Race-hate crime and communal violence

In a recent survey about co-existence, around 40% of Israelis favoured it, with reservations about a range of issues such as educational standards etc. But when asked to put in order what their major concern would be, more than 70% put security at the top of their issues.

So what are the components of security?

Israeli Jewish original fears about security came from the organised communal violence that drove them from Tsarist Russia and was echoed in sporadic incidents experienced around the early Zionist settlement. Next came fear of invasion (mostly unjustified), and more recently rockets lobbed across borders and the suicide bombs which killed 1 in 5000 of the population. Not nearly as many as the Palestinian deaths, but that doesn’t lessen the fear by one iota. And then there’s the dark shadow of long-range missiles, possibly with chemical or nuclear payloads.

Assuming that these forms of violence are intended to hurt Jews and support Palestinians, logic would say that close integration would be the best defence from most of these threats. If the two populations were closely intermingled it would be much harder for an enemy to single out Jews and spare the Palestinians. And yet close proximity seems the most feared thing of all. Which mostly shows that logic doesn’t come into it.

One Democracy Palestine, having peace and commercial treaties with its neighbours, should be safe from invasion, rockets and missiles. There would be little motive left for suicide bombing. Not only would the removal of the grievance lessen or kill the desire to make Jihad, but any remaining rejectionists would be isolated, as a Palestinian population that has justice and is building a life would be the eyes and ears of the community to prevent violent provocation.

Logically, that would leave localised communal violence as the main issue that could re-surface between neighbouring communities. We saw it in street-by-street ethnic clearances in Belfast in 1970, and mainland Britain experienced racial street violence in northern towns quite recently:  this is the form of violence that is born out of proximity rather than separation.

Aside from all the socio-political means to ensure that resentments and anger do not build up, there are ways to stamp out such communal violence before it starts.

At its worst (e.g. the violence of West Bank settlers) attacks on neighbours are intended to keep one community in a state of fear and subjection and establish the other as the top dog. Police, troops or militias then openly or tacitly side with the Top Dog community. Given the balance of forces at the setting up of One Democracy, it is almost certain that those Palestinians brave enough to move into an originally Jewish-only neighbourhood would the ones most at risk.

But irrespective of the balance of forces, fear itself plays a major role, and can easily be exploited and stoked by provocateurs. And Israelis do still have what Abunimah calls a “visceral fear” of being set upon and driven from their homes by angry, unreasoning mobs. This vulnerability to rumour and paranoia can be prevented by joint community policing, trained in conflict resolution to cool a situation while it’s properly investigated so that justice prevails. But the best answer is to stamp out injustice and promote contentment and friendship.

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