One year after the May riots in mixed Arab-Jewish cities, the scent of fire is once again in the air. The combustible materials can already be found: incitement and lies in regard to the Al-Aqsa mosque, marches of “return,” and the nakba consciousness; but more importantly, an increase in displays of ownership and takeovers of our public sphere, mostly by younger Arabs.
We see it on the Jerusalem light rail when dozens of Muslims crowd into one of the trains around a few Jews and shout “Allah Akbar.” Not far from there, two young and terrified Jews removed their Israeli flags just a few days earlier out of concern they would draw the attention of Arab protesters nearby. Add to this the police officers who try to detain Arab lawbreakers and find themselves thrown to the side of the road by a Palestinian ambulance that helps the rioters evade arrest while they call out “Hezbollah is on the way.”
We see this also at Kfar Masaryk when young Arabs from Acre enter the kibbutz on horseback to the sounds of loud music and provocative cries. We also see this at the central bus station in Jerusalem on Memorial Day, when young Arabs cursed and mocked those who observed the minute of silence when the siren wailed. Israelis in a kayak on the Jordan River also see this when they are targeted by shouts that “with blood and fire Palestine will be redeemed” from another boat nearby.
The agitations of recent weeks and months have been overflowing with similar provocations that accompany the terror wave and violence toward Jews, each time at a different location and in a different way: Thousands of soccer fans at the Doha Stadium in Sakhnin called to redeem Al-Aqsa with “blood and fire” in an incident similar to the calls voiced one year ago at the Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa. College campuses are yet another arena: At Tel Aviv University, Arab students shout, “In spirit and in blood, we will redeem the Shahid,” while at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus Campus, similar calls are made.
On Sunday, some Arab Israelis were set to mark the “catastrophe” of Israel’s establishment as Nakba Day. In Lod, a Jewish child was beaten by Arabs marking the day while he made his way to a birthday party. In Akko, where scientist Avi Har Ben was killed when he was set on fire by rioters just last year, dozens of Arab Israelis marked the day with an attempt to beat two Jewish men to death.
Just a few days ago, a Haifa District Court judge decided to ease the prison conditions of Adham Bashir, who was convicted for his participation in the near-deadly assault on Mor Ganashvili. Journalist Yair Krauss, who reports on Arab rioters in his hometown of Acre, reported that the Haifa judge ordered Bashir to go on leave for two hours four times a week to “relieve mental stress.”
Many Arab Israelis in recent years have engaged in the issue of the “right of return” and the nakba. In Haifa, they excel at it. In recent months, dozens of “return tours” have been held across the country. We know that Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the outlawed Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, led one such tour not far from the northern Israeli community of Atzmon. On many of these tours and in a significant portion of these activities, the Nakba is a binding legacy and Palestinian identity and the return are perceived as a future commitment, a practical hope, not just a matter of theory.
For years, the fire has been stoked by Arabs inside Israel but also Palestinians. Alongside the committees in the Gaza Strip, whose job it is to incite “Palestinians on the occupation interior” to rebellion, Hamas published on its website an article titled “The Strategic Importance of Arab Israelis in any Future War.” The article’s author, Suleiman Abu Sita, stated that the proximity of the “internal Palestinians” to concentrated Israeli population centers and the central axes must be taken advantage of. Among Sata’s recommendations in the article translated by MEMRI, Arab Israelis can spill oil on Highway 6 to cut central axes in the south of the country, paralyze Israel’s rail system by placing rocks on railroad tracks, flood fighter jet hangars or fire at fighter jets and start fires in forests and at vital factories.
One can see these events as the start of Israel’s second war of independence, but they are in essence just the latest mutation of our existential struggle to exist here in a Jewish-Zionist state. Some Arab Israelis, with overt Hamas encouragement, are now trying to conquer us from within. In this struggle, there can be no compromise and no displays of weakness of any kind. These only feed the fire, which must be extinguished immediately.
Nadav Shragai is an author and journalist.
This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.