Joseph’s Tomb torched ahead of Palestinian ‘day of rage’


Palestinian rioters set fire to the compound of the Tomb of Joseph near Nablus.

Flames engulfed the tomb, a Jewish holy site in the West Bank that is under control of Palestinian Authority policemen, early Friday morning. Several hundred people gathered outside the site and a few individuals hurled firebombs over its fence, Army Radio reported.

No one was hurt in the incident, which ended after Palestinian policemen dispersed the crowd. Footage showed extensive damage to the tomb’s dome and to its perimeter fence, which was knocked over.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority’s president, said in a statement that the arson was “wrong, obscene and irresponsible.” He added that the Palestinian Authority will restore the site and investigate the incident. The tomb was also set on fire during the second intifada in 2000,

Palestinian Authority police and fire brigades arrived at the scene and extinguished the flames, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported.

The riot occurred shortly after Hamas leaders in Gaza called for “a day of rage” on Friday against Israel — a term that is often used to describe shooting or the hurling of stones and firebombs at Israelis at various locales in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Israeli officials harshly condemned the arson, which the Israeli foreign ministry’s director, Dore Gold, said was “reminiscent of the actions of radical Islamists from Afghanistan to Libya.” He added the incident showed the Palestinians could not be trusted to control religious holy sites.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely called the attack anti-Semitic.

The culprits, she said, “are targeting sites holy to the Jewish People, that show our deep attachment, which goes back millennia, to the Land of Israel.”

Two Palestinians killed during Gaza border riot


Israeli troops shot and killed two Palestinian men during riots in the Gaza Strip near the border with Israel.

The first fatality, identified in Palestinian media reports as Yihiah Farakhat, 20, was shot in the head in the north of the Gaza Strip near the Erz Crossing, the Maan news agency reported Friday. Separately, 18-year-old Mahmoud Lamidah was killed in confrontations near the Gaza neighborhood of Sajaiya.

A spokesperson from the Israel Defende Forces said that hundreds of Palestinians gathered near the border fence and breached the buffer zone, throwing rocks and burning tires. “The threat of infiltration was posing a direct threat to communities nearby,” the spokesperson was quoted by Maan as saying, with Israeli forces using riot dispersal means and firing at “main instigators.”

She said the army was aware of reported injuries to Palestinians.

At least 98 Palestinians were wounded during the demonstrations, according to Maan.

Clashes also broke out east of the al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, with Israeli forces firing tear gas at demonstrators, who set fire to tires.

Demonstrations were reported near the Erez and Nahal Oz crossings in the northern Gaza Strip, as thousands of Palestinians marched following the declaration of a “day of rage” against Israel by the Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups.

Protests set off from different mosques following Friday prayers, calling for an escalation against Israel.

Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas official, called upon all factions to take part in the “intifada against Israel.”

The leader of Islamic Jihad, Khalid al-Batsh, said the movement would remain “ready to strike the enemy.”

Two Palestinian teens killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers


Two Palestinian teens were killed during clashes with the Israeli military.

Abdel Rahman Abdullah, 13, was killed Monday afternoon during a clash between Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers in the Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem, by a bullet to his chest.

The Israel Defense Forces said on Tuesday that the teen was shot in error as soldiers attempted to quell a riot. The Hebrew-language news website Ynet cited an unnamed senior IDF officer as saying the soldier had aimed his gun at another teen standing nearby who was leading the riot and that the bullet had hit the ground and ricocheted into the boy’s chest.

A Palestinian teen, 18, was killed early Monday morning during a riot in Tulkarem in the West Bank.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been injured during riots and in clashes with Israeli security services, according to Palestinian reports.

Abbas tries to lower tensions with Israel


This article originally appeared on The Media Line.

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas took steps to tamp down growing attacks on Israelis in both the West Bank and Jerusalem, telling a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) that he does not want violent conflict with Israel.

“We tell them (the Israelis) that we do not want either military or security escalation,” Abbas said at the PLO meeting. “All our instructions to our (security) agencies, our factions and our youth have been that we do not want escalation.”

He spoke as heavy clashes broke out in several areas of the West Bank following the funeral of a 13-year-old boy killed by Israeli fire yesterday. Palestinians say he was shot in the chest on his way home from school, while Israeli military officials said he threw stones at soldiers. More than 1200 Palestinians came to the funeral, and Bethlehem held a general strike.

Dozens of Palestinians were wounded in the clashes throughout the West Bank, and at least one Palestinian was reported critically injured in Beit Hanina, a northern neighborhood of Jerusalem. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police are working hard to ensure calm.

“There are 3500 police officers in and around the Old City of Jerusalem,” Rosenfeld told The Media Line. “They are deployed to prevent any terrorist attacks or riots by Palestinians.”

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that Israel will install security cameras at all junctions in the West Bank, both on the ground and in the air to combat a rising surge of terrorism.

“We decided today to enact a major plan to employ cameras at all junctions in the West Bank both on the ground and in the air, with connections to the operations room,” Netanyahu said at the end of a tour of the area where a husband and wife were shot to death in a car, while their four children who were in the back seat escaped unharmed. “This is an important element of restoring security and foiling terrorist attacks.”

In addition to Naama and Eitam Henkin (a US citizen), two other Israelis were killed in Jerusalem’s Old City. In that attack, Adele Lavi, whose husband was killed, said she had cried for help after she was stabbed but Palestinian shopkeepers refused to help her, and even laughed at her.

“I asked that their stores be shuttered and they be brought to justice,” Netanyahu said.

Tensions are running high among both Palestinians and Israelis. Palestinians were furious about the killing of 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh and his mother in an arson attack, believed to be committed by extremist Israelis. There have been no arrests in the case. They are also seething over what they see as Israel’s efforts to change the status quo at a Jerusalem site that is holy to Jews and Muslims, by encouraging more extremist Jews to visit the site.

“Palestinians have entered the stage of an overall popular uprising,” Mustafa Barghouti, the head of the Palestine National Initiative told The Media Line. “What is happening in Jerusalem and the shooting which targeted radical Jewish settlers (Eitam and Naama Henkin) was a normal response after the Israeli government shed too much blood.”

He said that Palestinians have grown frustrated at the lack of a diplomatic initiative and have decided to respond with violence.

But other Palestinian officials said that it is too early to call what is currently happening an “intifada”, or uprising, similar to the first intifada which began in late 1987, or the second intifada of 2000- 2005/

“The most important guarantee for the success of this reaction is the immediate formation of a unified national leadership, as was done in the first intifada,” Wasel abu Yusuf Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Front told The Media Line.

On the Israeli side, thousands demonstrated against Netanyahu, saying that he has failed to ensure security in Israel. Israelis say that driving on the roads, especially in the West Bank, has become increasingly dangerous.

Erica Marom, a journalist, lives in the West Bank community of Tekoa. Last week, in the middle of the day, she was driving home from her parents’ house in another community called Efrat, when her car was hit with large stones, shattering the rear window. She was slightly injured from a shard of glass that embedded itself in her leg, and her children, although covered with glass, were unharmed.

“We’re still quite shaken up,” she told The Media Line. “It was a traumatic experience for everyone in the family to be a victim of what I have to call an attempted murder. As a mother, I can’t let go of the idea that the Henkin family (the parents killed while their children were in the back seat) could have been my husband and children, and it was a miracle that it wasn’t.”

She said that Netanyahu must do more to make Israelis feel safe. She said her six-year-old son, the oldest in the car, was especially affected.

