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Jumat, 21 Mei 2021

Palestinian-Israelis and Jewish rioters brought violence to Israeli streets. Will the ceasefire calm them too? - ABC News

It seemed to happen in a fraction of a second — the crash of glass, and the child in front of him suddenly alight, the flames illuminating the cramped living area. 

The night a Molotov cocktail was thrown through Sabry Jenntazy's window, he was playing with his son Mohammad in the front room of his house. 

WARNING: Some images in this story are graphic in nature and may be distressing

Mr Jenntazy acted quickly, grabbing his son, rushing to the bathroom where he doused the flames under a running shower.

The boy survived, but was left in a critical condition. 

Mr Jenntazy has lived in his home, a small unit tucked away in the back streets of Jaffa, a historically majority Palestinian-Israeli neighbourhood of Tel Aviv, his entire life. 

The Molotov cocktail was thrown during a night of violence on the streets there.

As Hamas fired rockets into Israel and the Israeli military conducted air strikes on Gaza, Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel engaged in some of the worst violence on Israeli streets in modern history.

A small child wrapped up in bandages lies in a hospital bed while a woman rests her head in her hand
Mohammad's burns left him in a critical condition in hospital. (

Supplied

)

Mr Jenntazy said it was something he never expected to see. 

"It was chaos," he said.

"If I wasn't home, I don't think his mum would have managed to save him. What can a mum do when she sees her son burning?" 

"This is heart-breaking. 

"We never expected this — not from Jews nor from Arabs." he said. 

The Palestinian citizens of Israel are sometimes called Palestinian-Israelis or Arab-Israelis. 

The investigation into who was behind the attack on Mr Jenntazy's home is ongoing.

Some local media is reporting police suspect a Palestinian-Israeli man mistook the home for one owned by a Jewish family.    

Through his confounding grief, Mr Jenntazy pledges never to come back here. 

Synagogues torched as Lod erupts

On the second night of the conflict, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh made a televised speech saying Palestinians had a new "balance of power". 

He said Hamas would not abandon Jerusalem, "nor we will abandon the resistance". 

Haniyeh said the land inside Israel had become "the third front". 

"I salute our Palestinian people who live ... in the heart of the whale. These people have been suffering for so many years," he said. 

The violence in the city of Lod that night would take a man's life.  

Palestinian-Israelis torched synagogues and Jewish businesses and destroyed cars owned by Jewish people.

Yigal Yehoshua was a 56-year-old father of two who had lived in the mixed Jewish-Palestinian city near Tel Aviv for many years. 

He was an electrician and he felt safe in his community. 

Last Tuesday night, he was driving home from the synagogue when he found himself caught in the middle of violent protests.

Lod had become the frontline of civil unrest among Palestinian and Jewish rioters. 

An Arab man in a blue jumper stands in a blossoming bush, with a slight smile on his face
Lod resident Yigal Yehoshua was killed when he was struck by a brick while caught in a riot. (

Supplied: Yehoshua family 

)

The night before Yigal found himself caught in the crossfire, a Palestinian-Israeli man, Moussa Hassouna, had been shot and killed in a suspected hate crime. Three Jewish men were arrested. 

Now, a Palestinian-Israeli mob sought revenge and set upon Yigal's car with rocks.

Efi Yehoshua told the ABC his brother Yigal thought the rioters would recognise him. 

"[He thought] 'everything is OK. I can stick my head outside the car window and show them who I am. They all know me in Lod. They know who Yigal the electrician is in Lod'," he said. 

"He hoped that everyone would recognise him and no-one would harm him."   

Yigal was struck with a brick and after nearly a week in hospital, he died.

A man in a black t-shirt and glasses stands outside with a tent behind him
Efi remembered his brother Yigal at a wake held for him in Hadid, a town just outside Lod. (

ABC News

)

For years, Lod was an example of how Jews and Palestinians could live peacefully in Israel, albeit delicately.

But Yigal's death — as well as that of Moussa — represented a crack in the delicate social compact there.

"I want those people to talk more about coexistence and criticise the violence that we are witnessing," Mr Yehoshua said. 

