Will Israel ever integrate its peoples?

October 14, 2008

acre.jpgStreet violence in the ancient port of Acre over the past few days has traumatised a town that has promoted itself as a multicultural tourist hotspot, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and rare model of integration between Israel’s Jewish majority and the Arabs who make up a fifth of the population.

It has provoked an outpouring of reflection on the place of Arabs within Israel, on the nature of Israel as a Jewish state and on its broader relations with the Arab world, not least with the Palestinians in the occupied territories.

The word “pogrom” has  been bandied by both sides after rioting broke out at the start of the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur.

A term for attacks on Jews in 19th and early 20th Russia – the kind of attacks that drove the Zionist push for a Jewish state in Palestine – it has been heard rather frequently here of late.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert may have started the trend by using it in condemning an attack by Jewish settlers on a Palestinian village in the West Bank

Members of the Israeli parliament, both Jews and Muslim Arabs, have used it in recent days to describe what happened in Acre, apparently after a local Arab man drove his car into a Jewish neighbourhood on Yom Kippur, a 24-hour dusk-to-dusk fast during which observant Jews pray and abstain from all work, including using machines, like cars.

Jewish youths attacked the driver. Arab residents then rioted, damaging cars and shops, and Jews set fire to two Arab homes and damaged nine others.  

The hapless driver has since apologised and appealed for unity. His public show of humility in Israel’s parliament, however, provoked angry scenes and calls from some Jewish lawmakers for his arrest. They got their way when he was detained this week, prompting outrage from Arab members of parliament.

And for many commentators, the damage has been done. Gideon Levy of Israel’s left-leaning Haaretz newspaper found “a little Bosnia in the making” during his visit to troubled Acre.

Yigal Sarna on Ynet described it as a “the war of poor against poor”, with tempers fraying as the local economy slows.

The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which refused to accept that Israel should exist, said there was more violence to come.

Among Israelis, all too aware of Jewish history, there was also anxiety, as this blogger said in demanding “Where is the government” after Jews in Acre were, in his view, victims of a “pogrom” by their Arab neighbours.

The rightward-leaning Jerusalem Post condemned Jewish youths for their part in the violence but also said the behaviour of Acre’s Arabs who shouted “Death to Jews” disgusted it.

The paper’s condemnation of “vigilantism” by Jews, however, drew angry responses from some readers.  One, who signed himself “Terry” went so far as to write “Stop being so PC … Simply put, no Arabs, no riots.”

He advocated boycotting Arab businesses “and eventually population transfer”. He concluded: “Let them holler “Death to Jews” somewhere else.”

Gulf News in Dubai, in common with many Arab commentators, sees a failure of Israeli policy and worrying trends for the future.

 “The disturbances in Acre also come as proof of the failure of Israeli policy in assimilating or integrating the Palestinian population, treating them instead as second-class citizens,” it wrote in an editorial, raising the spectre of worse to come.

Ehud Olmert, who is still serving as caretaker prime minister while his successor Tzipi Livni tries to forlm a coalition, called for dialogue and said peaceful communities were being held “hostage” by small groups of extremists on either side.

Across the sealed and hostile northern border in Lebanon, home to some 400,000 Palestinian refugees from what is now Israel, The Daily Star was critical of his government’s policies, saying Israel “routinely runs roughshod over Arabs”. It urged a new approach so that Jews and Arabs could live together. Not such a radical idea, the paper suggested as it contrasted the sufferings of Jews in Europe down the ages with the relative harmony that Jewish communities long enjoyed in the Arab world.

Julie Gal, an Israeli who made a film about the killing of 13 unarmed Arab citizens by Israeli police in 2000, told Ynet in an interview that Israel’s Arabs were right to feel justice was not equal – after years of halting investigation into the case, all the police involved were exonerated this year. “We search worldwide for those who commit hate crimes against Jews, – as we should, but here at home 13 fellow citizens are killed and we have to beg the authorities to investigate and then they find no one guilty?” Gal told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

The answer, Gal felt, may lie in the schools and doing more to overcome the gulf of mutual ignorance and mistrust that divides Arabs and Jews.

Like much else that is being spoken of in the wake of the violence, that is a long-term solution. And for many, even such long-term solutions are hard to make out, even as rival views of short-term answers assert themselves loudly.

Israel could do better in integrating its Arab minority economically, as commentator Akiva Eldar wrote in Haaretz. “But,” he concluded, “No money in the world will turn an Arab/Palestinian public, be it Muslim, Christian or secular, into an organic part of a country that defines itself, based on the nationality of the majority, as a Jewish state.”


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[…] And can the world, Mr Blair, or the rest of us still have any optimism left with such so-called “progroms” as this? […]

Posted by British Identity – Who The He** Are We? « Tony Blair | Report as abusive

[…] Will Israel ever integrate its peoples? Post a comment Posted by: Alastair Macdonald Tags: Global News, Acre, Israel, jerusalem, Palestine, rioting […]

Posted by Defencedebates’s Weblog | Report as abusive

The US support for Israel is probably the leading cause of world-wide terrorism. A very sad state of affairs; for no legitimate reason, hundreds of billions of dollars have been simply given away to Israel. Although it is not entirely a Jewish state, as long as Palestinians and Arabs are treated as second class, you can expect the situation to, at worst, degrade into full-out war, or at best, remain the way it is.

