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Despite Deadly Stabbing, Hopeful Signs for Jewish-Arab Relations in Israel

Then Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks with Mansour Abbas, leader of the Islamist party Raam at the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 13, 2021. Photo: EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP

Israeli soldier Uri Moyal’s visit to a café in southern Israel last Thursday ended up being his last.

While Moyal waited in line, Fadi Abu Altayef, from the nearby Bedouin city of Rahat, fatally stabbed the soldier from behind. With help from a bystander, Moyal shot Altayef dead before succumbing to his wounds. Moyal’s murder is an example of the worst in Jewish-Arab relations in Israel, but there have been many hopeful signs.

Altayef, 22, grew up in Gaza, where his parents currently reside. His father is from Gaza, but his mother is from Rahat in Israel. Under family reunification protocols, Israel granted Fadi citizenship in 2019 after he married a woman from Rahat. Fadi repaid that kindness by stabbing Israelis, but this extreme act represents a small minority of this minority community.

By contrast, fellow Rahat resident Ahmad Abu Latif, a reserve fighter in the Israel Defense Forces’ 8208 Battalion, was among the 21 soldiers killed in a building explosion in January in central Gaza. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a condolence visit to Ahmad’s family, and said, “Ahmad fell for the home of us all.” Countering initial reports that Fadi was his cousin, Ahmad’s family denied they were related and condemned the attack.

Since October 7, nine Israeli Arabs have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend Israel. During Hamas’ killing spree, the terrorist group killed more than 20 Israeli Bedouins and abducted another six. Ali Ziadna, whose family members are being held hostage in Gaza, confronted the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations on March 11, demanding their release.

Arab bravery was a bright spot on the Black Saturday, and — along with Hamas’ indiscriminate murder of Arabs and Jews — showed the shared fate of Israel’s citizens. Rahat bus driver Youssef Ziadna dodged bullets to rescue 30 Israelis from the killing fields. Ismail Alkrenawi and three relatives set out from Rahat to save his cousin Hisham, a worker at Kibbutz Be’eri. The Alkrenawis saved their relative and 30 to 40 Israelis fleeing the Supernova music festival. And Hamid from Arara, whose wife was murdered by Hamas that day, risked his life and that of his infant son to warn Israeli soldiers of a Hamas ambush.

Just after the October attacks, an Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) poll found that a record 70 percent of Israeli Arabs identified with Israel, up from 48 percent in June. And an IDI poll released on March 14 found significant increases in Israeli Arab faith in Israel’s institutions, including the army, between June and December 2023.

The high levels of connection to Israel are even more dramatic considering it was Israeli Arabs’ bloodiest year ever. According to a non-governmental organization focused on Israel’s Arab communities, 244 Israeli Arabs were killed in 2023. The deaths decreased sharply after the shock of October 7, but they did not disappear. While most of the killings were crime-related — they were not related to any acts of bias or hate — the violence has impacted innocent civilians. In separate incidents in 2022, stray bullets claimed the lives of two children on playgrounds.

A June 2023 survey found that 62 percent of Israeli Arab respondents were concerned for their personal security, but only 41 percent trusted the government’s ability to deal with the violence. Several factors contributed to the intolerable violence, including the preponderance of illegal weapons in Israel; the rise of Arab mafias following the decline of Jewish ones; financial challenges that have driven Israeli Arabs to rely on loan sharks; family honor murders; and Iran funneling weapons to Israeli Arabs to sow civil strife.

But while Israeli Arabs were reeling, they were also enjoying some incredible highs. Soccer-crazy Israel qualified for its first-ever Under-20 World Cup, eventually securing third place, a huge win for Israeli soccer. Israeli Arab Anan Khalaili scored the game-winning goal to send Israel to the quarterfinals, and he and Israeli Bedouin Hamza Shibli combined for two of Israel’s three goals to defeat powerhouse Brazil en route to the semis. The team served as a model for what can be achieved when Israel’s Arabs and Jews fight together instead of against each other.

The soccer success came not long after Israeli Arabs enjoyed unprecedented political success. From mid-2021 until the end of 2022, Mansour Abbas’ Ra’am party was part of the ruling coalition. Abbas’ pragmatic approach broke taboos among Israeli politicians that once blocked cooperating with Arab parties. He is committed to working within the Israeli political system to help his constituents, has rejected the canard of Israel practicing apartheid, and said that Hamas’ “massacre is against everything we believe in.”