"[They] should say no to the hatred, enough to the hatred." 

A state of emergency was declared in Lod. Mayor Yair Revivo described the situation there as a civil war.

Despite the ceasefire in the bombing campaign between Israel and Hamas, and the hope for calm on the streets, the damage done between neighbours could prove difficult to repair.

A crowd stands around a wrapped body as it's lowered into the ground.
Mourners attend Israeli man Yigal Yehoshua's funeral.(

Reuters: Ronen Zvulun

)

Questions over co-existence in Israel 

Political analyst and reporter for the Times of Israel Tal Schneider told the ABC violence in the community reached a new level. 

"We have never seen anything like this in our recent history," she said.  

"This time around Arabs are revolting against their Jewish neighbours ... and some of the events Jewish mobs performed against Arabs, to my knowledge, these events went underreported. 

So far, 170 people have been charged across the country for their role in the violence. Local media is reporting 155 of those are Palestinian-Israelis and 15 are Jewish residents

Synagogue in Lod torched
Torah scrolls, Jewish holy scriptures, are removed from one of the synagogues torched during violent confrontations in Lod.(

Reuters: Ronen Zvulun

)

Ms Schneider believes the ceasefire will mean violence in the community will settle down too, but she says the fact it escalated so quickly leaves some big questions about the future of Israel. 

"It's very sad, because co-existence here is really a crucial component of this country, and if we throw away our very delicate co-existence, our country will collapse." 

Israel has a population of 9 million people, which includes nearly 2 million Palestinian people.  

"We have 21 per cent minority. We can't really be a country if we don't treat the minority well," Ms Schneider said.   

The political landscape in Israel is extremely fragmented. There are more than 10 parties in the parliament — or Knesset — and the last election in March was the fourth in two years.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been in the top job continuously since 2009, but he did not win a majority this year and was unable to form a coalition by the deadline. 

Before the latest violence erupted, there was a chance a Palestinian-Israeli party would join a coalition that would remove Mr Netanyahu as prime minister.

Now, Mr Netanyahu has aligned himself with far-right Jewish parties, and is expected to hold onto power until another election can be held.

A figure likely to help Mr Netanyahu's new attempts to form a coalition is far-right Jewish politician Itamar Ben-Gvir. 

A man in a yarmulke walking down a road surrounded by photographers
Israel's police chief claimed Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir (centre) was partly responsible for ongoing riots in Jewish-Palestinian cities. (

AP: Sebastian Scheiner

)

Mr Ben-Gvir is an elected member of the Knesset, a member of the extreme far-right Religious Zionism party, and according to Israel's police chief, responsible for much of the agitations over the past week

"You can compare it to the alt-right of America," Ms Schneider said. 

"This is a party that has several components, one of them is coming from the Kahanist movement." 

The Kahane Chai party was outlawed by the Knesset in 1994 under anti-terrorism laws and is still listed as a terrorist organisation by the US State Department. 

The extremist Jewish group has been responsible for terrorist attacks designed to expel Palestinians and expand Jewish rule across the West Bank, according to the Council of Foreign Relations. 

Israeli media often refers to Mr Ben-Gvir as a "Kahanist". 

"Their ideology is basically everything against Arabs, no matter what. They are unwilling to co-operate with Arabs in any form," Ms Schneider said. 

"They're against co-existence." 

Referring to the uprising, Israeli police commissioner Kobi Shabtai reportedly told the PM: "The person who is responsible for this intifada is Itamar Ben Gvir."  

Local television reported Mr Shabtai saying that every time police appeared to be getting an area under control, Mr Ben-Gvir showed up to fan the flames

"He's a member of the Israeli Knesset so he has immunity, he can do whatever he wants," Ms Schneider said. 

For those watching social media networks and messaging threads over the past week, the power of Mr Gvir is evident. 

Tech platforms become 'tool for violence' 

Tel Aviv-based online misinformation researcher Achiya Schatz said Itamar Ben-Gvir was an inspirational figure for many extremists who used encrypted messaging apps. 

"Ben Gvir is really a guru in the groups. His photos are there, there are stickers of him, there are quotes from him," he said. 

