] attacks. The settlers are trying to enact an ethnic cleansing of the eastern neighborhoods of the city. We call on Acre's Arab residents to come to the Old City and break the siege that has been enacted against the merchants there. We are organizing these activities to preserve the importance of Acre as a center of Palestinian tourism, culture, history and geography."
So in short, "Acre is not Alone" has been organized to raise Arab awareness of Arab suffering at the hands of the Jews in Israel. Its main attractions include a movie that portrays the Arab riots in October 2000 from the perspective of the families of the Arab rioters killed by police trying to quell their violence against Jews; a one-man play fulminating on the victimization of Arabs in Israel and the Palestinian Authority by Jews; and an "artistic" narration of the plight of an Arab who left Acre in 1948 as a result of Jewish "aggression," and died in a UN camp in Lebanon.
It is important to pause for a moment and set out as precisely as possible what happened in Acre on the eve of Yom Kippur and the following night, after the holiday ended.
On Wednesday night, when as is customary, after prayers ended Jews milled about in the streets that were empty of moving cars out of respect for the holiday, Acre resident Jamal Tawfik drove into the city's predominantly Jewish Ben-Gurion neighborhood. Jewish residents claim that Tawfik was driving at high speed with his windows down and music blasting out of his speakers, in a clear provocation of the Jews. Tawfik denied the allegations.
By all accounts, some Jewish youth approached his car. Some accounts claim that a handful of teenagers hit the sides of his car. Some accounts claim that some teenagers pelted his car with stones. All accounts agree that he exited his vehicle unscathed.
Just after this altercation, a still-unidentified Arab in the Old City broadcast that a Jewish mob had murdered Tawfik via the loudspeakers of a mosque. More than 200 Arab residents then descended on the Ben-Gurion neighborhood with axes and knives. They shattered the windshields of some 110 Jewish-owned cars. They then moved into the business district and looted and vandalized the Jewish-owned stores and businesses. Despite multiple calls for help from terrified Jews, it took the police several hours to appear on the scene. And when they arrived, they did nothing to end the Arab rampage.
The next evening, after the holiday ended, the Jewish residents started a spontaneous protest against the Arab riot. Arab rioters returned.
This time, the police, equipped with riot gear, succeeded in separating the Arabs from the Jews. A group of Jewish protesters, demanding revenge, torched a handful of Arab-owned apartments in mixed neighborhoods. The Arabs continued looting Jewish businesses and attacking Jewish cars. Police arrested rioters on both sides.
In the days that followed, Arab leaders published condemnations of violence "on both sides," and asked Jewish leaders to join them in their statements. Most Jewish leaders in the city refused. As Acre's Chief Rabbi Yoseph Yashar told a reporter, "As long as they speak of the Arab rioters from the eve of Yom Kippur in the same breath as the acts of vengeance carried out by Jews in response, it will be very hard to calm matters down."
On the national political level, Kadima and Labor party leaders have embraced the Arabs' moral equivalence. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and their subordinates have all decried "acts of violence" and "lawlessness," while refraining from making any special mention of the fact that the violence was carried out almost entirely by Acre's Arabs.
Olmert went further than his colleagues. During a meeting with anti-Israel activists from the Arab sector, including the deputy head of the Hamas-linked northern branch of the Israeli Islamic Movement on Monday, Olmert claimed, "There can be no doubt that for years the Arab population has suffered from discrimination that stemmed from a variety of sources."
By making the statement to some of the most extreme anti-Israel voices in Israeli Arab society, Olmert seemingly justified the lawlessness of their followers.
The police have reacted to the Arab violence with now customary passivity. Decrying the police's belated and feckless response to Wednesday night's violence, Likud MK Yuval Steinitz minced no words: "The public security minister [Avi Dichter] and the chief of police [David Cohen] must resign. The State of Israel has become the only country in the Western world where pogroms are carried out against Jews. Physical assaults are carried out against them and against their property amid calls of 'Death to the Jews.' A police force that is incapable of defending Jewish neighborhoods requires a serious overhaul."
