Antisemitism in Acre is reminiscent of darker times - opinion

These disturbing scenes are reminiscent of darker times in Jewish history, when we were powerless at the hands of our non-Jewish neighbors.

 A CAR is set on fire in Acre, May 2021. Arab radicals are violent, dangerous and waiting to strike again at the Jews. (photo credit: RONI OFER/FLASH90)
A CAR is set on fire in Acre, May 2021. Arab radicals are violent, dangerous and waiting to strike again at the Jews.
(photo credit: RONI OFER/FLASH90)

May 11, 2021, was a watershed for Jewish-Arab relations in Israel, especially in my hometown of Acre. On that day, hundreds of Arab residents took to the streets, motivated by their hatred of Jews. They sought to murder, burn and destroy. These scenes were repeated in mixed cities throughout the country, such as Ramle and Lod. Living in Acre, I honestly feared for my life, as well of those of my family and friends.

In Acre, after four days of rioting, more than 60 Jewish-owned businesses were burned, destroyed or looted. Three Jews were lynched by Arab mobs in the city center. A year later, they continue to suffer severe disabilities and require serious medical care. For four full days, the police and the authorities did not step in to quell the looting and lawlessness.

The terrorists that took to the streets also targeted Jewish-owned hotels and hostels, while Jews hid inside. Trapped in one burning building was acclaimed Israeli aerospace scientist Avi Har-Even, 85, who later succumbed to his wounds. Har-Even had previously been awarded the prestigious Israel Defense Prize for his working in developing life-saving security technologies.

Of course, these violent terrorists do not represent all Arab residents of Acre. That being said, the rioters cannot be dismissed as irrelevant or insignificant. Twenty thousand Arabs live in Acre, and several hundreds of them are our enemy. They have been emboldened by what they see as victory over the Jews and are waiting for another round. These Arab radicals are violent, dangerous and waiting to strike again at the Jews.

Since the May riots, the antisemitic harassment and violence has continued. Our children’s schools have been the targets of violence. Young Arab boys regularly throw stones at Jewish school children, spit and curse them. After 7 p.m., Jews do not walk in the city center or the beach promenade. They are scared of being attacked by Arab thugs. Every Friday night, when religious Jews walk to synagogues in the city center, Arab youths regularly harass them, insult and humiliate them.

 A CAR is set aflame during clashes between Arabs and Jews in Acre, May 12.  (credit: RONI OFER/FLASH90) A CAR is set aflame during clashes between Arabs and Jews in Acre, May 12. (credit: RONI OFER/FLASH90)

There is a trend of Jewish emigration from mixed cities, accelerated by Arab aggression. A friend of mine lives near City Hall, where he is the last Jew left in his building. He lives on a street that was completely Jewish twenty years ago. Every Saturday, Arab children throw stones at his porch and windows. They make sure to get his laundry dirty, in order to make him leave his home. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident.

These disturbing scenes are reminiscent of darker times in Jewish history, when we were powerless at the hands of our non-Jewish neighbors. They should have been relegated to Kishinev or Baghdad in the 1900s, not the sovereign Jewish state in 2022.

This situation did not develop in a vacuum. The Arab perpetrators believe that they will succeed in driving Jews away from Acre. Right now, Jews do not feel safe in their homes. Jewish fear only encourages Arab extremism and irredentism. Each side knows that it is only a matter of time until the powder keg explodes again.

Despite the blatant nationalist and anti-Jewish nature of the violence, there is in an attempt in some quarters to sweep Arab extremism under the rug. Many people, especially on the Israeli left, refuse to look Arab separatism in the eyes. They offer excuses, such as unequal allocation of resources, discrimination and neglect. According to this narrative, the May riots were a civil protest, even if they may have gotten out of hand.

This narrative is very convenient as it alleviates the need to acknowledge that many elements of Arab society are fundamentally opposed to Jewish presence and statehood. It also ignores the fact that the mayor of Acre has prioritized the Arab school system, investing more in Arab education than in the Jewish system, in order to raise the economic and social well-being of Acre’s residents.

The truth is that Acre is a welcoming and overall good place for its Arab residents. They enjoy flourishing community life, cultural and educational activities, as well as booming commerce and business opportunities. However, radical ideologies in the Arab sector are straining and challenging any semblance of common life. We must openly recognize that there are radical Islamic and Arab nationalist elements that do not accept the existence of a Jewish state.

This situation simply cannot continue. In recent months, I have been reporting on the antisemitic events happening regularly on the streets of Acre. The municipality and the state must set down a firm hand and protect their citizens. Israel governed by the rule of law, which applies equally to all citizens. Unless Israel is willing to reassert its sovereignty and crack down on Arab lawlessness, it is only a matter of time until May 2021’s violence repeats itself. The writing is on the wall. This time around, Israel cannot feign surprise.

The writer is a resident of Acre. He is married with three young children and a journalist for the Makor Rishon newspaper.