Salam Abu Sharar
The city of Lid saw fierce clashes for the sixth consecutive day between Arab youth, Israeli settlers, and police, which started with a funeral procession of an Arab resident, Mousa Hassouneh, who was killed by an occupying Jewish settler.
The police arrested Hassouneh’s Israeli killer, but a local court released him the next day, adding fuel to the fire and escalating clashes in the city.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a state of emergency in the city shortly after.
Tensions have been running high since an Israeli court last week ordered the eviction of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem.
Radical Jews are flocking to Lid from illegal settlements in the West Bank as a response to calls for gathering in groups to attack and kill the Arabs wherever they are found. And on the other hand, Israeli forces threatened to arrest Arabs who respond to such attacks.
The Arabs’ retaliation for Israel’s tyranny was obvious, resulting in mass arrests.
According to rights groups, Israeli forces have detained over 850 Arabs so far.
The fights are more dangerous in the cities of Lid, Haifa, Jaffa, and Jerusalem, where Arabs and Jews coexist.
Experts say Lid is one of several Palestinian cities where people have joined demonstrations against Israeli attacks for the first time since their occupation in 1948, as they had previously lived under specific conditions related to their political, social, and economic difficulties.
The problems that these Arabs have been dealing with for a long time have culminated in their being forced to join the other Arabs following incidents in Jerusalem and Sheikh Jarrah.
According to witnesses, occupying Jewish settlers can be seen walking the streets with their guns drawn, ready to shoot someone who appears to be Arab.
But unlike the occupying settlers, Israeli law prohibits Arabs from possessing any kind of weapon.
“The situation is very dangerous here; the police have done nothing to protect us. So, we are asking for protection from the international community,” said Ahmad Khalifah, an advocate and leader of the united movement in the city of Umm El-Fahem. He added that the international community must “play its ethical role.”
“Arab youths stage angry yet peaceful demonstrations against what was happening in Jerusalem, but clashes erupt when the police use oppressive tactics to disperse them. The assaults on Arabs were carried out by the settlers, armed Jews, and police until Hassouneh was killed,” Khalifah added.
Several factors, according to Khalifah, contributed to the problems in Lid. The city’s Arabs are considered to be uninterested in political affairs, and they are not well-off economically.
On the other hand, the Jewish settlers are well-off, and when they first arrived 15 years ago, the government instilled religious hate towards the Arabs.
“The municipality of Lid tried to fully isolate Arab neighborhoods, but they resisted. This situation resulted in daily and direct conflict, which reached a peak when settlers took to the streets to fight peaceful Arab demonstrations,” Khalifah said.
“The international community and advocacy states, Turkey one of them, have to fulfill its responsibilities and exert pressure on Israel to remove the settlers from Lid,” he added.
The political and social background of these people’s lives is full of challenges, especially the prevalence of organized crime and violence, said Ali Habib Allah, a researcher in social history.
The police are delaying action to address these urgent issues, he said and added, “This deliberate negligence is collusion, which leads to more protests and clashes.”
The protest action map has spread to areas previously unreachable, including Lid and the Negev rocky desert, and is the result of the Israeli government policies against Palestinians. The demolitions of houses in several unrecognized villages, as well as land confiscation, are the primary reasons for their anger.
“Organized crime began in these cities more than 40 years ago, and the police ignored to deal with it. At the same time, the [Israeli] government isolated Arab communities in ghettos on these cities, resulting in a complicated life,” Habib Allah added.
Arab Israelis are the Palestinians who managed to stay in their homes during the Nakba — forced exodus — of 1948 and later became citizens of Israel. They make up around 20% of Israel’s population.
They are centered in a group of Arab towns in central Israel known as the “Little Triangle,” along with the Galilee (north) and Negev regions (south).
Numerous human rights groups decry Israeli policies against Arabs as a form of modern-day apartheid, with Arab suffering racial discrimination in education, work, and health care.
The internal situation in Israel’s Arab cities is fraught with problems in health, jobs, education, organized crime, and racism. In addition to the incidents in Jerusalem, these cumulative issues sparked clashes and indignation towards the Israeli government in these cities.