WHILE STARTLING, the events in Acre – and the official response to them – are not new phenomena. Last Yom Kippur, an Arab driver from Shibli in the Galilee mortally wounded nine-year-old Tal Zino from neighboring Kfar Tavor. The driver entered the community at top speed on his all-terrain vehicle. Children playing outside the synagogue ran to evade him. Tal couldn't get out of his way fast enough. He ran her over.
As Tal's mother, Haya Zino, told Ma'ariv last Friday, that incident was the first attack against Jews carried out by an Arab operating a heavy motor vehicle. In her view, the more recent murders of Jews in Jerusalem by Arab bulldozer operators are simply a continuation of the attack on Kfar Tavor that killed her daughter.
Two years ago, an Arab mob in Acre violently attacked yeshiva students dancing in the streets on Simhat Torah. The students were forced to flee to their yeshiva, where the Arabs then besieged them. Rather than disperse the crowd, the police simply helped the students escape to their homes through the yeshiva's backdoor.
And in the riots in Peki'in in October 2007, the police refused to confront the Arab mob that attacked the Jewish homes in the village. They allowed a policewoman to be held hostage for several hours and essentially begged anti-Israeli local leaders to intervene on her behalf.
THE EVER-INCREASING radicalism of Israeli Arabs, who today openly and officially oppose the existence of the Jewish state, shows the imbecility of the government's plan to "separate" from the Palestinians by withdrawing from Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.
Given that Israeli Arabs and Pal
estinian Arabs openly identify themselves as one society, there is no way to separate from the Palestinians.
But the fact that Israeli Arabs are indistinguishable from Palestinian Arabs does not mean that there is no way to contend with their rejection of Israel. To the contrary, it points to the only way to contend with both the Palestinian Arab and the Israeli Arab rejection of Israel: By reestablishing law and order and respect for the law both within the 1949 armistice lines and in the areas Israel took control of in 1967.
Here, it is worth pointing out that in their rejection of the authority of Israel, the Israeli Arab rioters in Acre are little different from the French Muslim rioters who set their country ablaze in November 2005. In both cases, the rioters demonstrated their abject contempt and rejection of the state in which they live, at the same time that their governments were doing everything in their power to appease them as a suffering minority.
Responding to the violence, French voters elected President Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy campaigned on a law and order platform. Sadly, since taking office, he has done little to abide by his campaign pledges in this regard.
In Israel's case, no political leaders have made the connection between law and order and Israeli Arab or Palestinian Arab irredentism. Indeed, since the Arab riots in 2000, Israel has simply stopped enforcing its laws in the Arab sector. This is true not only with regard to violent crimes and treason, but also in relation to lesser offenses. For instance, polygamy is illegal in Israel. Yet, over the past decade, the prevalence of polygamy among Israeli Beduin has grown to unprecedented levels.
Last spring the government announced its intention to contend with the issue by forming committees and support groups for children of polygamous marriages and women who are involved in these illegal relationships. No thought was given to the obvious remedy of arresting the polygamous husbands and trying them for their crimes.
And this gets to the heart of the matter. While no doubt, historically, Israel has witnessed discrimination against members of its Arab sector, today, the chief form of discrimination they suffer is what US President George W. Bush has referred to as "the soft bigotry of low expectations." This of course causes both Israeli Jews and Arabs to feel contempt for the law and so increases the tendency of both Jews and Arabs to take the law into their own hands.
But more important, the pro-Arab discrimination of Israel's political and law enforcement arms has facilitated the radicalization of Arab Israeli society. Far from appeasing them, Israel has shown them that they are right to reject its authority. And their rejection of Israel – like their Palestinian Arab brethren's rejection of Israel – only increases as Israel seeks to appease them.
By opting not to assert its authority over Arabs in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, by refraining from punishing their lawlessness and aggression against Jews, and even rewarding it, Israel guarantees that yet more dangerous attacks will soon follow.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.