But progress with Mansour Abbas has been mixed. Amid elevated Palestinian violence, Abbas’ inclusion in the Lapid-Bennett government became a vulnerability that helped lead to Netanyahu’s return. And a recent expose revealed that Ra’am promoted fundraising for a Hamas-tied charity, though Ra’am claimed it was unaware of the connection.

Jewish-Arab unity in Israel is a long and winding road. Much progress has been made, but much work remains.

David May is a research manager and senior research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy. Follow David on X @DavidSamuelMay. Follow FDD on X @FDD.

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University of Toronto seeks injunction to end protest encampment over ‘harmful, discriminatory’ speech outlined in court filing

The University of Toronto is now seeking a court injunction to put and end to the encampment in King’s College Circle after the 8 a.m. deadline passed Monday morning—while unionized workers joined students, faculty and other protesters at a rainy morning rally. Shortly after the ultimatum hour, the university announced in a statement from UofT […]

The post University of Toronto seeks injunction to end protest encampment over ‘harmful, discriminatory’ speech outlined in court filing appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Monday morning saw the Toronto community and politicians showing support for the Chabad girls’ school struck by weekend gunfire

Mayor Olivia Chow was among those who addressed the crowd.

The post Monday morning saw the Toronto community and politicians showing support for the Chabad girls’ school struck by weekend gunfire appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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‘A Call for Genocide’: South African Jews Blast Country’s President for Chanting ‘From the River to the Sea’

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Chatsworth, South Africa, May 18, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Rogan Ward

South African Jewish leaders castigated their country’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, for what they described as him calling for a “genocide” against Jews in Israel over the weekend.

Ramaphosa was speaking at an election rally in Johannesburg on Saturday when he deviated from his prepared speech to lead the crowd in in a chant of “From the River to the Sea, Palestine shall be free” — a popular slogan among anti-Israel activists that has been widely interpreted as a call for the destruction of the Jewish state, which is located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

The address took place at FNB Stadium, where South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) held its final rally before South African elections on Wednesday. According to Politicsweb, a news website focused on South Africa, a call for the release of the “hostages held in Gaza” who Hamas terrorists kidnapped from southern Israel on Oct. 7 appeared in Ramaphosa’s prepared remarks but not in his final speech.

The South African Jewish community lambasted Ramaphosa for his remarks in a statement shared with The Algemeiner, expressing “its revulsion at the introduction of a call to exterminate Jews from their homeland” by the president.

“The president of the ruling ANC party and the head of state of a democratic country has called for the elimination of the only Jewish state in the culmination of the ANC president’s election speech made to thousands of ANC members and on national television,” said Wendy Kahn, national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD). “He uses the populist slogan ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be Free,’ which is widely regarded as a call to genocide of the Jewish people. The call to remove all Jews from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea equates to removing all Jews from Israel.”

Kahn compared the slogan with Hamas’ goal to “see Israel as ‘Judenfrei,’ or Jew free,” before noting that such an endpoint contradicts the South African government’s stated policy of supporting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The chanting of this slogan by a head of state of a government that recurrently tries to express their commitment to a ‘two-state Solution’ as their policy on Israel and Palestine is hypocritical to the full,” the SAJBD said. “How does a sitting president reject his own government and own party’s international relations policy? This reconfirms our understanding that President Ramaphosa and his government are not looking for a peaceful solution to the tragic conflict, but rather to cause discord among fellow South Africans against its Jewish community.”

Kahn added, “The president’s contempt for South African Jewry is evident in this unscripted outburst at the rally which amounts to nothing more than Jew hatred. The SAJBD is reviewing its options for holding the president accountable for these hateful words.”

South Africa’s ANC government has been one of the harshest critics of Israel since Oct. 7, when Hamas terrorists launched the ongoing war in Gaza with their invasion of and massacre across southern Israeli communities.

South Africa temporarily withdrew its diplomats from Israel and shuttered its embassy in Tel Aviv shortly after the Oct. 7 Hamas pogrom, saying that the Pretoria government was “extremely concerned at the continued killing of children and innocent civilians” in Gaza.

In December, South Africa hosted two Hamas officials who attended a government-sponsored conference in solidarity with the Palestinians. One of the officials had been sanctioned by the US government for his role with the terrorist organization.

Earlier this month, members of South Africa’s Jewish community protested Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor’s recent call for students and university leaders to intensify the anti-Israel demonstrations that have engulfed college campuses across the US.

In January, the South African government failed in its bid to argue before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that Israel’s defensive war in Gaza constituted a “genocide.” However, the top UN court last week ordered Israel to halt its military operations against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. The emergency ruling was part of South Africa’s ongoing case at the ICJ.

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