Jews removed Torah scrolls from a burning synagogue on Wednesday and burned cars lined the streets near an ethnically mixed Israeli city battered by violence denounced by the president as “unforgivable” acts by Arabs outraged by airstrikes on Gaza.
To prevent further violence in Lod, where there have also been attacks by Jews on Arab passersby, the police declared a night curfew and deployed heavily armed reinforcements.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called the riots in Lod a “pogrom” and denounced the violence that has taken over the city.
“The pogrom scenes in Lod and the riots across the country by a bloodthirsty Arab crowd, injuring people, causing property damage and even attacking sites sacred to Judaism are unforgivable,” Rivlin said in a statement.
When the shower of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel, and subsequent retaliatory bombings, made headlines last Monday night, a new hotbed of tension began to emerge in Israel’s mixed cities.
Lod, adjacent to the Ben Gurion International Airport, is a city of 77,000 inhabitants located between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, of which 47,000 with Jews and 23,000 Palestinians of Israeli nationality.
A discriminated minority
Most Israeli Arabs are bilingual in Arabic and Hebrew, and have a feeling of kinship with Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. They often complain of systematic discrimination and unfair access to housing, healthcare and educational services.
Hundreds of Israeli Arabs – autochthonous or descendants who remained after the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 – took to the streets on Monday to demand the same thing that the Gaza rockets were demanding: the end of the repression in occupied East Jerusalem and especially against the riots in the Al Aqsa Mosque.
While clashes in Jerusalem have subsided since then, protests have grown steadily in Lod, where an Arab protester was shot dead on Monday by a Jewish citizen who tried to prevent crowds from attacking vehicles and residences on her street.
From that incident, what until now was a relatively cordial coexistence has turned into a situation of identity violence between neighbors.
Jewish residents said that the Arab population attacked synagogues, vehicles and residences they owned last night, while Muslim worshipers denounced the burning of their vehicles and attacks by Jewish religious groups, both in the streets and inside a mosque.
In other areas populated by 21% of Israel’s Arab minority, Palestinian flags adorn utility poles and hundreds of residents have turned out for protests, sometimes confronting the police or Jewish residents.
“We have lost control of the city and the streets,” Lod Mayor Yair Revivo told Channel 12 news after nightly clashes in which an Arab inhabitant of the city was shot dead, murder in which two Jewish suspects have been arrested.
Dozens of people have been detained in Lod and in mostly Arab cities in central and northern Israel, including Umm al-Fahm, on the border with the West Bank, and Jisr al-Zarqa, on the Mediterranean coast, according to police.
In Lod, men carried Torah scrolls through the blackened and rubble-strewn courtyard of a burning synagogue.
Ibrahim, Arab councilor for Lod Municipality, said: ‘What is happening now is an uprising that is taking place in cities like Ramle, Lod, Jaffa, Acre and Haifa,’ calling the events in Gaza and Jerusalem a ‘red line’ for the Arabs.
In the coastal city of Acre, Uri Buri, a Jewish-owned fish restaurant, was set on fire and some Arab residents said they were afraid to leave home.
In Jaffa, near Tel Aviv, Arab protesters clashed with police who fired stun grenades to disperse them.
‘We condemn that the solidarity and cohesion of our people with our brothers in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip is channeled through acts of sabotage to public and private property, such as what is happening now at the entrance of Umm al- Fahm, ‘declared Samir Mahamid, Mayor of Umm al-Fahm.
Lod, the epicenter of the riots
The city woke up this Wednesday in a state of emergency, with hundreds of policemen sent as reinforcements from different parts of the country, patrolling its semi-empty streets this afternoon, in which more remains of burning cars than pedestrians could be seen.
One of the gathering sites on Wednesday was a religious Jewish school set on fire Tuesday by Arab protesters. One of those who approached was Yedidya Harris, who last night, after the departure of the protesters, came with buckets of water to put out the flames.
In the middle of the night, he says, and before the sound of anti-aircraft alarms that warned about the launching of rockets from Gaza towards the city, he chose not to take his family to the shelter, since it was on the ground floor and exposed them to possible attacks. of the protesters.
‘I never imagined that my neighbors would try to hurt me. We work together, I help them carry the purchases, this is crazy, ‘he explained to the EFE agency, meters away from a Jewish family that leaves their home carrying suitcases and fearing that violence will escalate.
On the sidewalk across the street, both literally and metaphorically, Rim Aldagmi looks at them suspiciously as he approaches to dump the garbage in the apple bin.
‘They wanted to lynch us. They asked people on the street if they were Arabs or Jews and if they were Arabs they beat them, while the Police just watched, ‘he denounces, about what Jewish residents describe as a defensive reaction against the violence of the Arab protests and inaction. of the security forces.
“We just want them to leave us alone, for racism to end,” explains Aldagmi, and believes that the current wave of demonstrations is because the Jews “want to stay” with Jerusalem, Lod and other mixed cities. ‘They want it to be all just theirs,’ he closes.
Far from being an isolated conflict, and although they do not have the magnitude of the hundreds of rockets launched by the Gaza militias, the protests and clashes in Lod and other Arab or mixed cities in the country, where Palestinian flags flew and culminated yesterday with 270 arrested, they represent one more front of the escalation of violence that the region is experiencing.
Lod has become a major focus of the current escalation, as Palestinian militias also targeted the city with a rocket blast on Tuesday, killing a man and his 16-year-old daughter, both Israeli Arabs and foreign to the protests.
“There are a number of events that have fed each other,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday, who went to Lod last night and today moved to the mixed Arab-Jewish city of Acre, where incidents were also recorded. .
“We are using all our strength to protect the country from enemies abroad and rioters at home,” he added.
With information from AFP, EFE and Reuters