Experts discuss steps Israel must take to prevent future Arab violence

At the end of the Muslim month of Ramadan last May, which coincided with Israeli Jerusalem Day celebrating Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War in June 1967, intense Arab violence erupted in Jerusalem. This served as a catalyst for Hamas to fire rockets into Israel, some aimed at Jerusalem. Massive Arab violence soon followed in mixed Israeli towns where Jews and Arabs live as neighbors, including Lod, Akko, Jaffa and Ramle.

According to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), the riots included expressions of dangerous physical violence against Jews and Jewish property, attacks on state symbols, as well as verbal abuse and incitement against of the state, its identity, its citizens and its security.

Events in the Middle East are evolving rapidly and many other questions have occupied the minds of Israelis since then, but the question remains: where do Israeli Arabs fit into the State of Israel, and what what prevents them from committing further violence in the future? ?

The JCPA held an online conference on February 9 where it presented its latest research, titled “An In-Depth Analysis of the Driving Forces of the May 2021 Israeli Arab Riots.” The material analyzed in depth the factors that led to this wave of violence, its leaders and its participants.

Yossi Kuperwasser, director of the Middle East Regional Developments Project at the JCPA, wrote that “many Israeli Arabs see themselves as Palestinians…they fully embrace the Palestinian narrative. They deny the very existence of a Jewish people and their sovereign and historic connection to the Land of Israel. They expect that the Jews will eventually be forced to leave and…that the Palestinians will satisfy their demand for the “right of return” to their homes from which they have been temporarily moved to the nakba [‘catastrophe’] of 1948.”

Many Palestinians and some Israeli Arabs view the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 as a disaster. Hundreds of thousands of Arabs fled – many of their own accord or at the behest of Arab leaders – during Israel’s War of Independence. This event was preceded by the surrounding Arab countries’ rejection of UN Resolution 181 on partition, after which they attacked the nascent Jewish state in order to drive out or kill its Jewish residents.

According to Kuperwasser, the riots “revealed the intensity of the hostility of part of the Arab population in Israel towards the prevailing order in the state and, in practice, showed their animosity towards the very existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state”.

He warned that this tell-tale event could “indicate the potential for further, possibly even more severe flare-ups, given a volatile event that will ignite the fumes again.”

Kuperwasser also pointed to the violent Bedouin riots in January in response to tree planting in the Negev as a “signal of this dangerous potential.”

“While many Israeli Arabs did not participate in the violent riots, only a few spoke out against it. … Many Arab community leaders relied on fallacies to justify the violence,” he noted.

Kuperwasser said Israel should “ban the radical northern branch of the Islamic movement and ban the incitement activities of its former members.”

He added that it is “imperative to address those groups that work to delegitimize Israel with the vilification of carrying out apartheid practices against Israeli Arabs, thus fanning the flames.”

“A link with the state”

Journalist Nadav Shragai noted the widespread “concern and discourse” among Israeli Arabs regarding the nakba and “the hope of exercising the ‘right of return’ to the places where Arabs lived before 1948”.

He noted that many Arab Israelis identify as Palestinian, and that Arab members of the Knesset and public figures often state that they reside in “Palestine,” but not in Israel.

However, Shragai pointed out that “alongside these ‘Palestinian’ Israelis, there is also a large Arab audience in Israel who see themselves as Israeli and feel a connection to the state.”

According to Shragai, the general understanding among Jewish Israelis is that the real goal of the Arab call for the Palestinians’ “right of return” is “the destruction of the State of Israel.”

Veteran Palestinian affairs correspondent Pinhas Inbari urged Israel to “regain control of Arab areas within its borders, especially Bedouin localities”.

He said that “anyone who acts violently must be arrested and criminal proceedings opened against them. There is no alternative to the return of Israeli governance in all areas of the state.

“If and when the Arabs of East Jerusalem do start an intifada, it will create a very serious risk for the unity of Jerusalem,” he warned.

Inbari recommended that Israel “consider the creation of a national guard to deal with the problem of crime in Israel and the lack of governance in Israel”.

“A hostile attitude towards the Zionist movement”

Jonathan D. Halevi, a former IDF military intelligence officer specializing in the Middle East and radical Islam, shone the spotlight on the Joint List Party (Ra’am), which is currently part of the coalition in power, explaining how the ideologies of the party and its leader Mansour Abbas are potentially dangerous for Israel.

The Ra’am party charter, according to Halevi, “takes a fundamentally hostile stance toward the Zionist movement and the State of Israel, and views the implementation of the ‘right of return’ as the basis for achieving ‘peace “. ”

According to Halevi, Abbas “completely denies the significance of the Jewish religious connection to Jerusalem” and views the terrorist organization Hamas as a legitimate actor.

Halevi suggested that Abbas’ “pragmatism” veils his ulterior motive, which is to build “a more united Arab society under the flag of nationalism and Islam in order to pursue goals in the political arena”.

“These include supporting Palestinian organizations against Israel both politically and in the conflict itself, demanding a full Israeli withdrawal to the June 1967 lines” and demanding a right of return for millions of Palestinian “refugees”, “which means in practice the destruction of the State of Israel”, he wrote.

About Michael G. Walter

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