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A Call to Violence By: David Bedein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, October 13, 2008

Over the past few years, Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the “Islamic Movement of Northern Israel,” has been conducting mass rallies of Israeli Arab citizens who live in the mixed Arab-Jewish city of Acre, located midway between Haifa and Nahariya on Israel’s Mediterranean Coast.

In these rallies, Sheikh Salah makes repeated calls to Israeli Moslems that the Al Aqsa Mosque, a holy site in Islam in Jerusalem, is in danger of being destroyed by the government of Israel, because of its proximity to the Temple Mount, where the Jewish Holy Temple stood almost 2000 years ago.

In August 2007, Salah was indicted for inciting racism and violence after he called for a "third intifada," or uprising, as a response to an Israeli archaeological dig in Jerusalem’s Old City that he says endangers the foundations of the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Visiting Acre last summer, you could see posters from The Islamic Movement of Northern Israel plastered throughout Acre which called on Israeli Arab Moslems to rise in rebellion against the government and state of Israel, with his call for Islamization of Jerusalem.

Since the latest Israeli census showed that there are more than one million Israeli Moslem Arabs – representing 14% of Israel’s population, the Israeli security establishment has expressed cause for concern over the actions of The Islamic Movement of Northern Israel.

Last month, Israeli security forces raided the offices of the Islamic Movement in Umm al-Fahm under suspicions that it was aiding the Hamas terrorist organization.

Dozens of police entered the offices of the Al Aqsa Heritage Institute, the new name of Mr. Salah's organization. They confiscated documents, computers, and close to $100,000 held in a safe.

Last Wednesday night and Thursday, during the 25 hours of the holiest day of the Jewish calendar – Yom Kippur – Mr. Salah’s incitement came to fruition.

After an Arab sped  his car through a Jewish  neighborhood in Acre on Yom Kippur, something that is generally not done on the one day of the year that no traffic occurs in most Jewish neighborhoods, angry Jewish worshippers attacked the Arab driver. [Yom Kippur is one of a few Jewish holidays whose prohibitions are observed in public by virtually all Jews and even secular Israelis refrain from desecrating the holiness of the day in public.]

After police vehicles rushed to the scene of the altercation with sirens blaring, a rumor spread in a contiguous Arab neighborhood that Jews had “lynched and murdered an Arab driver.” 

Arab witnesses to the events told the Bulletin that hundred of Acre residents then went on a rampage, ransacking Jewish businesses in downtown Acre that were closed down for Yom Kippur.

Israeli Police reported that more than 100 Jewish owned cars suffered smashed windows and  flat tires as the Arab riots spread in Acre during Yom Kippur as Arabs shouted  "Death to the Jews," "Allah hu Akbar [God is Great in Arabic]" and threatening to kill Jews "if you dare leave your houses."

A Jewish witness told the Israeli media that the Arab driver who had sparked the clashes in the first place was driving threateningly near several girls sitting in a park.

After the girls started screaming, he reportedly challenged the Jewish youths who came to see what had happened when he told them "you don't know what's coming for you."

The witness told Israel radio that Jewish residents were afraid to leave their houses or even to go to synagogue. He told of "400-meter rows of cars, each and every one with smashed windows." He said the devastation seen in the streets was worse than after Katyusha rockets fell in the city in the Second Lebanon War during the summer of 2006.

This week, the International Acre Cultural festival is scheduled to take place, with tourists from Israel and from around the world scheduled to make their annual pilgrimage to this ancient city, where a variety of plays, open air concerts, movies and theatre presentations occur every year.

Members of Acre’s city council appealed for calm on Israeli radio stations with calls of reassurance to tourists “that all will be OK for those who plan to visit the International Acre Cultural festival next week.” Time will tell if their reassurance holds any weight.

David Bedein, author of the forthcoming book, "Swimming Against the Mainstream", has run the Israel Resource News Agency. www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com, since 1987, at the Beit Agron Press Center in Jerusalem, where he also heads the Center for Near East Policy Research and serves as the Middle East correspondent for the Philadelphia Bulletin, www.thebulletin.us.

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