Jewish Extremists Attempt Pogrom against Arabs in Akka

Hundreds of religious Jewish extremists and hooligans laid siege to and assaulted an Arab family home in downtown Akka Wednesday night, triggering widespread riots in the mixed Arab-Jewish coastal city in northern Palestine/Israel.  The Jews accused the Arab family of “violating the sanctity of Yom Kippur” by way of driving their car.  Eyewitnesses and police sources reported that dozens of vehicles and businesses were damaged after police forces violently repressed hundreds of local Arab youths who had attempted to free the besieged Arab family.  Arab sources in Akka said Jewish hooligans attacked “and may have tried to lynch” the Ahmed Sha’aban family which lives in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Porla in the eastern suburbs of the city.

 “The extremists, hundreds of them wanted to make sure that we, Muslims, observe the Yom Kippur and not conduct our life as usual. Next time, they will demand that we convert to Judaism, or leave,” said Jamal Adham, who was attacked and slightly injured by the extremists.  According to Ahmed Odeh, a member of the Akka municipal council, the riots and the subsequent acts sabotage were triggered by provocative efforts by Jewish fanatics to impose a total curfew on the town’s non-Jewish inhabitants.  Odeh said he had received assurances from the police that the city would remain open and that non-Jews would be allowed to move freely during the Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) holiday.  Odeh added that he was later surprised to find out that all town’s entrances and exits were tightly closed, apparently by a private security firm answerable to the town’s municipal council.  “Even access to the Old town, where most of the Arabs live, was blocked.”

The Israeli Arab leader pointed out that when Arabs in the Old quarter of Akka  received word that Jewish extremists were laying siege to the Sha’aban family, dozens or hundreds of Arab youngsters headed for the home, trying to protect the family from a possible lynching.  In the meanwhile, as many as a thousand Jews arrived at the Sha’aban family home, along with dozens of crack policemen.  Some of the people in the huge crowed reportedly shouted “Mavet le Arabim” or “death to the Arabs” and “Arabs out.”  The Arab youths from the town’s old quarter couldn’t make it to the besieged home as reinforced police forces prevented them by force from reaching the site.  Many Arab protesters were injured from beating by police or as result of tear gas inhalation.

Reacting to police brutality, some Arab youths reportedly attacked Jewish property, including cars and businesses.  However, no acts of arson were reported.  “Unfortunately, some unruly guys indulged in vandalism. I totally reject this behavior which is incompatible with our values and doesn’t serve the cause coexistence in the town.”  Odeh said the “racist anti-Arab discourse” within the Israeli Jewish society encouraged the extremists to try to impose their will on society.  “It is time these extremists understand that this land is inhabited by Jews and non-Jews, and that non-Jews have to conduct their life in accordance with the law.”

The Ha’aretz newspaper quoted the head of the Acre police station, Chief Superintendent Avi Edri, as saying that the “altercation” was initially an isolated incident that escalated due to the involvement of Jewish and Arab gangs.  “This is a very serious incident that the city of Acre has not seen the likes of in recent years and we will deal with all the rioters and those who take the law into their own hands with an iron fist,” Edri said.

Abbas Zkoor, an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset urged the Police to protect Israeli Arab citizens from Jewish fanatics especially during Jewish holidays.  Zkoor was quoted as charging that for years, young Jews have gathered at city entrances on Yom Kippur and stoned passing Arab cars, endangering the lives of the passengers.  “Despite numerous complaints filed in police stations, officers were not sent to disperse the racist gatherings,” Zkoor said.  He also asked Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar to condemn such behavior, which “surely contravenes the basic principles of the Jewish religion.”

Khalid Amayreh is a journalist living in Palestine. Read other articles by Khaled, or visit Khaled's website.