“He knows that it was children on their way home from school who carried out the attack,” she said. “He can’t understand why a kid would want to hurt him and try to kill him.”

Four Israelis injured in riots following couple’s killing in West Bank


An Israeli police officer, three Jewish settlers and two Palestinians were injured in riots and clashes in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

A Palestinian rioter hit the officer from the Israel Police’s Border Police division in his head on Friday, Army Radio reported, during confrontations near the Lions’ Gate in Jerusalem.

Earlier on Friday, two Israelis sustained minor injuries when Palestinians hurled stones at them near the West Bank settlement of Ofra. Separately, a young Israeli woman was lightly wounded in a similar incident at the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar.

According to the Palestinian Ma’an news agency, a Palestinian man was injured on Friday as settlers opened fire at a junction south of Bethlehem. Walid Khalid Qawwar, 35, from the town of Aida was moderately injured, Ma’an reported based on a paramedic’s account.

The incidents occurred after the slaying on Thursday evening of two Israelis, Na’ama and Eitam Henkin, near Itamar in the West Bank. Thousands attended their funeral, including Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

The president said settlement construction in the West Bank would continue. “We didn’t build because of terror, and we won’t stop building because of it,” he remarked.

Before the killings, a Palestinian man identified by Ma’an as Samih Ali Abed Sabah, 28, was injured in the thigh from shots fired at him by Border Police officers near the West Bank village of Tuqu. He sustained minor to moderate injuries.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon ordered the deployment of four infantry battalions around West Bank Jewish sites following the killings.

Hundreds of Palestinians riot following Israeli raid in West Bank


An Israeli soldier was wounded, possibly by friendly fire, during clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians following an Israeli raid in the West Bank city of Jenin.

Israeli soldiers, as well as officers from the Shin Bet security service officers and Israel Police, came to Jenin early Tuesday morning to arrest a senior Hamas operative, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. Security forces surrounded the home where the alleged operative was hiding, ultimately demolishing it when the wanted man refused to come out.

Following the arrest, hundreds of Palestinians rioted in the area, throwing rocks and firebombs, according to the IDF, leading to the injury of the soldier as well as at least five Palestinians.

The IDF is investigating the circumstances surrounding the shooting of the soldier.

Hours after the arrest, rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, triggering the Code Red warning in towns on the ssouthern border. The rockets landed in Gaza territory, however.

A group affiliated with the Islamic State claimed responsibility for firing two rockets at Israel, saying it was in retaliation for the Jenin raid, Ynet reported.

Stumbling into Riots


Last Sunday night in Tel Aviv, where I live, I had a 40-minute glimpse into what it’s like to feel like an outsider, like a rejected member of society. I wasn’t given a chance to explain myself, to answer questions, to say, “No I’m just passing through, I’m not looking for violence.” I was simply one of “them”—one of the thousands of Ethiopian-Israelis protesting against discrimination and police violence. I thought: “But I’m not really part of this! I’m different! I’m just an observer!”

I should have realized that once I was on the scene, I would lose any privilege of being simply an “observer.”

Who cares that I had just stumbled onto these riots? That I had decided to walk to my friend’s house to pick up a toothbrush, and, on my way home, had walked right into the main square in Tel Aviv where the riots had migrated? At first, innocent me, I thought it was just a wild party, one of those spontaneous happenings you often see in Tel Aviv. I heard the sound of fireworks and pulled out my camera, thinking I might record something interesting. I’ve been studying film and communications at IDC Herzliya for three years, so pulling out my camera has become an instinct. 

But I quickly realized these were not fireworks—they were stun grenades fired by police. And the people were not party people, they were protesters running away from the stun grenades. Now the people and the police were running towards me. I tried to escape the mob and retreat to my “observer” status, but it was too late. I was now part of the mob. We were all part of the mob.

At one point the police drove what I can only describe as monstrous riot controlling vehicles sporting nozzles releasing foam with the water pressure of a fire truck hose. The crowd began panicking, running in different directions, trying to dodge the foam. Amid the panic, I met a young Ethiopian girl that helped me run away from a stun grenade heading towards my feet. She looked at me and said, “This is Israel, can you believe it?” I didn’t know what to say to her. I was raised to love and admire Israel deeply, to defend Israel come hell or high water. We both kept running and eventually lost ourselves in the crowd.

I made it home safely but I was still shaken. I thought again about the girl’s question: “This is Israel, can you believe it?”

Well, what can I believe? That Israel needs to make good with its Ethiopian population and other minorities, and fight racism and discrimination with all our might? That’s for sure. That Israel is full of problems, like poverty and the high cost of living, that need immediate attention? That’s for sure, too.

But there’s something else I’ve come to believe about Israel. It’s hard to be an observer here. It’s hard to stay on the sidelines. You may think you’re just walking through, that you’re not “one of them,” that you are somehow privileged, but in the end, you get sucked in. You end up joining the mob, becoming a participant. Even when I go film something as innocent as a rave party in the desert, I can’t just be an observer. I become one of them.

I’m not sure what you call this phenomenon. Maybe I’ll just call it Israel.

Shanni Suissa was born and raised in Los Angeles, and is graduating this year from IDC Herzliya in Israel, where there is never a dull moment.

Ethiopian-Israelis, police clash in Tel Aviv during demonstration


A demonstration in Tel Aviv by thousands protesting police brutality against Ethiopian-Israelis degenerated into violence.

As evening fell on Sunday, protesters in Rabin Square threw bottles at mounted police and clashed with officers. At least 41 police officers and demonstrators were injured; several protesters were detained by police.

Police used anti-riot measures including stun grenades, water cannons and tear gas to halt the violence. Protesters overturned a police car, sparking a fire, according to reports.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a call Sunday evening for calm and the restoration of order.

“All claims will be looked into but there is no place for violence and such disturbances,” he said in a statement.

The rioting began hours after what started as a peaceful rally.

Chanting “Every violent policeman needs to be put away” and “Whether black or white, we’re all people,” the Ethiopian-Israelis and their supporters launched their protest in the afternoon at the Azrieli Center, a central mall and office complex. They then filled the adjacent major intersection, blocking traffic, before moving on to Route 2 and the Ayalon highway, two major roads.

The rally followed a Thursday night demonstration in Jerusalem that also turned violent. Separate beatings of two Ethiopian-Israelis by Israeli law enforcement, both filmed, spurred the protests. One of the victims is a soldier.

At Sunday’s demonstration, the protesters held signs reading “Being black is not a crime” and “We demand a fair and just society.” Some waved Israeli flags. Throughout the protest, people crossed their hands above their heads, as if being arrested.

Several Israeli lawmakers joined the demonstrators, including Arab Joint List head Ayman Odeh and party member Dov Khenin, as well as Stav Shaffir of the Zionist Union Party and former Yesh Atid lawmaker Pnina Tamano-Shata, the first female Ethiopian lawmaker.

Earlier Sunday, the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv sent a message to American citizens in Israel to avoid the area of the demonstration due to the violent nature of the Jerusalem rally.

“This demonstration has the potential of drawing large crowds. A similar protest held in Jerusalem on Thursday lasted several hours and turned violent, resulting in injuries, arrests, and property damage. We advise US citizens to avoid the area and to monitor local media for updates,” the embassy message said.

The rally came as the Prime Minister’s Office announced that Netanyahu will convene a discussion with Ethiopian community representatives and planned a meeting with Damas Pakada, the soldier who was filmed being beaten last week by two policemen.

