Herut melts no hearts in Jaffa ice-cream scuffle

Right-wing party calls for emigration of Israeli Arabs to Muslim states.

kleiner 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
kleiner 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
It could not have been a more unlikely place for a scuffle between Jews and Arabs. In front of Andre's ice cream parlor - known for its support of co-existance between Jews and Arabs - on the main drag of Jaffa, radical Jewish right-wing activists and local Arabs pushed and shoved each other Thursday, after the Herut party members called on Arab Israelis in Jaffa to leave their country for another Arab state. Herut party leader Michael Kleiner called the confrontation a "pogrom." Jewish and Arab visitors and residents of Jaffa described it as a provocation and called Kleiner a racist. No-one was hurt. "[Herut's actions] were unethical," said Lital Ivri, a few hours after the scuffle as she ordered an ice-cream cone. Ivri, who regularly visits Andre's, an Arab-owned establishment, noted that the shop sponsors the women's basketball team at the nearby Arab-Jewish high school. "There was no pogrom, but maybe he'll also say there was a murder," Rifaat Turk, a Tel Aviv-Jaffa city councilman and ex-national football star from Jaffa, said cynically. Herut activists hung posters across Jaffa on Wednesday night calling on Arabs to vote for Herut to get money to "help you and pay for your family to emigrate to any Arab country and live a happy life." Kleiner and a group of activists showed up again Thursday, after Turk condemned the posters as racist and said Kleiner was afraid to hang them during the day. "This is a group of racists who came for a provocation to make a problem where there isn't one," said Turk, who met them and called on them to leave. "We live together, Jews and Arabs, in peace in Jaffa." Across the street at Rana's Nails, hair stylist Nizar Awad joked about Kleiner's visit. "He came with money, but not enough." On a serious note, Awad said that Kleiner was a "right-wing racist who came to the city to provoke the Arabs." Awad noted that many of his customers were Jewish: "This is a city of peace; Jews and Arabs live together." Kleiner claimed he and the other activists were almost "lynched," but noted that they walked through the town for a couple of hours before the scuffle took place. "We first arrived at the Clock Square," Kleiner said. "Jimmy [Rifaat] Turk was there and they told us they were born here and that we could go to Europe and that we shouldn't dare to go into the neighborhoods. They told me we were fascists and that we would get killed like [Meir] Kahane." Kleiner walked from there to the market, he said, and then to the Ajami area, in the parking lot outside Andre's. "They [the Arabs] had murder in their eyes and for a moment we thought there would be a lynching," he said. "The police were absent, of course. I laughed at them and said, 'You want to beat me?' Then there was a firecracker and one of our activists was hit in the head and we took him away. Then the police came... Instead of stopping the Arabs, they stopped us from continuing to hang up posters." Turk responded with cynicism. "They came with inciteful material," he said. "They want to throw me out of my country. Do they think we'll come with flowers and baklawa? I am from here and I will stay here all my life, and this is where my family is from and this is where I am raising my children, and I have no other place." Yossi Avineri, spokesman for the Tel Aviv police, said the police arrived quickly and that both sides filed complaints of violence, but he knew of no injuries. Down the street from Andre's and Rana's, Jewish shopkeepers expressed anger at Kleiner's call for Arabs to leave the state. "This is racist," said Moshe Ya'acobi, owner of the Elinor shoe store, as he served a customer. "I live with them and I know them and I'm against that. Aboulafia across the street is my good friend." Meirav Sharabani, a Jewish customer trying on shoes, said "As a Jew who knows all about what we went through in the Holocaust in Europe, I think it's a disgrace to act in such a racist manner," she said. "They should be ashamed of themselves. It's no wonder that [Israeli Arabs]become opposed to the state when the state makes them feel unwanted." Back at Rana's salon, Awad said he heard that Arab youths had thrown eggs at Kleiner. "He deserves it," he said. "If they had added tomatoes, there would have been shakshuka."