Yesterday, for the first time, tens of Israeli Arabs and Jews demonstrated together opposite the office of Prime Minister Netanyahu in protest against the recent drastic increase of hate crimes against Arabs in the name of Tag Mechir (“Price Tag”). The demonstrators protested against the lack of response by the government to these acts, especially against the fact that none of the perpetrators have been arrested.
The demonstrators carried signs which represented the names of towns and villages against which Tag Mechir attacks have taken place during the last 4 years. Two weeks ago, a mosque was vandalized in the Arab village of Baka El Gharbiyah and therefore many from that town and surrounding towns in their region participated in the demonstration.
The demonstration was organized by the coalition, Tag Meir, which works to combat these hate crimes. The chairperson of Tag Meir, Dr. Gadi Gvaryahu, said:
“During the past 56 days, a mosque or a church or a convent has been desecrated and vandalized in Israel! The criminals of Tag Mechir have spilled blood in a lynch in Zion Square and a nearby neighborhood in Jerusalem, on the boardwalk in Tel Aviv, in a taxi near Bat Ayin (in the West Bank) and this is only a very partial list. The government has done nothing to stop this bloodshed! “
Not only has nothing been done as yet on the part of the government of Israel to take this phenomenon seriously, but it is particularly disturbing since we who are active in the Tag Meir coalition believe that the perpetrators are well known to the authorities. In fact, Carmi Gillon, who headed the Israeli Security Services, and spent four years focusing on Israeli Arabs, told us at our Annual Meeting last week that not only are the kids who do this well known to the Security Services but their rabbis, who incite them to do these acts, are also well known, just as the rabbis who incited Jewish extremists in the Jewish terror groups in the past were well know. Moreover, there is a law in Israel against incitement and rebellion. According to Carmi Gillon, this law has not been used against these rabbis yet. And it is time to use this law, and enforce it! He told us very clearly:
We all know who they are, where they are, and in which yeshivas they study and preach.’ Rather than taking action, the political and security systems of Israel appear to be apathetic to these phenomena. Or is it more than just apathy? Is it blinking one’s eye, and giving in to the forces of extremism for narrow political reasons?”
One of the unique features of yesterday’s demonstration opposite the office of the Prime Minister was the fact that Arabs of Israel joined together with Jews in Israel in this struggle. This is new and it is an important positive development.
The Vice Mayor of Baka El Gharbiyah, Ibrahim Muwassi — who also attended the Tag Meir annual meeting in Jerusalem last week and who joined the coalition as the 41st member organization — spoke at yesterday’s demonstration and said:
“We are here with our brothers the Jews from the Tag Meir Forum to shed light instead of terror on the situation! We call on the government of Israel to say NO to extremism, NO to terror and YES to peace.”
Yes, Jews and Arabs are in this together in Israel. When we fight racism and xenophobia together, our struggle will be more effective.
In fact, yesterday’s demonstration was widely reported in the Israeli media, for this reason.I would add that these attacks are a desecration of the name of God – an absolute blasphemy — that goes against the basic universal human values of Judaism, Christianity and Islam that most of the leaders and followers of these religions in Israel share. A small extreme minority is distorting the Jewish religion in a fanatic and detrimental way. Therefore, it is vital that Jews—together with Christian and Muslim citizens of Israel — continue to gather together to bring another voice, a voice of sanity and moderation.