Israel Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino and representatives of several government ministries and the Union of Local Authorities are also scheduled to attend the meeting.

Baltimore begins clean-up after riot over police-custody death


Baltimore residents on Tuesday began to clear the wreckage of rioting and fires that erupted after the funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died in police custody, while the city's mayor defended local law enforcement's light initial response.

Acrid smoke hung over streets where violence broke out just blocks from Freddie Gray's funeral and spread through much of the poor West Baltimore neighborhood. Nineteen buildings and 144 vehicles were set on fire, and 202 people were arrested, according to the mayor's office.

Police said 15 officers were injured, six seriously, in Monday's unrest, which spread throughout the city as police initially looked on but did not interfere as rioters torched vehicles and later businesses.

Looters had ransacked stores, pharmacies and a shopping mall and clashed with police in riot gear in the most violent unrest in the United States since Ferguson, Missouri, was torn by gunshots and arson in late 2014.

Gray's death gave new energy to the public outcry that flared last year after police killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, New York City and elsewhere.

“It's a very delicate balancing act, when we have to make sure that we're managing but not increasing and escalating the problem,” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told reporters on Tuesday.

Police in Ferguson came under intense criticism last year for quickly adopting a militarized posture, using armored vehicles, showing heavy weapons and deploying tear gas in a forceful response that some said escalated tensions in the St. Louis suburb.

New York's police department took a more flexible approach in protests later in the year, monitoring marches that crisscrossed the city but largely averting the kind of violence seen in Ferguson and Baltimore.

For nearly a week after Gray died from a spinal injury on April 19, protests in Baltimore had been peaceful.

'HERE TO HELP OUT, MAN'

On Tuesday, volunteers in Baltimore swept up charred debris in front of a CVS pharmacy as dozens of police officers in riot gear stood by and firefighters worked to damp down the embers.

“I'm just here to help out, man,” said Shaun Boyd, 30, as he swept up broken glass. “It's the city I'm from.”

National Guard troops on Tuesday began to stage around the city, including in front of the police station where officers were bringing Gray at the time he was injured.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, declared a state of emergency on Monday and Rawlings-Blake, a Democrat, imposed a one-week curfew in the largely black city starting Tuesday night, with exceptions for work and medical emergencies.

Baltimore-based fund manager T. Rowe Price Group Inc said it would close its downtown office on Tuesday. Legg Mason, also headquartered downtown, said its office would be open, but it was encouraging employees to work from home.

Schools were closed on Tuesday in the city of 620,000 people, 40 miles (64 km) from the nation's capital.

A day after rioters hit a mall in West Baltimore, the Security Square Mall outside the city closed after reports that protesters could be targeting it.

“When you see the destruction you've also got to realize there's pain, there's pain behind a lot of this,” said U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, a Democrat who represents the region hit by the rioting.

The mayor, he said, should “assure us that the police department be looked at from top to bottom, everything from parking tickets straight up to indictments for murder.”

CAUGHT OFF-GUARD

Gray was arrested on April 12 while running from officers. He was transported to the police station in a van, with no seat restraint and suffered the spinal injury that led to his death a week later. A lawyer for Gray's family says his spine was 80 percent severed at the neck while in custody.

Six officers have been suspended, and the U.S. Justice Department is investigating possible civil rights violations.

Much of Monday's rioting occurred in a neighborhood where more than a third of families live in poverty. Parts of it had not been rebuilt since the 1968 rioting that swept across the United States after the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Deadly confrontations between mostly white U.S. police and black men, and the subsequent unrest, will be among the challenges facing U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who was sworn in on Monday and condemned the “senseless acts of violence.”

In 1992, more than 50 people in Los Angeles were killed in violence set off by the acquittal of four police officers who beat black motorist Rodney King. Dozens died in 1968 riots.

Rashid Khan, 49, and his neighbors were cleaning up his King's Grocery Mart on Tuesday after looters caused what he estimated at $20,000 to $30,000 in damage.

Khan said he believed people from outside the neighborhood had caused the damage.

“Neighborhood protect me,” Khan said. 

More than 400 arrested as Ferguson protests spread to other U.S. cities


National Guard troops and police aimed to head off a third night of violence on Wednesday in Ferguson, Missouri, as more than 400 people have been arrested in the St. Louis suburb and around the United States in unrest after a white policeman was cleared in the killing of an unarmed black teenager.

There have been protests in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta and other cities decrying Monday's grand jury decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in a case that has touched off a debate about race relations in the United States.

Ferguson, a predominately black city, has been hit by two nights of rioting, looting and arson with some businesses burned to the ground, but authorities say an increased security presence on Tuesday night helped quell the violence.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has deployed about 2,200 National Guard troops in and around Ferguson. Police made 45 arrests in Ferguson in the Tuesday night protests, down from 61 in aftermath of Monday's grand jury decision.

“The ramped up presence and action of the Missouri National Guard has been helpful,” Nixon said on Wednesday after facing criticism for not deploying enough guardsman in the hours after the grand jury's decision.

Tensions between police and black Americans have simmered for decades, with many blacks feeling the U.S. legal system and law enforcement authorities do not treat them fairly. In Washington, President Barack Obama has tried to keep a lid on anger that has spilled over to other cities and garnered international attention.

Obama remained cautious in his comments in the immediate aftermath of the Ferguson shooting, but has been more expansive in recent days including remarks at the White House after the grand jury's decision. On Monday he said deep distrust exists between police and minorities and that “communities of color aren't just making these problems up.”

Russia on Wednesday pointed to rioting in Ferguson and the other protests across the United States as evidence that Moscow's detractors in Washington were hypocrites and in no position to lecture Russia on human rights.

St. Louis police said three people were arrested at a protest near City Hall on Wednesday in which activists staged a mock trial of Wilson, who told the grand jury he shot Brown because he feared for his life.

Ferguson's mayor, James Knowles, is white, as are most of its city council members. A 2013 state attorney general's report found more than 85 percent of motorists pulled over in the city are black, and the arrest rate among blacks is twice the rate among white residents.

'SAD FACT'

Obama's Justice Department is probing the Ferguson shooting as it considers whether to bring federal civil rights charges against the officer and the police department.

“The sad fact is that it brings up issues that we've been struggling with in this country for a long, long time,” said Matthew Green, an associate professor of politics at the Catholic University of America.

“These are not problems and issues that are going to get resolved by one president in the remainder of his term.”

Wilson said his conscience was clear. He told ABC News that there was nothing he could have done differently that would have prevented Brown's death. But the parents of the slain teenager said they did not accept the officer's version of the events.

“I don't believe a word of it,” Brown's mother Lesley McSpadden told “CBS This Morning” on Wednesday.

The crowds in Ferguson were smaller and more controlled than on Monday, when about a dozen businesses were torched and others were looted amid rock-throwing and sporadic gunfire from protesters and volleys of tear gas fired by police. More than 60 people were arrested then.

“Generally, it was a much better night,” St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters on Wednesday, adding there was little arson or gunfire, and that lawlessness was confined to a relatively small group.

A Conoco gas station and convenience store in Ferguson has escaped looters with armed, black local residents guarding the white-owned store.

Protests over the Ferguson decision in several major cities on Tuesday night shut highways and led to some arrests.

Police in Boston said on Wednesday that 45 people were arrested in protests overnight that drew more than a thousand demonstrators. In Dallas, seven were arrested for blocking traffic on Interstate 35, a major north-south U.S. roadway.