"You can see the symbols of Kahane rising again and again online." 

He and Ran Cohen from the Israeli Democratic Bloc have been tracking misinformation, hate speech and comments that incite violence on social media sites and in messaging groups.

They report problematic comments to the authorities and the tech platforms. 

"Life in Israel is organised around WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal," Mr Cohen said.

"In order to understand what's going on, we need to monitor those different groups." 

These researchers were already monitoring many threads relating to the last election and then, last week, they noticed a change.  

The silhouette of a police officer is seen against a backdrop of fire.
Israeli police patrol during clashes between Palestinian-Israelis, police and Jewish protesters in Lod.

As tensions in East Jerusalem built, messaging was escalating, and by the time rockets were fired from Gaza, "the field was ready" and several threads were dedicated to planning and organising violence on the streets, the researchers said. 

"These groups were a window to the future," Mr Cohen said. 

Mr Schatz, who runs a platform called FakeReporter, said the intentions of the groups were clear. 

"Very explicit groups, 'Death to the Arabs' or 'Revenge today in Lod' ... actually names that leave no space for imagination, and we were very troubled by it," he said.  

Since the start of the violence, the researchers have been monitoring about 100 groups and comments from more than 22,000 members. 

Within the groups, members are asking for weapons, selling weapons, providing instructions on how to build Molotov cocktails, talking about dress codes, sharing intelligence on law enforcement and organising where to meet, according to Mr Schatz. 

"There wasn't much violence on the ground that you couldn't see organising online," Mr Schatz said, referring to the violence from Jewish citizens. 

On Thursday last week, a mob of Jewish ultra-nationalists attacked a Palestinian-Israeli motorist in Bat Yam, dragged him from his car and beat him until he was motionless.

"We had the information that the lynch was being planned hours before it actually happened," Mr Cohen said. 

"It was reported to the police and media outlets were there documenting the events as they happened, while police weren't there."

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Play Video. Duration: 1 minute 18 seconds
A Palestinian-Israeli motorist is attacked by a mob in Bat Yam

A WhatsApp spokesman said the platform could not see the content of messages, but would take action when problems were reported.  

The research is Hebrew-based, and was originally set up to monitor extreme Jewish groups. The speed of the escalation meant the researchers were not set up to monitor similar threads in Arabic as well.  

Palestinian-Israelis have been using social media to publicise their violence towards Jewish people. 

As part of a Tik Tok challenge, young Palestinians living in Israel have been targeting Orthodox Jewish Israelis, violently attacking them and posting the videos online. 

The attacks were slammed in Israel as anti-Semitic, and led to arrests.   

"There is a huge lack of understanding in the Israeli authorities about how the violence is designed online," Mr Schatz said. 

"Also, there is a huge responsibility to the big tech, to the companies themselves. 

"They need to understand that if their platform becomes such a tool for violence, they need to find tools to stop that."  

'They still have to live together' 

Ms Schneider said people in Israel saw the violence and mobs on the streets "on a different level". 

"Because Hamas is beyond the border, we don't have to live with them. Here we have communities that are integrated Arab and Jewish, they have to still live together — buy from the same shops, eat at the same restaurants," she said. 

"They have to share the community." 

For those participating in the violence, the fragility of this moment meant their actions had national consequences. 

"Clearly this is a very intense moment for Israel," Mr Cohen said. 

"This is a place that is familiar with violence, but ... the thing is, almost anyone, every individual, could change the course of history by choosing to do something radical." 

ABC/wires

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https://news.google.com/__i/rss/rd/articles/CBMiY2h0dHBzOi8vd3d3LmFiYy5uZXQuYXUvbmV3cy8yMDIxLTA1LTIyL2NvbW11bmFsLXZpb2xlbmNlLW9uLWlzcmFlbGktc3RyZWV0cy1ncmVhdGVzdC1mZWFyLzEwMDE1MjQwONIBKGh0dHBzOi8vYW1wLmFiYy5uZXQuYXUvYXJ0aWNsZS8xMDAxNTI0MDg?oc=5

2021-05-21 18:41:45Z
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