Posted by Richard Wilson | Report as abusive

The key in this tragedy, Mr. MacDonald, is recognition. The very title you gave this blog reflects the problem: The Palestinians are a people in their own right with culture and history and a right of existence in the lands they lived on for centuries and beyond, and not a ‘people of Israel’ that Tel Aviv needs to puzzle over how to integrate into its own aspired Jewish state. As a result, Arabs retaliate by refusing to recognize Israel. The question of wether this state is a mistake or not is immaterial, it is decades too late; the Israelis were there for generations and now they have no where else to go anyway and there is no place in the world for acts of genocide and mass exodus of peoples just because of their race, ethnicity or faith…But that is a two-way street, and so what applies to the Jewish people applies also to the Palestinians as well. The double standard followed in this matter by the United States for the sake of its alliance with the Jewish state is the excuse for which extremist cells like Al-qaeda uses in its terrorist acts and recruitment of the gullible and finds shelter and sympathy, and it is the rallying cry with which dictators in the Islamic world rallies the people on the streets to support them, and until the United States government sees this and stops following the double standard of favoring the Jewish state even when it is guilty of the most heinous acts of genocide, displacement and unlawful acts of suppression it inflicts against Palestinians daily and vetoing or blocking acts of censure from the Security Council and United Nations even when it is obvious that the Jewish state is at fault, the situation there will never improve and the disharmony will go on and on and the world will continue to suffer the effects of this conflict.

Posted by bill | Report as abusive

The trouble started decades ago and continues by the insistance of Israel to be defined a jewish state. By doing this it wishes to erase over 2000 years of history from Roman, to Byzantine to Islamic. Those rich histories contributed to the charachter of this piece of land and to say that it is Jewish only sounds more and more like faschism or apartheid.

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

As long as modern day israeli fascism is allowed to continue the world will remain a ticking time bomb counting down at an accelerating pace.

Posted by Ali | Report as abusive

I suppose the situation is left by the powers of the modern era so weapons can be sold to the Arabs nations simply because you have a bully in the middle east the apartheid state of Israel, conflict is in the best interest of the neocons otherwise without chaos there would be peace which does not serve the interest of the crooked people in power.

It is a shameful state of affairs that the world has come to such a point that the difference between the oppressors (jews) and the oppressed (Palestinians) cannot be distinguished, may all sitting in silence be ashamed and be judged on their silence.

It is ironic that the tables have turned in such a way that it has only been just over 60 years when the Jews were oppressed

You must admire the patients of the Palestinians, as they have always said “we have hope of that which they have no hope off”

Posted by We have hope of that which they have no hope off | Report as abusive

Build a man a house and you will have a friend forever.
Take a man’s house and you will have an enemy forever.

Posted by Matthew Vezina | Report as abusive

Build a man a house and you will have a friend forever.
Take a man’s house and you will have an enemy forever.

Posted by Matthew Vezina | Report as abusive

I believe that Israel has every right to define itself as a Jewish state if that is the will of its people. Throughout history the Jews have been persecuted and discriminated by people of other faiths. Now, when they have a land that they historically call home, they have the right to define what constitutes that State without foreign interference.

As some commentors above have expressed, the term “Jewish State” may sound like “fascism” or “apartheid”. But consider this, the neighbouring countries of Israel term themselves as Islamic states. Does that mean they do not integrate their non-Muslim citizens into their society? I do not believe that is so.

Posted by Maurice | Report as abusive

Your comments land they historically call home is inacurate. The fact is that the creation of Israel created the largest refugee population in history, called the Palestinians who lost their land, and are scattered all over the middle east in hovels called refugee camps for over 60 years. Can they also be part of the equation of deciding whether Israel can be a jewish state. Furthermore, Syria and Lebanon both have non Islamic states which happen to border Israel.

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

Acre riots highlight the difficulty if not impossibility of maintaining a multi ethnic democratic state in the Middle East. It’s probably worth noticing that recent democratic experiments in Iraq and Lebanon have all ended in another round of sectarian mess. Throughout this region the iron grip of kings and dictators is the only thing that prevents many countries from going off.

In fact even in Europe the proliferation of nationalist parties and the degree of estrangement between the locals and immigrants point to the same thing – that far from creating multicultural paradises the currently popular politically correct lunacies are all laying foundations for more troubles to come. As a meeting point between the world of Islam and the Western civilization, Israel functions more like a testing ground and the indication of future trends. Israel was hit by suicide attacks long before these spread to Europe and other parts of the world. In this sense Acre riots are just a preview of the events to follow in Europe within the next one-two decades.

Posted by NB | Report as abusive

In Iraq the US is demanding a 1-state solution, even though there are profound differences within different sects etc. However in the apartheid state of Israel the US insists on a 2-state solution, which has helped turn millions of Arabs against us. No wonder US policy toward Israel makes no sense.

Posted by Chris Baker (US) | Report as abusive


The citizens of Israel are Israelis and not exclusively Jewish, there are Arabs as well. And it so happens that the Jews are the majority group in Israel. If they want to term themselves as a “Jewish State”, then it is the will of the majority, as in any democracy.

You cite the example of Syria and Lebanon that do not term themselves as Islamic States. However, I would like to point out that other countries in the region term themselves as Islamic States, such as Pakistan.

Posted by Maurice | Report as abusive

I feel for both sides, however at least the isrealies have so called broders ( ever changing ) that they call a state, where as the Palestinians ( past sixty years ) have none.
One of the commentators said that we should move past playing the blaming game and I agree up to a point, but let us not carry on with the same failed policies towards the so called arabs that have failed for so long, be it inside israel or its borders.

Posted by john smith | Report as abusive

Disarm Israel now! Vote for Obama and stop sending the Zionists US taxpayer dollars!

Posted by Sylvester | Report as abusive

Bravo NB! And the full name of the process of not integration is lumpenization – its however the moving force of financial crisis on a world scale.

Posted by zdem | Report as abusive