In New York, where police used pepper spray to control the crowd after protesters tried to block the Lincoln Tunnel and Triborough Bridge, 10 demonstrators were arrested, police said.

Protesters in Los Angeles threw water bottles and other objects at officers outside city police headquarters and later obstructed both sides of a downtown freeway with makeshift roadblocks and debris, authorities said.

Palestinian bus driver found hanged in his vehicle in Jerusalem


Riots broke out in eastern Jerusalem following the discovery of a Palestinian bus driver hanged in his bus at a Jerusalem bus terminal.

The body of Egged driver Yusuf Hassan al-Ramouni, 32, was discovered late Sunday night. His family claims he was killed by “settlers.”

An autopsy Monday at the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv found that the death was not criminally related, Israel Police said. The body was returned to the family.

However, a Palestinian pathologist said in a separate report that there were signs of violence on his body.

Closed circuit cameras on the bus could provide some insight into the circumstances of the hanging.

Al-Ramouni’s brother, Louy, told Reuters that he saw marks on his brother’s body that indicate he was killed.

Riots began Sunday night and continued into Monday in several eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods, including the Arab and Jewish neighborhood of Abu-Tor, where Ramouni lived with his wife and two young children. Several Palestinian bus drivers reportedly did not show up for work on Monday in apparent protest of the incident.

 

Temple Mount closed following Palestinian rioting, later reopened


The Temple Mount was closed to visitors following rioting by Palestinians there but was reopened later in the day.

One Palestinian man was wounded in the rioting on Wednesday morning by a sponge-tipped bullet fired by Israeli forces.

The security forces, who were pelted with rocks and firecrackers, pushed the rioters into the Al-Aksa Mosque on the site, from where they had launched their attack using stockpiles of makeshift weapons stored there.

A Palestinian manager of the mosque told Reuters that Israel Police officers entered the mosque itself, which the police deny.

Arab-Israeli lawmaker Hanin Zoabi, who has been suspended from the Knesset for six months over statements she made, among other things encouraging Palestinian “popular resistance,” challenged police after being refused entry to the site that is holy to both Muslims and Jews.

“Someone did this to you, decades ago. Remember that? Somebody did rule over you and screwed you over decades ago. You did not learn the lesson,” she reportedly yelled at police.

Zoabi and several other Arab-Israeli lawmakers who had been prevented from entering the Temple Mount were allowed to continue to the site later on Wednesday when it was reopened to worshipers and to the public.

Several hours after the Temple Mount rioting, a Hamas-affiliated Palestinian man from eastern Jerusalem slammed his car into crowds waiting at a light rail stop and a bus stop in Jerusalem in what is being considered a terrorist attack. One person was killed and more than a dozen people were injured.

The driver then exited his car and began hitting people around him with a crowbar until police shot and killed him.

Jordan on Wednesday recalled its ambassador to Israel “to protest against the unprecedented and escalated Israeli aggressions at the Al Haram Al Sharif compound in occupied Jerusalem, and its repeated violations in the holy city,” according to Petra, the official state news agency.

Clashes erupt as Israeli police kill Palestinian suspected of shooting Jewish far-rightist


Israeli police on Thursday shot dead a 32-year-old Palestinian man suspected of having tried hours earlier to kill a far-right Jewish activist, leading to fierce clashes in East Jerusalem and fears of a new Palestinian uprising.

The Al-Aqsa compound, or Temple Mount, which is a central cause of the latest violence, was shut down to all visitors as a security precaution. It was the first full closure of the site, venerated by both Jews and Muslims, in 14 years.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced Israel's actions as “tantamount to a declaration of war” and his Fatah party called for a “day of rage” on Friday. It was not clear if Al Aqsa would be opened to Muslims on their holy day.

Moataz Hejazi's body lay in blood among satellite dishes and a solar panel on the rooftop of a three-storey house in Abu Tor, a district of Arab East Jerusalem, as Israeli forces sealed off the area and repelled stone-throwing Palestinian protesters.

Hejazi was suspected of shooting and wounding Yehuda Glick, a far-right religious activist who has led a campaign for Jews to be allowed to pray at the Al-Aqsa compound.

Glick, a U.S.-born settler, was shot as he left a conference at the Menachem Begin Heritage Centre in Jerusalem late on Wednesday. His assailant escaped on the back of a motorcycle. A spokesman for the center said Hejazi had worked at a restaurant there. Glick, 48, remains in serious but stable condition with four gunshot wounds, doctors said.

Residents said hundreds of Israeli police were involved in the pre-dawn search for Hejazi. He was tracked down to his family home in the hilly backstreets of Abu Tor and eventually cornered on the terrace of an adjacent building.

“Anti-terrorist police units surrounded a house in the Abu Tor neighborhood to arrest a suspect in the attempted assassination of Yehuda Glick,” Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. “Immediately upon arrival they were shot at. They returned fire and shot and killed the suspect.”

Locals identified the man as Hejazi, who was released from an Israeli prison in 2012 after serving 11 years. Israeli police fired stun grenades to keep back groups of angry residents, who shouted abuse as they watched from surrounding balconies.

One Abu Tor resident, an elderly Arab man with a walking stick who declined to be named, described Hejazi as a troublemaker and said “he should have been shot 10 years ago”. Others said he was a good son from a respectable family.

“They are good people, he does nothing wrong,” said Niveen, a young woman who declined to give her family name.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad, two militant groups, praised the shooting of Glick and mourned Hejazi's death.

RELIGIOUS TENSIONS

East Jerusalem, which Israel captured and occupied in the 1967 Middle East war, has been a source of intense friction in recent months, especially around Silwan, which sits in the shadow of the Old City and Al-Aqsa.

Jewish settler organizations have acquired more than two dozen buildings in Silwan over the years, including nine in the past three months, and moved settler families into them, an effort to make the district more Jewish. Around 500 settlers now live among approximately 40,000 Palestinians residents.

The influx of settlers combined with tension over the site, Islam's third-holiest shrine and the holiest place in Judaism, have contributed to the most fractious atmosphere in East Jerusalem since the second Intifada or uprising began in 2000.

On Thursday, crowds of young Palestinian men and boys blocked off streets near where Hejazi was killed with rubbish skips and lit fires. They smashed tiles and bricks and used the pieces to throw at Israeli police, masking their faces with bandannas or pulling hooded tops around their heads.

Police responded with tear gas, scattering the crowd. Clashes continued for hours after Hejazi was killed.

“It is not a good situation, it is the worst, everyone is angry,” said Galib Abu Nejmeh, 65, who wandered down the rock-strewn street dressed in a smart brown suit and tie.

“It is becoming like another Intifada,” he said, comparing it to the scenes in East Jerusalem in the late 1980s, when Palestinians first rose up against Israeli occupation.

After Glick was shot, far-right Jewish groups urged supporters to march on Al-Aqsa on Thursday morning. That prompted Israeli police to shut access to the site to everyone – Muslims, Jews and all tourists.

Glick and his backers, including Moshe Feiglin, a far-right member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, are determined to change the status quo that has governed Al-Aqsa since Israel seized the walled Old City in 1967.

Those rules state that Jordan's religious authorities are responsible for administering Al-Aqsa and that while Jews may visit the marble-and-stone esplanade, which includes the 7th century golden Dome of the Rock, they cannot pray there.

Glick and his supporters argue that Jews should have the right to pray at their holiest site, where two ancient Jewish temples once stood, even though the Israeli rabbinate says the Torah forbids it and many Jews consider it unacceptable.

