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
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
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
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