'Stone throwing not a prelude to new intifada'

But Eli Rekhes, an expert on the Israeli Arab community, tells Post such an eruption could still take place at any time.

stone thrower 88 (photo credit: )
stone thrower 88
(photo credit: )
Eli Rekhes, an expert on the Israeli Arab community, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday he did not expect at this time another explosion like the October 2000 riots in the North, despite scattered incidents of violence over the weekend, but that he took little comfort in this because such an eruption could take place at any time. Rekhes, director of the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation at Tel Aviv University, explained that during the seven-and-a-half years since October 2000, not enough checks had been created to prevent a recurrence of those riots. "There has been no fundamental change for the better in the relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel," he said. "On the contrary, from many points of view one might say that matters have changed for the worse." The dissatisfaction of Arab citizens regarding their civic rights had become more severe, Rekhes said. They continued to be frustrated by the social and economic gap between them and the Jewish population, and still felt excluded from Israeli society. These feelings contributed directly to the October 2000 riots and nothing had changed since, he said. "Almost none of the recommendations of the Or Commission of Inquiry have been implemented," Rekhes said. "Every year since it published the report [in 2003], the members of the committee warn that the writing is on the wall." At the same time, there had been significant developments regarding Arab nationalism, Rekhes continued. The recommendations for a written constitution creating a state of two nations or a consensual democracy giving the Arab population more power than its proportion of the population were expressions of this change, he said. Thus, even if it turns out to be true that there will be no internal intifada at this time, the situation remains as explosive as ever, so that any incident, not necessarily connected to Gaza, could trigger a blowup, he said. In contrast, Abed Masawi, head of the Fureidis local council, sounded upbeat, even though police detained three local youths who had allegedly thrown stones at vehicles on the main highway a day earlier. "This isn't an intifada and not the prelude to another October 2000," he said. As far as Masawi is concerned, Saturday's incident involved three youths who had no links to a terrorist organization or a political party. "They threw a stone, there were no casualties, no nothing. Had it not been for the media, we would not even have known about the incident," he said. Masawi added that there were problems of juvenile delinquency and drugs in his town, and the government did nothing to help. "But when these problems spill over a bit onto the highway, everyone stands up in horror. This reaction is one big exaggeration." The local council head also denied that there an atmosphere of bitterness and dissatisfaction in the town, simmering beneath the surface. "We live in the midst of Jews," he said. "Our relations our excellent. We have joint projects with Zichron Ya'acov in education and sewage, and have built a joint reservoir at a cost of NIS 30 million. Now we are planning a joint soccer stadium. It will be called "The Stadium of Peace."