Tel Aviv postpones class trips to Jerusalem in wake of rioting


Tel Aviv schools have postponed class trips to Jerusalem in the wake of a terror attack in Jerusalem and rioting in the city.

A trip for most Tel Aviv schools planned for this week for 7th-and 8th-grade students has been postponed, according to reports. The trip was to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem to mark the students’ bar mitzvahs.

“Due to the security situation in Jerusalem, we received notice from the Municipality of Tel Aviv, the initiator and organizer of the tours, to cancel the trip scheduled for Tuesday. We have not yet been informed if there will be a trip later in the year when things calm down,” a statement sent to parents of seventh graders in one of Tel Aviv’s schools read, the Times of Israel reported.

Tel Aviv city officials said trips to parts of Jerusalem not involved in the current rioting and violence would go forward.

Jerusalem officials said in a statement that canceling trips would “reward those who are disturbing the peace,” according to the Times of Israel.

Neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem have been the scene of Palestinian rioting for the last three days, following the death of a Palestinian teenager who was killed Friday evening by Israeli troops in the West Bank village of Silwad, near Ramallah, as he was allegedly preparing to throw a firebomb at traffic on Route 60. On Oct. 22, a Palestinian man from the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan drove his car into a light rail stop in eastern Jerusalem,  killing a 3-month-old Jewish girl who was a U.S. citizen and injuring at least seven others.

 

Five Palestinians killed in West Bank violence


Five Palestinians were killed in the West Bank on Friday in shootings involving both Israeli forces and a civilian who appeared to be a Jewish settler, medics and witnesses said.

Three Palestinians were killed during clashes between Israeli forces shooting live bullets and protesters throwing stones near the flashpoint city of Hebron.

In a separate incident near another protest against the ongoing conflict in Gaza, witnesses said a person in a car believed to be a settler shot dead one man and wounded three others near the city of Nablus.

The victims were walking along a main street used by both Palestinians and settlers.

Clashes between Israeli border police and Palestinian youths throwing petrol bombs and fireworks escalated. A Reuters photographer witnessed the forces shoot and kill another man.

Israeli forces also shot and wounded two protesters and a local journalist approaching a military checkpoint near a settlement beside the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The Israeli police said it was investigating the violence.

The clashes follow the killing of a Palestinian north of Jerusalem during a thousands-strong protest which was one of the largest since a Palestinian uprising which ended in 2005.

Palestinian fury has mounted after 822 Palestinians – mostly civilians, according to Palestinian medics – have been killed in nearly three weeks of cross-border fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza. The United States and regional powers are urgently seeking a truce.

More riots erupt in eastern Jerusalem over youth’s slaying


Israeli police prevented dozens of Palestinian rioters from breaking through a gate into Jerusalem’s Temple Mount compound in violence connected to the slaying of a Palestinian youth.

The attempt to break into the compound through the Old City Chain Gate was one of a number of violent clashes on Friday between police and Palestinians expressing outrage over the murder of a Palestinian boy earlier this week, Army Radio reported.

The 16-year-old boy, Muhammed Abu Khieder, was abducted from his eastern Jerusalem neighborhood in what police suspect may have been a reprisal by Jewish extremists for the June 12 abduction and murders of three Israeli youths in the West Bank. Abu Kheider’s burnt body was found outside Jerusalem.

His funeral is scheduled for Friday. Police are looking into his death and upped security in Jerusalem in anticipation of riots before and after the funeral.

In addition to the Chain Gate incident, clashes occurred also near Ma’aleh Hazeitim, a Jewish neighborhood bordering on the Arab neighborhood of Ras al-Amud. A large riot involving hundreds of Arabs happened at Wadi al-Joz, another Arab neighborhood of east Jerusalem.

Additional incidents happened near Ramallah, where Palestinians hurled firebombs and stones at Israeli troops in three locations. Eight Palestinians were wounded when the Israeli soldiers fired back at the rioters, Haaretz reported.

The clashes occurred amid reports that Hamas and Israel were nearing an understanding that would end the exchange of fire between Gaza, where militants fired dozens of rockets at Israel over the past week, and Israel, which retaliated with aerial strikes on Hamas targets in the Strip.

But during a tour of Sderot, an Israeli city that is regularly targeted with rockets by Hamas and other Palestinian groups, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said that declaring a ceasefire would be “a serious mistake, ”according to Army Radio.

“We do not accept the approach of appeasing Hamas,” he said. “We do not accept a situation where Hamas dictates the sequence of events — they decide when to escalate, when to deescalate, controlling the flames, initiating when we only react.”

Police arrest at least eight suspected rioters in Jerusalem, Hebron


Israeli security forces arrested at least eight Palestinians in riots in southern Jerusalem and in the West Bank.

Near Armon Hanatsiv, a Jewish neighbourhood in eastern Jerusalem, Palestinians on Friday hurled stones at Israeli vehicles, hitting four cars. No one was hurt and police dispersed the protesters.

South of Armon Hanatsiv, dozens staged a rally near Beit Safafa, a village split between the western and eastern sectors of the city. The demonstrators were protesting the construction of a new road leading to West Bank settlements. Police arrested eight people there, according to Army Radio.

Palestinians hurled rocks in Hebron, Bili’in and Beituniya. In Hebron, the stones hit the home of a settler family but no one was hurt.

The riots in Bili’in broke out after a march attended by Palestinian Salam Fayyad marking “eight years of resistance” to the security barrier which Israel has erected in the West Bank.

Egyptians clash with police near U.S. embassy


Egyptians angry at a film they said was blasphemous to Islam clashed on Friday in Cairo for a third day with police who blocked the way to the U.S. embassy, where demonstrators climbed the walls and tore down the American flag earlier this week.

“God is Greatest” and “There is no god but God”, one group near the front of the clashes chanted, as police in riot gear fired teargas and threw stones in a street leading from Tahrir Square to the embassy nearby.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in streets near the mission, pelting police with stones. State media had earlier said 224 people were injured in clashes that erupted on Wednesday, after Tuesday's breach of the embassy.

Elsewhere, thousands of others joined peaceful protests after Friday prayers in Tahrir and outside mosques in Cairo and other cities, responding to a call by the Muslim Brotherhood, the group that propelled President Mohamed Mursi to power.

Many Muslims regard any depiction of the Prophet Mohammad as blasphemous and the film that portrayed him as a womanizer and religious fake has provoked outrage across the Middle East and led to the storming of several U.S. missions in the region.

Mursi, an Islamist and Egypt's first freely elected leader, has to strike a delicate balance, fulfilling a pledge to protect the embassy of a major aid donor but also delivering a robust line against the film to satisfy his Islamist backers.

Mursi repeated on Friday his condemnation of the film, rejection of violence and promise to protect diplomatic missions in comments in Italy, the second stop of a trip to Europe.

On Thursday, he said he asked U.S. President Barack Obama to act against those seeking to harm relations. His cabinet said Washington was not to blame for the film but urged the United States to take legal action against those insulting religion.

Washington says it has nothing to do with the film but cannot curb the constitutional right to free speech.

The United States has a large embassy in Cairo, partly because of a vast aid program that began after Egypt signed a peace deal with Israel in 1979. Washington gives $1.3 billion in aid each year to the army plus additional funds to Egypt.

“Before the police, we were attacked by Obama, and his government, and the Coptic Christians living abroad,” shouted one protester wearing a robe and long beard favored by some ultra-orthodox Muslims, speaking close to the police cordon.

