Hostility exposed on Isawiya streets

Where police are unwilling to enter, hostile pockets of potentially lethal danger are created for anyone who unintentionally wanders in.

isawiya riots 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
isawiya riots 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Nir Nahshon was travelling from Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus to Ma’aleh Adumim last Sunday when, in his words, he “met death face-to-face, and it stared me in the eye.” The 28-year-old, misdirected by his GPS device, found himself in Isawiya, an Arab neighborhood just outside Jerusalem’s French Hill, inside sovereign Jerusalem city limits.
A 11-year-old boy spotted him and started shouting “Yahud, Yahud” (Jew, Jew). That sufficed to draw a crowd. Some people began hurling cement blocks at Nahshon’s car. Molotov cocktails followed. Then he was pulled from the vehicle, beaten and kicked. Nahshon said later he feared his life was about to end in the same gruesome way that it did on October 12, 2000, at the start of the second intifada terror war, for two reservists – Yossi Avrahami and Vadim Nurzhitz – who had strayed into Ramallah.
More than many other terrorist atrocities, the Ramallah lynching is deeply ingrained in the psyche of Israelis. The killers’ gleeful viciousness is hard to forget. Details of appalling bloodshed often fade from memory, but not so the ghastly homicide of the reservists, who were surrounded by a screaming mob, dragged to a police station and beaten to a pulp. They were stabbed, disemboweled and their eyes gouged out. One corpse was tossed out the window, whereupon the crowd stomped on it and set it on fire. The brutality was emblemized in a photo showing one of the perpetrators, Aziz Salha, jubilantly waving his blood-soaked hands from a window of the building to the frenzied throng below.
But, as Nahshon’s case illustrates, the readiness to resort to violence against an Israeli whose “crime” was merely to take a wrong turning into an Arab neighborhood persists, even amid the relative calm that prevails today over the pre-1967 Green Line. Self-evidently, such hostility is fed by the steady dose of incitement and demonization of Israel that so often pollutes the official PA media, its educational system and mosques. A young schoolboy’s mind was so poisoned that he exhorted passersby to “kill the Jew,” and many locals responded with alacrity.
Nahshon might well have met a dreadful fate had it not been for Isawiya’s courageous mukhtar, Darwish Darwish, who took him into his home and shielded him. The rescuer feared his own house would be targeted next. He said later that moderates were unprotected because the police were loath to enter Isawiya. Somehow Nahshon was smuggled out and handed over to policemen waiting outside Isawiya’s perimeter.
Last November, three students from Givatayim and an Australian friend lost their way in the dark in the same area, en route to a pub. They too ended up surrounded by an Isawiya mob baying for their blood. With blocks, stones, pipes and assorted projectiles hurled at them, the four somehow avoided being pulled out of their car and managed to get away.
Ambulance crews report frequent assault when summoned to help Isawiya’s own residents.
And it’s not only Isawiya.
A few days ago, Jewish mourners visiting their mother’s grave at the Mount of Olives cemetery were attacked at close range by stone-throwing Arabs. A young girl was injured. Such attacks are a not uncommon occurrence at this ancient, sacred site.
Last month, five policemen were wounded at A-Tur after rocks and firebombs were thrown at them.
ALL OF these cases – and there are numerous others – occurred inside sovereign Israel. The grim concern is that any Jew in a predominantly Arab area may find himself in mortal danger. Make a wrong turn, and your life could be at risk.
This intolerable situation highlights how dismal has been the deterioration in relations over the past few years – how stark a contrast to the period before Camp David 2000 and the subsequent Arafat-fostered terrorism when tens of thousands of Israelis did their weekly shopping in the West Bank without having to fear for their lives.
It also underlines the lost deterrent of our law-enforcement authorities. Where police are unwilling to enter, hostile pockets of potentially lethal danger are created for anyone who unintentionally wanders in.
No law-enforcement hierarchy in any city should allow itself to become reconciled to consistent, potentially deadly attacks against a segment of the population. Reducing widespread Palestinian Arab hostility to Jews requires a change of mindset from Palestinian opinion-shapers, a protracted process of education for reconciliation. The sooner that starts, the better. Meanwhile, however, Israel’s law-enforcement hierarchy is obligated to protect ordinary Israelis from the violent consequences.