Everyone has been watching the shocking scenes in a few mixed Arab-Jewish cities in Israel, especially Lod, Ramle and Acre. They followed violent clashes in Jaffa in April between Arab residents and right-wing Jewish religious communities that have been settling in the city’s Arab neighborhoods parts of the city “to demonstrate presence,” a euphemism for the domineering takeover of their most prized possession.
Just two weeks later, these riots and protests spread to other mixed cities. In Acre, young men threw Molotov cocktails into new boutique hotels. In Lod, things got so bad that a military curfew was imposed.
It’s tempting to believe the main cause of these incidents is the violation of the status of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip (which of course had a direct affect on the situation). But the causes of this violence have long been simmering beneath the surface – in fact, since Israel’s establishment.
The “mixed cities” are ones into which the state threw displaced persons from other cities after the 1948 war, after expropriating their homes using the Absentee Property Law. These internal refugees were placed in homes whose ownership had been transferred to the Amidar and Halamish public housing companies. The new ownership did not change the fact that these homes had been taken from other refugees, or that living in them were refugees and their descendants, who could be removed at any time by these companies, which could sell the home on the open market without regard for their fate or property rights.
The homes of these refugees were expropriated and transferred to companies which had already shown that they would not hesitate to evict women and children from their homes in order to sell the property rights to foreign investors or wealthy local buyers. These companies are nothing more than the executors of Israeli policy, which amounted to turning its back on helpless Arab citizens, throwing them into the street. Jaffa and Acre were two “laboratories” where this policy has been tested in recent years. The new owners, rich Jews, come to these mixed cities like lords of the manor. They live behind walls, decide who may use the playgrounds, complain about the “not-nice” young Arab men and the “noise” of the muezzins’ call to prayer – in the Arab neighborhood in which they chose to live.
They moved to a mixed city for its beauty and special character, but do all they can to displace its residents, who made the city special. This can only be understood as part of a plan to “Judaize” these cities, and the Arabs who are being pushed out will not believe otherwise.
The torching of Acre’s Uri Buri Restaurant and Efendi Hotel is a reaction, reflecting the helplessness of a young generation whose parents were dispossessed and whose children are doomed to eviction from the only home allowed them. There were similar incidents in Lod, also in response to its Arab residents being shoved into closed, crime-ridden ghettos, without hope.
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Shared life, mixed cities, coexistence: euphemisms for a violent reality based on the dispossession of one group and the privilege of another. The Zionist left, wishing to shake off these practices, tries to gild a reality that is anything but golden. The coexistence of the slogans is little different from the forceful dispossession of reality. In both, the Jew has the upper hand and the Arab is the service provider, who treats his masters politely and pleasantly, as befits his station. A coexistence of eating hummus and buying cheap spare parts, but anyone can see that there’s no such thing as sustainable, long-term coexistence between master and slave, and that balloons touting “economic peace” are bound to burst.
The latest events, in which Israel’s Palestinian citizens are standing up and attacking, draw a direct line from the original sin of the Nakba and the dispossession to class struggles, in which powerful rich people exploit discriminatory laws to rob the poor and to live an “authentic” life of luxury in a home facing the sea.
Janan Bsoul is a writer and translator.