FRIDAY PRAYERS

Egypt's Coptic Orthodox church has condemned what it said were Copts abroad who had financed the film. Many Copts worry about the rise of Islamists and fret about any action that could stoke tensions between the two communities.

Two Islamist preachers in Egypt told worshippers on Friday those who made the movie deserved to die under sharia, Islamic law, but said diplomats and police should not be targeted.

Although this could be taken by some Muslims as an edict to take the law into their hands, many Egyptians believe only the prestigious Al-Azhar mosque has the authority to issue decrees. An al-Azhar preacher said protests should be peaceful.

One banner held aloft by demonstrators read: “It is the duty of all Muslims and Christians to kill Morris Sadek and Sam Bacile and everyone who participated in the film.”

The two people named are both linked to the film. Sadek, a Copt living in the United States, told Reuters this week he promoted the film to highlight discrimination against Christians who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 83 million people.

Police retreated during Friday behind a wall of concrete blocks cutting off the short route to the fortress-like U.S. embassy from Tahrir, the cauldron of the uprising against Hosni Mubarak and location for countless demonstrations since then.

A burnt out car was overturned and windows of a bank were smashed. Hundreds of protesters gathered to throw stones over the wall after some police retreated behind it and then clashed with police on another road on the banks of the Nile, where there are alternative routes to the embassy.

OPPOSITION TO VIOLENCE

“They are protecting the embassy. We want to enter the embassy and pull down the flag and kick out the ambassador,” said Alaa el-Din Yehia, 25, an unemployed graduate.

The violence has angered many Egyptians. One image circulating on Facebook showed a burnt out car accompanied by the words: “People go to defend the Prophet with petrol bombs and religious insults to the police. They don't pray at noon or in the afternoon. Who are they?”

Though some demonstrators clashing with police near the embassy wore clothes favored by ultra-orthodox Islamists, most were young men or youths in jeans and T-shirts. Some made it clear they did not back Mursi or have Islamist sentiments.

“Mursi is protecting them and attacking us, he should allow us in,” said Mohamed Mustafa, 20, a ceramics worker who voted for a liberal rival of Mursi's in the presidential election.

Washington, a close ally of Egypt under Mubarak, has long been wary of Islamists, only formally opening contacts with the Brotherhood last year, several months after Mubarak's fall.

Al-Masry Al-Youm highlighted comments Obama made to a Spanish-language network saying Egypt was neither an enemy nor an ally, underlining the changing ties. “America: Egypt is no longer an ally,” the newspaper wrote in a front page headline.

Additional reporting by Marwa Awad and Mohamed Abdellah; Editing by Alison Williams

Los Angeles riots commemoration events


WED | APRIL 25

“TWILIGHT LOS ANGELES: A COMMUNTIY CONVERSATION”
Actor, playwright and social critic Anna Deavere Smith offers a rare glimpse into the violent upheaval of the L.A. Riots. In addition to performing excerpts from her Tony-nominated one-woman play, “Twilight: Los Angeles,” Smith discusses the artistic process of looking at a critical issue from multiple perspectives as a way to open up dialogue. Presented by Facing History and Ourselves and The Allstate Foundation. Wed. 7-9 p.m. Free. Robert F. Kennedy Community High School, Cocoanut Grove Theater, 701 S. Catalina St., Los Angeles. (213) 202-2811. facinghistory.org/communityconversations.


FRI | APRIL 27

“20 YEARS LATER: A DAY OF DIALOGUE”
Florence and Normandie became known as the flashpoint of the L.A. Riots. Join the discussion about the causes and impacts of the civil unrest as well as the solutions. Attendees will be divided into small discussion groups, facilitated by representatives of the L.A. City Attorney’s Dispute Resolution Program. Organized by Avis Ridley-Thomas, director of UCLA’s Institute for Non-Violence in Los Angeles. Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE-LA) co-sponsors. Fri. 8:30 a.m. (registration and continental breakfast). 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Free. FAME Renaissance, 1968 W. Adams Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 346-3246. daysofdialogue.org.

“CIVIL SPACE”
L.A. artist Maggie Hazen memorializes the L.A. Riots with a mixed-media sculptural installation that evokes the plaster casts used to mend broken bones and the memory of the white ashes that remained. “Civil Space: A Transformative Memory of the 1992 Civil Unrest” features 2,000 individually crafted plaster vessels filled with basic food ingredients on a modular platform that resembles the topography of the riot-damaged area. Presented by The Museum of Tolerance, the Korean Churches for Community Development and SAIGU. Exhibition runs through May 13. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Monday-Friday), 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. (Sunday). Included with museum admission: $15.50 (adults), $12.50 (seniors), $11.50 (students with ID and children ages 5-18). Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 553-8403. museumoftolerance.com.


SUN | APRIL 29

L.A. RIOTS COMMEMORATIVE SERVICE
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joins California Assembly Speaker John Pérez, Eddie Lee, who heads White House outreach to the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community, and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s assistant secretary John Trasvina to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the L.A. Riots with community and faith leaders. A unity march to Los Angeles Trade-Tech and vigil follows. Sponsored by SAIGU (Korean for April 29), an initiative of Korean Churches for Community Development. Seating for this event will be limited to 5,000, and priority will be given to community, faith and government partners. Sun. 3:30-6:30 p.m. Free (RSVP required). Former Grand Olympic Auditorium, 1801 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 985-1500. saigu429.com.

Community panel on the L.A. Riots


On April 29, 1992, the acquittal of four white Los Angeles police officers involved in the beating of Rodney King, an African-American man, triggered riots in Los Angeles that resulted in more than 50 dead, thousands injured and some $1 billion in property damage.

To mark the 20th anniversary of the Los Angeles Riots, The Jewish Journal invited to our offices nine prominent L.A.-based civil rights activists. We asked them to reflect as a group on two questions: Are we better off than we were 20 years ago? Could what happened in 1992 happen again here?

The result was an often-heated 90-minute conversation that vividly demonstrated the passions that the riots and the issues they raised still evoke in this city.


” title=”The Wide Angle” target=”_blank”>The Wide Angle blog with David A. Lehrer for jewishjournal.com.



” title=”The Wide Angle” target=”_blank”>The Wide Angle blog with Joe R. Hicks for jewishjournal.com.






 

At least two stabbings were reported Monday night in Stamford Hill.

The rioting began Aug. 6 following the shooting of an alleged drug dealer, Mark Duggan. The violence spread first to youth in poorer neighborhoods.

Some observers believe that the riots are the result of a weak economy, widespread unemployment and deep budget cuts targeting the poorest communities.

Prime Minister David Cameron cut short his vacation in Italy, returning to London to convene an emergency Cabinet meeting to handle the crisis.

The looting, riots and arson attacks occurred just miles from the new stadiums and athletes’ villages being constructed for the 2012 Olympic Games.

‘Day of Departure’ in Egypt: Demonstrators call on Mubarak to leave [VIDEO]


Tens of thousands of Egyptians prayed in Cairo’s Liberation Square on Friday for an immediate end to President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule, hoping a million more would join them in what they called the “Day of Departure.”

“Leave! Leave! Leave!” they chanted after bowing in prayer and listening to a cleric declare “We want the head of the regime removed”. He praised the “revolution of the young”.

The United States, long the ally and sponsor of the 82-year-old former general and his politically influential army, was also working behind the scenes to have him hand over power.

Read more at HAARETZ.com.

Egypt’s Internet is down, according to reports


Egypt has gone offline.

In a stunning development unprecedented in the modern history of the Internet, a country of more than 80 million people has found itself almost entirely disconnected from the rest of the world.

