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Pogrom in Akko: MKs Demand Investigation

Arab and Jewish MKS traded barbs and called for a probe after Arabs rampaged through the streets of the mixed city of Akko in a Yom Kippur pogrom.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu and Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 10/10/2008, 8:42 AM / Last Update: 10/10/2008, 11:29 AM

Knesset Members Prof. Aryeh Eldad (National Union) and Yuval Steinitz (Likud) charged Akko Arabs with carrying out a pogrom against Jews, smashing dozens of stores and vehicles. Arab MK Ahmed Tibi in return charged the Jews with a pogrom, but Jewish testimony shows the Arab driver who set off the riots lied in his claim that he respected the Jewish holy day.

 

"The State of Israel has become the only country in the Western world where pogroms are carried out against Jews, with physical harm to them and their property and chants of 'death to Jews,'" declared MK Steinitz. MK Eldad said, "One should not be surprised if Jews take up arms to defend themselves while the police do nothing to protect them."

 

MK Tibi charged that the police discriminated against the Arabs. Arab MK Mohammed Barakeh stated that the alleged attack by Jews was "similar to the pogroms that Jews were exposed to at the hands of the Nazi gangs in Germany."

 

Both Jewish and Arab MKs called for an investigation of the police response, which its commanders deemed proper despite charges that the force, manned by Arabs on the Yom Kippur holiday, was slow to respond.

 

Eyewitness Testimony

Eyewitness testimony and police totally contradicted a claim by Arab driver Taufik Jamal, who sparked the riot after he drove into a predominantly Jewish neighborhood where Jews were milling in the empty streets.
Arab police officers took more than half an hour to respond.

 

According to eyewitnesses, Jamal drove his taxi down the street at high speed, with music blaring, and almost ran down children playing in the area, making a U-turn at a traffic circle before parking the car. Angry Jews surrounded the car as he parked, cursing them as he got out and entered a building from which witnesses said he began to hurl objects at them from the seventh floor.

 

Within minutes, a busload of Arabs arrived bearing axes, knives and other homemade weapons and yelling, "Death to the Jews!" and "Allah Hu Akbar!" (the Arabic war cry, G-d is Great). Witnesses said the Arabs piled out into the crowd of fasting Jews and began uprooting trees and knocking over street lights, smashing the windows of nearby stores and parked cars and attempting to destroy anything else in their path.

 

Four cars driven by Arab drivers also arrived and began trying to run down Jews, according to the eyewitnesses.

 

Jamal claimed he arrived to pick up his daughter who was helping relatives prepare for an upcoming wedding. He claimed he drove slowly out of respect for the Yom Kippur holiday and that his radio was turned off but that Jews stoned them when he and his passengers left the car.
When asked by Shas MK David Azoulay to do something to stop the riots, the Arab police officer responded, "What can I do?"

 

However, police said that Jamal broke through a checkpoint. Jews only began stoning the car after his wild driving, fearing another terrorist attack. 

 

World Likud leader Danny Danon said that Israeli Arab leaders have been inciting their followers against the Jewish community for years. National Union MK leader Uri Ariel declared, "We are deceiving ourselves" over the extent of Arab criminals and chutzpa. "Israeli Arabs are spitting in the well of water they drink from," he declared.

 

The MKs demanded an immediate investigation to find out why the police took more than half an hour to respond. Shas MK David Azoulay, a resident of Akko, said he saw the riot developing from his residence and that when he approached an Arab police officer to ask why his men were not taking action to stop the riots, the response was: "What can I do?"

  

Police, who claimed the riot was "a local incident," restored order to the city around midnight, using helicopters and police officers armed with tear gas canisters and shock grenades.

 

Residents said the damage caused to the city was worse than any they had seen during the 2006 Second Lebanon War. 

 

Police Beef Up Forces

Police have increased forces in mixed cities around the country in the wake of the attacks, starting with Akko.

 

"We have increased our forces in the city," said Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, adding that the level of alert was also raised throughout the country, "so that similar incidents do not occur again in Akko, or elsewhere."

 

Twelve people, including Arabs and Jews, were arrested in the melee, said Rosenfeld. Two rioters and one police officer were lightly wounded as well.