‘There Is a Limit to Democracy,’ Israeli Arabs Warned

Arab Leaders Warned They Will Be Held Accountable for Protesters' Actions

by Jason Ditz, December 31, 2008

Across Israel, Arab leaders are reporting the same thing: the are called in by Israeli police, or by Shin Bet, and are threatened over the growing protests in their communities against the military operation against the Gaza Strip.

The call in imams, distinguished sheikhs, and even school teachers – all under threats,” complained MP Abas Zkoor. “They are told that they will be held responsible for all the riots and if they continue security forces will make sure they can no longer serve in their offices.”

In Jaffa, leaders of the significant Arab minority were summoned for meetings with Shin Bet. Local Balad chairman Sami Abu Shahada says “every meeting went over the same things: ‘There is a limit to democracy. What’s happening in Jaffa in an expression of disloyalty toward Israel. You are responsible for inciting, and for every stone thrown.”

But what is happening in Jaffa? From media reports, not much. The annual street festival was canceled by officials on Saturday, citing “tensions,” and 2,000 people were reported to have “silently commemorated the dead” in the Gaza Strip. There were no reports of violence, no reports of stones thrown. Since then there have been some protests, but seemingly little of the violence that has plagued rallies elsewhere in the country.

But tensions in Jaffa are hardly surprising… the growing toll in Gaza has sparked outcry across Israel’s Arab community, and growing distrust against them for their war opposition. In addition, the war started only a week after an incident in which persons unknown spray-painted “Death to Arabs” and other slogans on one of the major mosques in this mixed community. Little appears to have been done by police over that incident, though they are out in force now to silence protesters.

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