Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pogrom in Acre, Israel: Like O'Leary's Cow
by Nadene Goldfoot
At 9:00pm, on Sunday, October 8, 1871, Mrs. O'Leary's cow was said to have kicked over the lantern in her cowshed, starting the famous Chicago fire that burned 4 square miles and was one of the biggest disasters of the century. That's all it took. A lantern was thoughtlessly left near a cow who probably was kicking at a fly, or an itch. Things can get out of hand that shouldn't have happened.
In Acre, Israel, at about 9:00pm of this year, after Yom Kippur, people were outside eating after a strenuous day of fasting for 25 hours without even drinking water. It was a neighborhood that was very religious, and the Sabbath and a super special holiday such as Yom Kippur were observed by not driving through the streets. Everyone was accustomed to the quiet and lack of cars on the street. Suddenly, speeding overly fast through a street came a noisily blaring radio through open windows in a car driven by Jamal Tawfik, Arab Acre resident. He was right in the Jewish Ben-Gurion neighborhood. It was reported that some Jewish teenagers hit the sides of the car, while other accounts say they threw stones at the car. Jamal got out of his car, and nobody hurt him. They just wanted the car to stop.
After this incident, an Arab in the Old City broadcast on the loudspeakers of a mosque to his friends that a Jewish mob had murdered Tawfif. More than 200 Arabs went into the Jewish neighborhood with axes and knives. They were calling, "Death to the Jews. Allah Akbar! We'll kill you if you leave your homes!" They shattered the windshields of 110 Jewish owned cars, then went onto the business area, looting and vandalizing stores and businesses. Finally, the Acre police came, but did nothing to stop the Arabs.
The problem kept on burning, though, just like the Chicago fire. Arab rioters returned the next night. This time the police were ready with riot gear and were able to separate the Arabs from the Jews. However, some Jewish protesters were revengeful, and torched some Arab-owned apartments in mixed neighborhoods of the city. The Arabs kept on looting and attacking cars. The police arrested rioters on both sides.
To make matters worse, Arabs published condemnations of violence about both parties, and Jewish leaders would not join them in doing this. Acre's Chief Rabbi, Joseph Yashar, said that because of their refusal it will be hard to calm matters down. Many remarked that the violence was done almost entirely by the Arabs.
The police reaction to the first altercation was with passivity. They were not prepared for a riot and stayed out of it! They probably felt it was dangerous to mix in. Their attitude only fueled the anger of the Israelis attacked. It took the actions of the teenagers to take matters into their own hands of punishing a speeding driver to bring about this fired-up pogrom. I think that police there will have to keep riot gear in their cars. You never know when you'll need them.
Though 20% of Israel's citizens are Arabs, it's been very difficult to keep the peace and keep them from each other's throats. Imagine what it'll be like with a declared Palestinian state next door. I remember the racial Watts riot in California in the 60's. Israel is very young, and is trying to work through similar problems. I'm afraid it's going to take more time before these much different groups will be accepting of each other. Jews, after similar experiences, feel that the Arabs don't want to live peacefully with Jews, and that Arabs don't recognize Israel's laws or even their identity as Israeli citizens. Of course, they didn't help by taking matters into their own hands, either. They need to learn to depend on the police to do their job, and the police need to be ready to do it. The fire was started by the cow. They have since learned to keep lanterns away from cows. It's dangerous.
Reference: Caroline Glick's article: The disappearance of law
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