THROUGHOUT ITS thousands of years of history,
Even according to the mythological story of
the Bible, the Israelites did not conquer the city, which was already an
ancient port. The first chapter of the Book of Judges, which contradicts much
of the description given in the Book of Joshua, states unequivocally:
"Neither did [the tribe of] Asher drive out the inhabitants of
Only a few of the world's cities can boast
such a stormy and checkered history as Akko (Akka in Arabic,
During some of these periods, there existed in
In the 1948 war,
This is the background of last week's events
For years the town was covered by a thin blanket of hypocrisy. Everybody praised and celebrated the wonderful co-existence there. Until the blanket was torn, and the naked truth was exposed.
I AM a very secular person. I have always advocated a complete separation between state and religion, even in the days when that sounded like a crazy idea. But it has never entered my mind to drive on Yom Kippur. There is no law forbidding it, no law is necessary.
For a traditional Jew, Yom Kippur is a day like no other. Even if one does not really believe that on this day God makes the final decision about the life or death of every human being for the next year and writes it all down in a large book, one senses that one has to respect the feelings of those who do believe. I would not drive on Yom Kippur in a Jewish neighborhood, just as I would not eat in public during Ramadan in an Arab neighborhood.
It is difficult to know what the Arab driver Tawfiq Jamal was thinking of when he entered a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in his car on Yom Kippur. It is reasonable to assume that he did not do it out of malice, as a provocation, but rather out of stupidity or carelessness.
The reaction was predictable. An angry Jewish crowd chased him into an Arab house and besieged him there. In a distant Arab neighborhood the loudspeakers of the mosques blared out that Arabs had been killed and that an Arab was in mortal danger. Excited Arab youngsters tried to reach the house of the besieged Arab family but were blocked by the police. They gave vent to their feelings by wrecking Jewish shops and cars. Jewish youths, reinforced by members of the extreme right, burned down the homes of Arab inhabitants, who became refugees in their own town. In a few minutes, 60 years of "co-existence" were wiped out - proof that in the "mixed" town there is no real co-existence, only two communities who hate each other's guts.
IT IS easy to understand this hatred. As in
other "mixed" towns, indeed as in the whole of
The Arab citizens are the victims of a vicious
circle. They live in crowded towns and neighborhoods that have turned into
neglected ghettos. When the standard of living of the inhabitants rises, there
is a desperate demand for a better environment and better housing. Young
couples leave the neglected and underfunded Arab
neighborhoods and move into Jewish areas, something that immediately arouses
opposition and resentment. The same has happened to Afro-Americans in the
All the talk about equality, good neighborliness and co-existence goes up in smoke when Arab families live in a hostile Jewish environment. Reasons are always to be found, and the incursion of Tawfiq Jamal was only an especially grievous example.
Such a situation can be found in many places
on earth. Religious, nationalistic, ethnic or community sensitivities can
explode at any time. It took a hundred years after the emancipation of the
slaves in the
In these respects,
JEAN-PAUL SARTRE said that each of us contains a little racist. The only difference is between those who recognize and try to overcome him and those who give in to him.
As chance would have it, I spent Yom Kippur,
while the riots were shaking
Racism can be overcome, or at least reined in,
but that needs conscious, systematic and consistent treatment. In
In this country the racism is, of course,
connected with the national conflict which has been going on already for five
The Jewish extreme right, including the hard core of the settlers, does not hide its intention of driving out all the Arabs and turning the entire country into a purely Jewish state. Meaning: ethnic cleansing. It looks like the dream of a small minority, but public opinion research shows that this tendency is gnawing at a much wider public, even if only in a half-conscious way, hidden and denied.
In the Arab community, there are probably some who dream about the good old days, before the Jews came to this country and took it by force.
When Jews carry out a pogrom in
THERE IS reasonable hope that at some future
time we shall end the national conflict and reach a peaceful solution that both
peoples will accept (if only because there is no alternative.) A Palestinian
state will come into being side by side with
But peace, based on two states living side by
side, will not automatically solve the problem of the Arab citizens in
The extreme rightist Avigdor
Liberman has proposed that the Arab villages on the
Israeli side of the Green Line should be attached to the Palestinian state, in
return for the Jewish settlement blocs beyond the Green Line that would be
Why? The million and a half Arab citizens in
The Jews who dream of ethnic cleansing do not
understand how large a contribution the Arab community makes to
There are many questions that have to be recognized
and discussed, and from which conclusions must be drawn. Is it desirable or not
desirable, at this stage, for Arabs to live in Jewish neighborhoods and Jews in
Arab neighborhoods? How can the Arab
neighborhoods be elevated economically to the level of
Jewish neighborhoods, in practice and not only in talk? Should every Jewish
child learn Arabic and every Arab child learn Hebrew, as the mayor of
Actually, there is no alternative: the