The near-disconnection—at least one Internet provider is still online—comes after days of street protests demanding an end to nearly three decades of autocratic rule by President Hosni Mubarak. Those followed this month’s revolution in Tunisia, another country with little political freedom and high levels of corruption.

Jim Cowie, chief technology officer at Internet-monitoring firm Renesys, said that at approximately 2:34 p.m. PT, his company “observed the virtually simultaneous withdrawal of all routes to Egyptian networks in the Internet’s global routing table.” (See CNET’s earlier coverage of network disruptions.)

Read more: http://news.cnet.com/8301-31921_3-20029862-281.html#ixzz1CJeJdMqU

Police, protesters clash in Egypt


Violent protest spread across Cairo and other Egyptian cities on Friday as tens of thousands of demonstrators intensified their campaign to oust President Hosni Mubarak, pouring from mosques after noon prayers and clashing with police who fired tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons.

The protests came after weeks of turmoil across the Arab world that toppled one leader in Tunisia and encouraged protesters to overcome deep-rooted fears of their autocratic leaders and take to the streets. But Egypt is a special case — a heavyweight in Middle East diplomacy, in part because of its peace treaty with Israel, and a key ally of the United States. The country, often the fulcrum on which currents in the region turn, also has one of the most largest and most sophisticated security forces in the Middle East.

In what protesters called a “day of wrath,” a crowd of at least 10,000 people moved east from Cairo’s Mohandeseen neighborhood, trying to reach the central Tahrir Square that has been an epicenter of protest. The demonstrations were on a scale far beyond anything in the memory of most residents.

Read more at NYTimes.com.

U.S.: Egypt of ‘deep concern’ [UPDATE]


[UPDATE: 11:15 AM] Events in Egypt are of “deep concern,” the Obama administration said, and its government should show restraint.

“Events unfolding in Egypt are of deep concern,” P.J. Crowley, the state department spokesman, said Friday through the Twitter social network. “Fundamental rights must be respected, violence avoided and open communications allowed.”

Video posted on the Internet has depicted indiscriminate Egyptian police violence against protesters, and authorities have shut down much Internet access.

Late Friday, Egypt called its military in to quell riots—a rare occurrence in a country with a vast police force. Reports said two people were killed Friday.

In a statement she read live on Friday, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state, urged Egypt’s government to “engage immediately” with its people on political, economic and social reforms, and called on it to restrain its security forces.

“We support the universal human rights of the Egyptian people, including the right to freedom of speech, of association, and of assembly,” she said. “We urge the Egyptian authorities to allow peaceful protests and to reverse the unprecedented steps it has taken to cut off communications.”

Politico reported that the Obama administration called for a rare Saturday meeting of its “principles,” high-ranking officials of the relevant agencies, to discuss Egypt.

It was the fourth day of clashes in Egypt, and riots have erupted in Jordan and Yemen as well. There have been protests in Lebanon and the Palestinian areas, and Syria has reportedly limited Internet access.

The clashes erupted after similar protests led to the downfall of the Tunisian dictatorship.

Egypt protests: Death toll reaches five as anti-government riots persist


Demonstrations against the rule of President Hosni Mubarak resumed in many cities throughout Egypt yesterday. But though thousands participated in the protests, they were significantly smaller than Tuesday’s demonstrations.

The exception was in Suez, where developments were much more dramatic: Protesters set government offices ablaze and targeted a building belonging to the ruling party. The media reported at least 50 injured in clashes with security forces and three people lost their lives in the clashes in Suez.

“The situation has gone out of control, and there is a real war in the streets,” a reporter for Al Jazeera in Suez reported.

Read more at HAARETZ.com.

Akko riots expose Israel’s Arab-Jewish tinderbox


JERUSALEM (JTA)—The rioting in the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Akko, which erupted after an Arab man drove through a Jewish neighborhood on Yom Kippur, shows just how combustible Arab-Jewish relations in Israel are.

Yet after four successive nights of clashes, in which rampaging Arabs stoned Jewish-owned shops and cars as Jewish mobs torched Arab homes, there was no sign of the violence spreading to other mixed-ethnic cities such as Haifa, Jaffa, Nazareth or Lod.

Nor did the current Jewish-Arab tensions appear likely to reach the proportions they did following October 2000, when Israeli police shot dead 12 Israeli Arabs and a visitor from the West Bank in clashes across northern Israel that coincided with the launching of the second Palestinian intifada.

But the rioting in Akko is more than an isolated violent episode in need of containment. Even if the rioting abates, it is sounding warning bells for the Israeli government. Jewish-Arab tensions in Akko and in the country as a whole have been simmering under the surface for years. The rioting was an expression of Arab frustration and Jewish mistrust.

The latest trouble started on the eve of Yom Kippur, Oct. 8. On this holiest day of the Jewish calendar, everything in Israel comes to a halt. For the duration of the 25-hour fast, businesses and places of entertainment are shuttered, and the roads are virtually free of cars. Even completely secular Jews and non-Jewish Israelis refrain from driving in Jewish neighborhoods.

So when an Akko Arab drove his car into a Jewish neighborhood that night, reportedly blaring loud music, the act seemed like a deliberate provocation.

Angry Jews forced the car to stop, pulled out the driver and beat him. News of the beating quickly spread across the city, and from the mosques Arabs were called upon to avenge what by then had been exaggerated to “two Arabs murdered by Jews.”

Hundreds took to the streets, mostly young, masked men who marched into the main Jewish neighborhood smashing shop windows, shattering car windows, slashing tires and torching vehicles. In retaliation, Jewish mobs set fire to several Arab homes in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood. Police appeared to be overwhelmed by the rioters.

The pattern repeated itself for the next three days and nights. Gradually the police ramped up their response, and by Monday hundreds of police officers were deployed in the city backed up by the Israeli army’s border police. More than 60 arrests were made.

To help defuse the tension, Akko Mayor Shimon Lankri postponed Akko’s annual Fringe Theater festival, explaining that the political content of some of the plays could further aggravate tensions. In any case, he said, audiences would stay away given the new of the riots.

“This is not a time for celebrations,” he declared.

But some saw in Lankri’s announcement an attempt to punish the city’s Arabs, saying Arab businesses benefit most from the business the festival brings to the city.

Meanwhile, right-wing Jewish extremist groups and radical Arab agitators tried to fan the flames while Israel’s political leaders—including some Arab leaders—struggled to restore calm.

Some Jewish extremists called for a boycott of Arab businesses, while Hamas leaders urged Israeli Arabs to start a “third intifada.”

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accused extremists on both sides of “holding the city ransom.”

Mostly, however, leaders on both sides issued appeals for calm and a quick return to coexistence. After meeting Monday with Jewish and Arab religious and community leaders in Akko, President Shimon Peres said he was optimistic and “surprised at the degree of willingness for dialogue on both sides.”

Earlier, Arab community leaders had issued an apology for the desecration of the Jewish holy day. The Arab driver went to a televised meeting in Jerusalem of the Knesset’s Interior Committee, where he said he had not intended any provocation but had made a terrible error of judgment: He said he thought that because it was very late at night, no one would notice his car driving into the mostly Jewish neighborhood where he lived.

In a square outside city hall in Akko, members of the Mapam-affiliated Shomer Hatzair youth movement built a sukkah and invited both Arabs and Jews to visit in a spirit of reconciliation.

