by Gil Ronen
(IsraelNN.com) A car belonging to a Jewish couple in the mostly Druze community of Peki’in was set ablaze on the night between Friday and Saturday, and a large swastika was spray-painted on a nearby wall. Later Saturday, Ministers Ami Ayalon and Gideon Ezra spoke at a conference devoted to the riots at Peki’in last month, and heard angry, threatening talk from the Druze speakers.
The couple whose car was set ablaze immigrated to Israel from Holland and has been living in the northern village of Peki’in, near the road connecting it with another Druze village, Beit Jan, for six years. Fire fighting crews were unable to prevent the car from being destroyed by the flames, and said they are investigating the incident and will not have full information about how the fire was started until Sunday.
Couple “quiet and peaceful”
Police at Maona said that on the day before the incident, vandals whose identity is not known broke plant pots in the couple’s garden. However, they did not file a complaint with police when this happened. Police have no suspects in the case yet.
According to Ma’ariv/NRG, the couple is not religious and unlike other families who were terrorized in the past, are considered “even by the extremist Druze” to be “quiet and peaceful” and never got into any confrontations with the local Druze. They moved to Peki’in in order to live next to their son. Channel 2 TV said the couple had left their home and would not be going back to live there.
Inside a Jewish home burned by Druze rioters.
According to Maona police commander Chief Superintendent Amjad Sheikh, the victims are “regular folks, who had never been a target of the problematic youths in the village. During the riots last month, their home was not targeted.”
The conference in Peki’in was titled “The Events at Peki’in â€“ Slip-Up or Turning Point?” and was organized by the Organization for Furthering Democracy in the Arab Sector.
Ayalon warns of chasm
Labor Minister Ami Ayalon, a former head of Shabak (General Security Service), said that “the Peki’in events are just the tip of the iceberg and we must stop before we fall into the chasm.” He said the events needed to be investigated and so must the entire relationship between the state and “our brothers of the Druze community.”
“I do not know specifically what happened on that night in Peki’inâ€¦ what are the reasons that led to the feelings of discrimination and alienation [among the Druze] and what caused the Israel Police to feel threatened and led it to act as it did,” Ayalon said. “We are at the end of a slope, and after that slope there is a deep precipice which threatens all of us,” he warned.
The exterior of one of the Jewish homes torched by Druze rioters.
The Druze speakers spoke in a hostile tone that was very atypical for events like this until now. “Seeds of hatred for the Jewish majority have been sowed, and if the ‘golem’ rises up against its master it will be very bad,” warned Emil Sawayed, a Peki’in resident, borrowing an expression with roots in Jewish legend.
Brig.-Gen. Amal Asad said the Druze, most of whom serve in the military, are discriminated against nonetheless. Asad turned to Minister Ezra and said the police had used excessive force in last months’ riots. “The state of Israel knows how to absorb two million new immigrants, Ethiopians, Russians, and give them paradise. I demand full equality and I will receive it, and not just equality in the military cemeteries.”
Ezra attacked verbally
Druze writer Salman Natoor spoke in Arabic on purpose and said Ezra, who was formerly Deputy Chief of Shabak, was one of three interrogators who had questioned him about his political activity in the past. He said Israel had “isolated the Druze sect and stepped on it” since 1948.
Natoor said Israel had “isolated the Druze sect and stepped on it”
Minister Ezra was reportedly perturbed by the speakers’ tone and considered getting up and leaving at a certain point. He admitted that he had interrogated Natoor and another person who was present at the conference, MK Said Naf’a (Balad), in 1977, and said that he had thought they were only representative of a small group. “I do not think they are few any more and if this is the direction, it is not good,” he said.
Ezra concluded by saying the police’s actions in Peki’in needed to be looked into and that the police needed to make a public announcement about its findings.
MK Naf’a demanded that a commission of inquiry be appointed to look into the violence last month.
There are conflicting versions regarding the aftermath of the Peki’in riots. Some reports say tourism to the village is almost back to normal while others say there are no more tourists in Peki’in and that the local economy has been badly hurt.
Videos apparently uploaded to YouTube by Druze extremists feature nationalist music and appear to be intended for incitement. A video uploaded by a Jew features background music from an old song about a Jewish shtetl burning down and describes the events at Peki’in as a pogrom.