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Syria, Enemy of Peace By: P. David Hornik
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, October 16, 2008

Calm, albeit tense, appears to have returned to the Israeli town of Acre (pronounced, and more reasonably spelled, Akko) after days of Arab-Jewish clashes. The disturbances were touched off last week when an Arab motorist named Tawfiq Jamal entered and—according to eyewitnesses—intentionally disrupted with loud music a Jewish neighborhood on the eve of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year.


Jamal, though claiming he was innocent and had merely entered the neighborhood on the way to pick up his daughter, was arrested by the Israel police on Monday, then remanded to house arrest. On Sunday eleven Arab notables from Akko published an apology for his actions. Dozens of Arab and Jewish rioters have also been arrested.


The most disturbing incident occurred on Yom Kippur eve when, after a mosque preacher spread a false rumor that Jamal had been killed by Jewish residents, hundreds of Arab residents chanting “Itbach al-Yahud!” (“Kill the Jews!”) and “Allahu Akbar!” (“God is great”!) stormed through downtown Akko ransacking Jewish businesses and smashing windows of Jewish-owned cars. At present, reconciliation efforts by leaders of both the Arab and Jewish communities in the town, and by both Arab and Jewish members of the Israeli government, offer hope that stability will return.


Meanwhile, on Tuesday, two Arab parties outside of Israel published reactions to the Akko disturbances. Here are excerpts from one party’s statement:

“[We condemn] the campaign of aggression in Akko organized by the gangs of settlers with the support of the Israeli occupation regime. [We congratulate] the honorable members of our nation who are standing firm in the city of Akko and the villages of northern occupied Palestine…. We strongly condemn these savage attacks and stress that these moves, which are carried out in coordination with the enemy’s police, would not have taken place if not for the international plot against the Palestinian issue and the Arab disregard toward the rights of the Palestinian people. These attacks are aimed at completing the plans of the racist expulsion carried out by the Israeli occupation authorities, in addition to the desecration of the holiness of the al-Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem] and the turning of part of its sacred territory into a Jewish synagogue [like much else here, a fabrication].”

Here are excerpts from the second party’s response:

“The Akko incidents testify not only to the spreading of racism throughout Israeli society, whose roots date back to the establishment of Israel on Palestinian land, but also to the cancellation of all claims that Israel is an island of democracy. Its hate and terror crimes have been known and documented for 60 years. These crimes derive from pure Zionist intentions, rabbinical orders, and conventions of the Zionist movement dealing with the banishment of the other, original land-owners…. what occurred in Akko is an expression of a methodical and consistent policy of racism attempting to fight the presence of Arabs in Israel by frightening them into leaving, similarly to methods adopted by the Haganah gangs and other Zionist terrorist gangs…. The settlers who were brought from Safed and Tiberias [like much in the passage, a fantasy; also Safed and Tiberias are, like Akko, towns in pre-1967 Israel] set fire to Arab homes…with the direct support of Israeli military units in order to thwart any attempt at objection by the residents of those homes and succeed in their mission to Judaize Akko and Arab property…. is it not shameful that the US has conspired to revoke the UN Resolution determining that Zionism is a form of racism and discrimination? Is this not the US’s green light to Israel, to complete its plans to transfer the Arabs?”

The first statement was released by Hezbollah. No surprise there; although, to this day, Europe—which does a lot of business with its patron Iran—has refused to define Hezbollah as a terror organization, the Israeli and U.S. governments have no illusions about its nature and aren’t calling for talks with it as a potentially constructive actor interested in peace.


The second statement was published—to repeat, on Tuesday, two days after Akko Arab leaders issued an apology for Tawfiq Jamal’s Yom Kippur intrusion and amid joint efforts by Jewish and Arab community leaders and officials to restore calm to Akko—in Syria’s state-run daily Tishrin. The style in terms of rhetoric and content is the same. The difference is that Syria is considered—recurrently by U.S. governments, at present particularly by the Israeli government—a constructive actor interested in peace with whom talks have recently been pursued and must continue to be pursued.


Indeed, the issue of talks with Syria has played a major part in coalition negotiations between the Kadima and Labor parties, with Labor leader and Defense Minister Ehud Barak seeking a greater role in contacts with Damascus. Given Barak’s focus on security matters that may seem reassuring, but in fact his brief, woeful tenure as prime minister in 1999-2001was marked, among other debacles, by an attempt—which Damascus rejected—to award Syria the strategic Golan Heights in return for professions of peace.


Barak, Foreign Minister and prime minister-designate Tzipi Livni of Kadima, and the likeminded are certain to pass over Tishrin’s statement on the Akko disturbances as if it didn’t exist. Rationally speaking, though, such statements should be sufficient to put an end to speculations about Syria as a peace interlocutor, let alone talks with it aimed at giving up strategic Israeli territory.


The statement’s only possible purpose—instead of, like some Arab figures in Israel, helping to cool the Akko imbroglio—is to encourage in the millions of Syrian Tishrin readers a total, murderous hatred of Israel as an entirely criminal, illegitimate entity. It is what one would expect from a terror organization like Hezbollah—or a terror-funding, harboring, and supporting regime like the one in Damascus that is its close ally and shares the same anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, anti-American, anti-Western stance.


At the very least, a self-respecting Israeli government would demand that such hate-rhetoric cease completely before diplomatic activity can even be considered. At present it appears possible that Kadima and Labor won’t find enough additional partners to form a coalition, necessitating new elections from which a more self-respecting, realistic Israeli government may emerge.

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com/. He can be reached at pdavidh2001@yahoo.com.

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