Arab Israelis say they try to avoid walking around at night for fear they would be attacked by racists
A brutal assault allegedly perpetrated by dozens of Jewish teens last week has reawakened long-harbored feelings of fear among Arab Israelis across the country.
“What happened in Jerusalem could happen here in Jaffa; there are enough racist Jews here,” Ali Mahamid, 22, told Ynet. “I’m afraid to walk down the street alone, especially in certain neighborhoods, because someone could attack me for no reason.”
An 18-year-old Arab man was the target of a violent attack on Friday in Zion Square in the capital. According to initial details, a female teen told her friends that she was raped by an Arab; her friends reacted by beating up an Arab passerby, causing serious injuries that put the victim in a coma. So far seven Jewish teens have been arrested in connection with the case.
According to Arab Israelis, the incident was not an isolated one.
“What happened in Jerusalem was covered by the media, but there are incidents that happen on a daily basis, in areas with bars and cafes, against Arab youths who just want to go out and have fun,” said Rabia Sagir, a Haifa resident who is studying at Safed College. “These incidents are a consequence of the incitement voiced by extremist rabbis and racist public officials.”
Shaheen Nasser, 26, another Haifa resident, reiterated that Arabs are often discriminated against for racist reasons; Arabs undergo harsher security checks, he said, and are often refused entry to clubs and bars.
“Sometimes it’s scary to walk down the street, but what’s really terrifying is the institutionalized racism,” he said. “The education system should teach tolerance and multiculturalism, but unfortunately attempts (to instate such programs) by human rights groups have failed.”
In Acre, however, Arabs appear to feel quite safe while Jews are afraid to enter the Old City after dark.
“There is violence here but only between criminals, not for nationalistic reasons,” said Ahmad Hamdan, 64, a resident of the northern city.
“We don’t have any problems between Arabs and Jews here,” Hamdan’s neighbor, Majid Aish, added. “Extremists are the ones causing all the trouble.”
Meanwhile, a Jewish youth strolling down the street with his girlfriend said he was anxious to step out at night.
“I try to avoid entering the Old City in the evenings,” said the resident, who wished only to be identified as Omri. “Every time I enter the city I feel like I’m taking a chance. I feel like they’re staring at me and talking about me.”
“I would have been happy if (Arabs) weren’t here,” the girlfriend added.