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Coexistence in Israel's 'mixed cities' was always an illusion

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The Palestine - Gaza Protest
The Palestine - Gaza Protest
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Last weekend Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as "terrorists" those Palestinian citizens who have been protesting decades of state-sponsored discrimination. Vowing that "anyone who acts like a terrorist will be handled like one", he said: "Arab law-breakers are attacking Jews, burning synagogues and Jewish homes."

Netanyahu has been far from alone in his denunciations of nearly two weeks of protests inside Israel by the fifth of Israel's population who are Palestinian by origin. They are the remnants of the Palestinian people, most of whom were ethnically cleansed at Israel's founding in 1948.

Israel's president, Reuven Rivlin, who is usually seen as far more moderate than Netanyahu, has called Palestinian protesters inside Israel a "bloodthirsty Arab mob" and described their actions as a "pogrom" against the Jewish community.

Both have remained largely silent about the wave of even greater violence against Israel's Palestinian minority, both from the police and armed Jewish far-right gangs.

General strike

On Tuesday the Palestinian minority observed a general strike in protest at the wave of violence being directed at Palestinians in the region, most especially in Gaza. There, more than 200 people - and more than 60 children - have been killed by Israeli airstrikes.

At the same time, the minority's main political body, the Follow-Up Committee, called on international organizations to protect Israel's 1.8 million Palestinian citizens from the combined - and seemingly coordinated - backlash by Israel police and mob Jewish mobs.

Adalah, a leading legal organization for the minority, echoed the Follow-Up Committee, saying the Israeli government was "giving a free hand to racist and violent oppression" Arab citizens have been left with no alternative except to appeal to the nations of the world to force Israel to protect them".

In the main sites of confrontation, in a handful of what Israel misleadingly terms "mixed cities", it is Palestinian citizens who have been paying the steepest price.

These cities, several of them close to Tel Aviv, are historic Palestinian communities most of whose inhabitants were expelled in 1948. Even since, the small ghettoized Palestinian populations left behind have been aggressively "Judaized" - in what amounts to a long-term process of Jewish ethnic and religious gentrification to erase their presence.

Danger of pogroms

The first death from the clashes in the "mixed cities" was a Palestinian citizen who was shot in Lod, near Tel Aviv, by a group of Jewish residents. All the suspects in the murder are reported to have been released after the police minister, Amir Ohana, was among the senior politicians expressing outrage at the arrests.

Another early incident involved a Palestinian taxi driver being dragged from his car south of Tel Aviv by hordes of masked Jews who beat him savagely in front of Israeli TV cameras and hundreds of onlookers, with police nowhere in sight. Earlier, the same mob rampaged through the town of Bat Yam smashing any stores that looked like they were owned by Palestinian citizens.

Despite Netanyahu and Rivlin's claims, it is Palestinian communities inside Israel that have been in far more danger of pogroms than the Jewish majority.

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)
 

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