Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

As Right-Wing Jews Attack Arab Citizens, Knesset Suspends Palestinian Lawmaker

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

As Right-Wing Jews Attack Arab Citizens, Knesset Suspends Palestinian Lawmaker

Article excerpt

Israel's large Palestinian minority faced an unprecedented backlash of incitement and violent reprisals as Israeli Jews rallied behind recent military operations in Gaza.

Human rights groups and political activists noted that statements from public figures urging war crimes and genocidal actions in Gaza helped to stoke an especially dangerous atmosphere for Israel's 1.6 million Palestinian citizens, who comprise a fifth of the population.

Palestinian citizens were accused of being "traitors" and a "fifth column" for criticizing Israeli operations in Gaza, in a surge of ethnic hatred by the Jewish majority not seen since the outbreak of the second intifada 14 years ago. Among the Jewish population, support for the attack on Gaza held at over 90 percent throughout, with most Israeli Jews disappointed that the army was not sent deeper into Gaza to rout Hamas.

"There has been an explosion of incitement against the Palestinian minority on Facebook and other social media," said Basel Ghattas, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament. "Pages calling for violence get tens of thousands of 'likes' overnight."

Jewish mobs had been patroling Jerusalem, Haifa and other cities with mixed populations looking for Palestinians to attack, and beating those participating in anti-war demonstrations, said Jafar Farah, director of Mossawa, an advocacy group for Arab citizens.

"These are no longer spontaneous or isolated attacks," he said. "The gangs of Jewish extremists are organized, well-funded and backed by a campaign of incitement from government officials."

Police, meanwhile, are reported to have arrested over the summer more than 1,500 protesters, many of them children and almost all of them Palestinians, in Israel and East Jerusalem.

Jerusalem has seen a wave of demonstrations since 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir was kidnapped by right-wing Jews and burned alive in early July. Reports suggest police have been using tactics violating Israeli law and more normally associated with the occupied West Bank: making night-time arrest raids to seize children and interrogating them without a parent being present.

Government ministers have been among those leading the campaign of anti-Arab incitement. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called for a boycott of Arab businesses after Palestinian communities staged a one-day general strike in July to protest the mounting carnage from Israel's Gaza operation, dubbed Protective Edge.

Reprisals by companies followed, with a flood of reports of Arab workers sacked or disciplined for posting comments on social media against the military offensive. Several universities also punished Palestinian students for making critical comments or celebrating the deaths of Israeli soldiers.

Tal Hassin, a lawyer for the Association for Civil Rights In Israel (ACRI), said there were numerous reports of sanctions being imposed. "Only Arab students have been punished," she pointed out, "even though the social forums are simmering with racist comments by Jewish students."

She said university staffappeared to be acting like "thought police."

In another worrying indication of the new mood, an Israeli court approved a protest in August by a Jewish anti-assimilation group, Lehava, at the wedding party of a Jewish and Arab couple. Morel Malka had converted to Islam to marry Mahmoud Mansour, as Israeli law forbids marriages between couples of different religions.

However, the celebration in the city of Rishon Letzion was marred by more than 200 right-wing Jews who shouted "Assimilation is a holocaust" and "Death to the leftists."

The liberal Haaretz newspaper editorialized: "The threats against them are the kind that would happen in a fanatical theocracy in the developing world-not in a Western democracy that Israel pretends to be."

Another lightning rod for growing intolerance has been Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset (see August 2010 Washington Report, p. …

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