The recent wave of Palestinian violence, which the Palestinians present as a response to Israel's alleged intention of changing the status quo at the Al-Aqsa Mosque,did not pass over Israeli Arabs. Arab cities and villages, as well as mixed cities, within the 1948 borders saw rallies and protests that in some cases deteriorated into violent clashes with security forces, such as in Nazareth, Ramla, and Jaffa. These protests received the support of Members of Knesset (MKs) from the Joint Arab List and were encouraged by the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel.
Some two weeks after the outbreak of this unrest, some voices in the Arab-Israeli public began to call on Israeli Arabs to conduct their protests within the confines of the law, since not doing so harms their livelihood and their standing in Israel.
October 6, 2015 protest in Jaffa (image: hasa.co.il)
Head Of Supreme Religious Council For Muslim Affairs In Israel: Stop Chants Of "Al-Aqsa In Danger"
Especially bold in his comments was Dr. Mahmoud Masalha, head of the Supreme Religious Council for Muslim Affairs, a body established in 2009 whose stated goals are to unite Muslims in Israel and protect Muslim holy sites.Masalha strongly criticized the Islamic Movement and the head of its northern branch, Sheikh Raed Salah, and called to stop using the slogan "Al-Aqsa in danger" and reject the claim that Israel intends to divide Al-Aqsa. In an interview with the weekly Al-Sonara, which is printed in Nazareth, Masalha said: "It is not enough for us to always shout 'Islamic Waqf, Islamic Waqf.' They [the Jews] definitely know that [Al-Aqsa is Waqf land]. We must find legal material that will help us achieve actual results... After Sheikh Raed [Salah] and the head of the Waqf protested our appeal to the courts [regarding the construction of the Mughrabi Bridge], I asked one of the heads of the Waqf whether he had an atomic bomb or jets or tanks. He said: Absolutely not. So I said: 'In that case, how will we defend the Mughrabi Gate? We must operate within the confines of the law and use the law.'"
Dr. Masalha rejected the claim that Israel intended to divide prayer times and locations in Al-Aqsa: "These claims originate with the Islamic Movement andHaj Amin Al-Husseini [Mufti of Jerusalem in 1921-1937] in the 1920's and 30's. I respect Sheikh Raed, but there are mistakes that need to be addressed... We must stage demonstrations [only] after efforts vis-├á-vis official and legal elements fail. It is important to stress that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is registered to the Waqf and, according to Israeli law, it is illegal to appropriate land registered to the Waqf...
"There is nothing preventing the continuation of a popular struggle, but it must not be done thuggishly. We must not forget that we live in special circumstances and we must preserve our interests and stress that no one can go near Al-Aqsa, as it is registered to the Waqf. Furthermore, we must stop using the slogans used by Haj Amin Al-Husseini such as 'Al-Aqsa in danger' etc... It is true that preventing Muslims from entering Al-Aqsa while Jews are there is a form of division... [but] we must stop saying that Al-Aqsa is in danger and that there are time and place divisions,lest this becomes a fact in the minds of Arabs and Jews."
Arab Municipality Heads And Mayors: Violent Protests Harm Livelihood And Coexistence
Several Arab municipality heads and mayors condemned the violent protests, claiming they harmed the Arabs' livelihood and coexistence with the Jews. The day after a violent protest in Nazareth on October 10, 2015, which included some 2,500 people, Nazareth mayor 'Ali Salam confronted MK Ayman Odeh, who was filming a TV interview on a Nazareth street. Salam yelled: "Ayman, go find something to do. You have ruined our city. Enough interviews... You have ruined the city. No Jews came here today. Why are you conducting an interview? You had your protest and ruined the entire world."
The mayor's response also reflects the anger of some of the city's merchants regarding the protests and their possible negative effects on the local economy. Thus, the owner of a taxi company in Nazareth said: "The attacks and clashes with police on the part of Nazareth youths who participated in the protests are irresponsible, since Nazareth is a holy city and we want tourists to continue coming here, as well as [local] Jews. Everything that is happening in Nazareth now harms the city's residents first and foremost. Nazareth is a holy city and a global tourism [destination], and therefore we condemn the actions of the youth such as torching garbage cans, destroying city property, and clashing with the army. These things will ultimately harm Nazareth's interests. There are legal steps that we can take in order to protest, such as legal strikes. Today, Nazareth's merchants and restauranteurs are suffering from a severe economic depression due to Jews and foreign tourists avoiding the city and its restaurants and shops. We want peace and a return to normal, so that our city can benefit from it and so its residents can live in dignity... We call on everyone to work to repair the social relations between the peoples, because we must live in mutual peace and understanding with the Jews."
Ali Salam (image: kasmawi.ne)
The head of the Tuba-Zangariyye municipality in the Upper Galilee also expressed fear that the riots would damage coexistence between the two societies and within individual businesses in his municipality. In an interview with the Bokra news website, he called on politicians, chiefly PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to meet in order to prevent bloodshed. He also called on Arabs to stop their strikes: "The heads of local government desire coexistence and understanding between the peoples. Politicians should make decisions and sit down together. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas should meet to prevent more bloodshed and to forge common language and understanding between Arabs and Jews. We live together in this land and we should properly communicate with state institutions. Politicians have a role and we want to live in coexistence and understanding and work to promote our Arab villages and cities within the state of Israel... Most of our youths in the village work in Jewish Kibbutzim and cities in the area. It is unthinkable that strikes will be held to harm everyday life."
Some Red Lines Must Not Be Crossed; Israeli Law Should Be Respected
Some Israeli Arab figures called to distinguish between protest actions permissible to Israeli Arabs versus those permissible to West Bank Arabs. However, they still placed blame for the events on the Israeli government.
Professor Riad Aghbarieh, the Arab affairs advisor to the president of Ben Gurion University and former dean of the school of pharmacy, called on Israeli Arabs to not break the law: "What is happening [on the Arab street] is wrong...The future of Palestinians inside Israel is different from that of the Palestinians in Ramallah and Nablus. We sympathize with our Palestinian brothers as much as we can, but we mustn't forget that we are citizens of this country and must deal with matters of education, healthcare, housing and transportation. We have an affinity with the country's residents and institutions, whereas the residents of Ramallah and Nablus are struggling to expel the occupation, gain independence, and establish their sovereign state.They are fighting to expel the settlers and we sympathize with them as much as we can, but some red lines must not be crossed. Our sympathy for them cannot lead us to break the law. We are citizens here and must respect the law. I personally prefer our boys alive than martyrs."
In response to the question of what motivates youths to commit acts that risk their lives and futures, he said: "The racist, fascist, Jewish campaign is what motivates our youths" but stressed that the actions were "suicide actions that were not national actions." According to him, "every such action harms all the youths, students, and Arab residents."
Riad Aghbarieh (image: sonara.net)
Similar statements were made by Jawad Boulos, the attorney for the Palestinian Prisoners Club. Writing in the Nazareth-based Alarab.com, Boulos stated: "The struggle in the territories has a uniqueness and [its own] rules. What is permissible for a people under direct occupation is not permissible for [Arab] residents [of Israel, even if they] live in an infidel country with racist laws, under a fascist regime and with people who spit whenever they see an Arab. In these difficult times, I believe our role should be leading and crucial. Responsible and aware leaders should clarify these differences unequivocally. Our struggle within Israel to end the occupation is a duty, but the means of the struggle should be different than those chosen in Nablus, Ramallah, and Jerusalem. Our arenas of struggle are different... "
Jawad Boulos (Source: Alarab.com, October 16, 2015.