One of the first guests was Arab Knesset member Abbas Zakoor, an Akko resident and a member of the radical Raam-Taal party. Arab Knesset members, who often resort to inflammatory language as they compete for an increasingly radicalized Arab constituency, have played a remarkably conciliatory role in the current unrest.

Paradoxically, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which were meant to resolve the Israeli-Arab predicament, have sharpened tensions between Israeli Arabs and Jews.

Israeli Arabs see their Palestinian cousins, once sworn enemies of the Jews, being offered full statehood, while they, citizens of the Israeli state, are ignored. They still recall with anger the October 2000 clashes in which Israeli police opened fire on Arab rioters. The Arabs point to the harsh police response—Israeli police don’t use live fire against Jewish demonstrators—as evidence of the double standard often applied to Israeli Arab citizens.

Similarly, some Israeli Jews point to the riots of eight years ago as a reminder that Israel’s Arab citizens cannot be trusted: When the Palestinians launched their intifada that month, Israel’s Arabs rioted in solidarity with the Palestinians.

The Orr Commission set up to investigate the 2000 clashes found “years of discrimination” against Israeli Arabs and urged the government to do more to promote Jewish-Arab equality and provide Arab and Jewish municipalities with proportionately equal budgets. This has not happened.

In 2006, Israeli Arab leaders moved to a more publicly critical stance on the Jewish state, producing a document seeking virtual autonomy for the Arab minority and calling for an end to the Jewish character of the state. Titled the “The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel,” the paper demanded veto rights and autonomy in domestic affairs, rejected Jewish symbols of state and provided a narrative of colonial conquest by Jews, naming Israeli Arabs as the land’s only indigenous people.

With the background of the ongoing Israeli-Arab conflict and day-to-day tensions between Israeli Arabs and Jews, particularly in mixed cities like Akko, the rioting there really should have come as no surprise. All that’s needed is something incendiary to set the two sides aflame.

Elie Rekhess, the director of the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation at Tel Aviv University, says Arab-Jewish relations in Israel are a powder keg waiting to explode. If Akko is not the trigger, something else will be, Rekhess says—unless the government finds a way to give Israeli Arabs a sense of truly shared citizenship.

French Riots Not a Jewish Problem


Some media are calling it a “suburban intifada,” but the rioting that is rocking France is not a Jewish problem, but a national one.

That appears to be the consensus of French Jews, who are simultaneously alarmed at the widespread violence of mostly Muslim youths in suburbs around the country — and relieved that Jews have not been directly targeted, as they were during the height of the Palestinian intifada.

“Anti-Semitism in these neighborhoods has drastically declined over the last six months or so,” said Sammy Ghozlan, who heads the Office of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism. He is also the president of the Council of Jewish Communities of Seine St-Denis, the Paris suburb where much of the violence, which began at the end of October, has taken place.

The earlier violence against Jews “was just a pretext for these groups of people to violently express their dissatisfaction with their lot in life,” Ghozlan said. “Now, the anger that was being channeled toward the Jews is instead being directed at the French state. Instead of Jews, they’re attacking the police.”

A former police officer, Ghozlan said that unlike earlier rebellions, “today, there’s an element of Islamic fundamentalism in it which is disturbing.”

Many of the rioters are descended from North African immigrants. However, local Islamic groups have condemned the violence, and analysts have been quick to point out that some of the perpetrators of the arsons and beatings come from Sub-Saharan Africa.

Jewish organizations in France and abroad are keeping relatively kept quiet about the situation. CRIF, the umbrella group of secular Jewish organizations, declined to comment on the violence, saying this is a French problem with no link to the Jewish community.

The Jewish community has been affected by some incidents, but these are seen as part of the larger acts of violence, rather than directly targeted at Jews.

Last week, two synagogues were damaged in the riots: On Nov. 3, a Molotov cocktail blackened the door of a synagogue in the suburb of Pierrefitte, and the next evening, a Friday night, a device was detonated outside the synagogue in the suburb of Garges-les-Gonesse.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin telephoned the president of the CRIF, Roger Cukierman, after these attacks.

Cars were burned in central Paris, not far from the Rue des Rosiers, a street lined with Jewish merchants, restaurants and synagogues. In Aulnay-sous-Bois, the storefront of a small Jewish rug merchant was burned; in Aubervilliers, a fabric warehouse also believed to be owned by Jews, was burned.

Reports that a 56-year-old handicapped woman hospitalized with severe burns last week was Jewish could not be corroborated. According to local officials, the woman was caught in an attack on a bus in Sevran, a suburb north of Paris. The other passengers exited the vehicle but the woman, confined to crutches, was unable to join them, and was consequently sprayed with gas and set afire with the vehicle.

Despite the relative silence, the Jewish community remains wary.

Rabbi Yossi Gorodetsky, an American Chabad representative in Paris, said: “We just don’t want to see this turn into a problem of anti-Semitism. They’re very clear about why they’re angry and who they’re angry with,” but at this point, the Jews are not being targeted.

“The rioters are not distinguishing between hospitals, schools or synagogues,” said Philip Carmel, international relations director for the Conference of European Rabbis. The violence has affected mosques and churches as well; at the beginning of the riots, a mosque was damaged when a bomb containing tear gas was thrown through the window.

“The anti-Semitism we’ve been seeing over the past few years was a warning sign for these events,” Carmel said, referring to the rash of incidents that occurred at the height of the Palestinian intifada.

“It’s not that the French are anti-Semitic,” he said. “It’s that there is something deeply wrong with French society in its failure to integrate its North African youth.”

“France has alienated 10 percent of its population,” he said, “and now the government is finding it has to deal with their needs.”

Groups such as SOS-Racisme, which speaks out against anti-Semitism and other forms of racism, have expressed dissatisfaction with the government’s response to the violence.

“We are astonished at the insufficiency of the measures taken by the government to curb the violence,” SOS-Racisme said.

“For over 20 years SOS-Racisme has warned of the dangers of ghettoization and of the social and political consequences of racial discrimination,” the president of the group, Dominique Sopo, said in a statement last week. “Words are not enough to change the everyday existence of this part of the population. What they need, what they want, particularly among the adolescents, are strong acts of public power.”

Many groups, including SOS-Racisme, have criticized the media’s insistence on comparing the riots to the Palestinian uprisings.

Rabbi Gabriel Farhi, with the Liberal Movement of French Jews, wrote on a Jewish community Web site, that while the term “intifada” might seem applicable from a certain point of view, the Palestinian uprisings against Israel are much more “difficult” and “complicated” than those of the French suburbs.

In response to the call for “words of peace” made by the rector of the Mosque of Paris, Farhi wrote, “We know only too well that peace demands not simply words, but actions as well.”

The political consequences of the riots may be grave for Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who has received much of the blame for the escalation of the violence after reportedly referring to the rioters as “scum.”

Sarkozy and de Villepin are considered to be political rivals for the presidency in 2007.

“If Sarkozy resigns,” as many have called on him to do, “the rioters will feel that they have won,” Ghozlan said.

The rioting claimed its first fatality on Monday. Jean-Jacques Le Chenadec, 61, succumbed to injuries he sustained when he was beaten in front of his home while attempting to extinguish a fire in a trash can.

The media, meanwhile, is largely measuring the violence in cars: On Monday, 1,173 cars were burned, down from 1,408 the night before. From this perspective, the violence seems to be calming.

Ghozlan, however, is not hopeful that the violence will subside anytime soon.

“Right now they’re just throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, but they’re certainly armed,” he said, adding that it’s “just a matter of time before this becomes even more serious.”

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