Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Gaza conflict hurting harmonious towns

  • Print

For Israelis looking for a harmonious coexistence between Jews and Arabs, the town of Safed offered hope.

Mayor Ilan Shochat, a Jew, aspiring for it to become a hub of eastern Galilee, had attracted some 1,500 Arabs to its colleges, restoring a multicultural feel to a city that for 60 years had been homogeneously Jewish. He even spoke of welcoming President Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the West Bank Palestinians and himself a native of Safed, as part of a drive to attract tourists to a city steeped in both Jewish and Muslim historical buildings and traditions.

Israel’s war in Gaza is spoiling Arab-Jewish relations, however, there and elsewhere in Israel, a fifth of whose 8 million citizens are Arab. Israel’s Jews think that their soldiers are defending their homeland from terrorists armed with long-range rockets, but Israel’s Arabs see them as massacring their Gazan kin.

Several Israeli mayors, including Shochat, have suspended Arab workers for posting support for Gaza’s fighters on Facebook. Yair Revivo, mayor of the mixed city of Lod, said that they had been dismissed for "disloyalty to the state." Some Israeli universities, hospitals and even mobile-telephone companies have followed suit.

Some Jewish activists want to go further. "Death to Arabs," once the call of an extremist fringe of Israelis, is increasingly heard at right-wing rallies and in the social media. When Hadash, Israel’s predominantly Arab communist party, with four seats in parliament, staged an anti-war protest in Haifa, Jewish stone-throwers quickly outnumbered it. Thugs mugged the city’s Arab deputy mayor, Suhail Asaad, who was watching the event with his young son.

Haifa, hitherto a model of coexistence, no longer looks so exemplary. An exception in largely segregated Israel, many Jews and Arabs in Haifa live in the same blocks of flats — but, since the Gaza war started, neighbours have grown more suspicious of each other.

"Our youth are splitting into two rival tribes," a Haifa lawyer said.

Mayor Yona Yahav says that national politicians are not helping. The championing of Israel as a specifically Jewish state by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sends a message to Israel’s Arabs that they do not belong. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman wants to transfer hundreds of thousands of them to Abbas’ Palestinian territory, stripping them of their Israeli nationality. In response to an Arab general strike called to protest against the Gaza war, Lieberman called for Jews to boycott Arab restaurants and shops.

"The law says that inciting racism is a crime," said Hassan Jabareen, who runs a Haifa-based civil-rights group, Adalah, which in Arabic means "justice." "But the state just lets it happen."

As a result Arab Israelis increasingly style themselves as "Palestinians within." On July 21 thousands of Arab Israelis gathered for an anti-war rally in Nazareth, Israel’s largest Arab city, under a sea of Palestinian flags.

No sooner had it finished than Arab stone-throwers faced off against police firing tear gas.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Winnipeg Cheapskate: Travel getaway tips

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A nesting goose sits on the roof of GoodLife Fitness at 143 Nature Way near Kenaston as the morning sun comes up Wednesday morning- See Bryksa’s Goose a Day Photo- Day 07- Web crop-May 09, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • STDUP ‚Äì Beautiful West End  begins it's summer of bloom with boulevard s, front yards  and even back lane gardens ,  coming alive with flowers , daisies and poppies  dress up a backyard lane on Camden St near Wolseley Ave  KEN GIGLIOTTI  / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS  /  June 26 2012

View More Gallery Photos


Should the federal government force band chiefs and councillors to disclose their salary information?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google