The pictures are terrible. Broadcast live on television by prime time, Wednesday evening, May 12, the scene of a man, considered Arab, torn from his car and lynched by far-right activists in Bat Yam, near Tel- Aviv shocked Israel. Many ultra-nationalist activists beat the pavement in the evening across the country, causing clashes with the police. And sometimes Israeli Arabs.

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The day before, riots of rare violence broke out in Lod, in the center, after the death of an Israeli Arab and as Israel and Hamas engaged in a heavy firefight. Three synagogues, several businesses and cars were reportedly set on fire, according to Israeli media. Other Arab localities have also been the scene of violence in Acre or Wadi Ara, or in Jisr Al-Zarqa, near Haifa. Incidents multiply and the coexistence between Jews and Arab Israelis in several cities of the Hebrew state is cracking.

Accusations de « pogrom »

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Lod, where the violence was most severe, on Tuesday evening to declare a state of emergency. A first since the end of the Military Administration on Israeli Arabs in 1966. “We are on the verge of civil war”, he told The Times of Israel daily, not hesitating to compare the situation to « pogrom of the night of Cristal, in 1938 “.

Customary with inflammatory speeches, this time he was followed by the President of Israel, Réouven Rivlin: “The pogrom scenes in Lod and the unrest across the country by a bloodthirsty Arab mob, injuring people, damaging property and even attacking Jewish holy places, are unforgivable. “

“Rivlin is a supporter of Judeo-Arab coexistence and has worked in this direction at the head of the state”, underlines David Khalfa, associate researcher at the Center for Peace Communications in New York. “His thunderous statement reflects the turmoil that reigns within the Israeli Jewish population stunned by the scenes of violence and riots that have set the Arab and mixed cities of the country ablaze over the past 72 hours. “

Israeli Arabs discriminated against

Israeli Arabs usually keep themselves out of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian territories. They are themselves descendants of the Palestinians who refused to give up their land when the state was created in 1948. They still remain linked to the occupied territories where they often have family. They constitute 20% of the Israeli population and have so far lived in relative good terms with the Jews.

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Yet while many Arab Israelis have demonstrated in support of Palestinian families threatened with deportation in East Jerusalem, « the majority of them used non-violent means. Arab Israelis do not wish to jeopardize relations with fellow Jews », would like to clarify the researcher. « The protest movement is composite. It is made up of peaceful demonstrators but also of violent and radicalized rioters whose spectacular actions can lead to a misleading magnifying glass effect. »

Socio-economic anger

Lod, Beersheva, St-Jean-d’Acre … the towns affected by the first violence are “Modest old Palestinian centers with Jewish quarters around”, remarks Sylvaine Bulle, professor of sociology specializing in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and in Israel. “These are very downgraded populations. These riots are a reminder of the real sources of the problems of the Palestinians of Israel, namely the economic, legal and social frustration with their status. They do not have the same status as Jewish Israelis. “

Fueled by the growing far-right movements, the outbreak of violence against protesters in East Jerusalem and against the Gaza Strip, the anger of some of the Israeli Arabs has aroused. In the poorest towns, such as Lod, “Religion is mobilized as an identity referent to repoliticize the conflict with the question of Jerusalem which is its epicenter and the sad symbol of an impasse”, notes David Khalfa. With a slogan: save the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, Islam’s third holiest site.


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