Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer published an op-ed in The Times today expressing his dismay over the likely elevation of extremists Itamar Ben-Gvir, Bezalel Smotrich and Avi Moaz into positions of power within Israel’s next government (“Why many British Jews will be horrified by Israel’s new government”, Dec. 7).
Though Ferrer’s concerns are likely shared by a large number of British Jews, his piece including the following grossly misleading claim about events in May, 2021.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s new security minister, is nicknamed the “pyromaniac” for stoking last year’s riots against Israeli Arabs that sparked conflict with Hamas.
First, it’s not clear what episode of violence he’s referring to.
If he’s referring to the Jerusalem violence in May of last year, he’s wrong. The Ramadan riots consisted largely of Palestinian residents (not Arab-Israeli citizens) throwing rocks and incendiary devices at security officers stationed around the Temple Mount compound, who responded with riot dispersal methods. These confrontations spread throughout eastern Jerusalem. Palestinian youth also began randomly assaulting identifiably Jewish individuals in the city – some of which was filmed and ciculated on TikTok by Palestinians.
There’s no question that Ben-Gvir helped stoke some of the violence in Jerusalem. But, to describe what happend in the holy city during that period as “riots against Israeli Arabs” is counter-factual.
Alternatively, if he’s referring to the violence in mixed Israeli cities such as Ramla, Lod and Rahat in May of 2021, he’s also wrong. The violence was primarily Arab on Jewish, rather than the other way around.
Three Israeli Jewish civilians died as the result of Arab-Israeli attacks: Yigal Yehoshua, 57 (a rock was thrown at his car, which hit his head), Avi Har-Even, 83 (Arab rioters torched a hotel where he was staying) and Destau Bisset, 74 (car-ramming), and hundreds were injured. The one Arab-Israeli death during the riots (Moussa Hassouneh) occurred during disputed circumstances, in an incident preceiptated by violence initiated by Arabs who threw stones and Molotov cocktails at Jews and Jewish homes.
The most severe case of Jewish violence against an Arab civilian (Said Musa) occurred during the riots in Bat-Yam. Musa was moderately wounded.
According to a May 17, 2021 report by Liran Levi at the Israeli news site Walla, basing its information primarily on a report from Israel’s fire service, 10 synagogues were set on fire by Arab-Israelis during the rioting, compared to 0 Mosques; 112 Jewish homes were set on fire, compared to one Arab residence (set on fire by Arabs which misidentified it as a Jewish home). Arab rioters reortedly looted over three-hundred Jewish homes and damaged hundreds more. Over eight hundred Jewish cars were set ablaze, and there were thousands of recorded instances of Jews being stoned.
During some of the Arab riots, the Arabic chant “O Khaybar, the armies of Muhammad will return” (referencing a seventh-century massacre of Jews) was heard.
בית כנסת שרוף בעיר לוד, רק בנס לא נשרפו ספרי התורה.
פוגרום תשפ"א pic.twitter.com/DsSQtK1PM2
— בנצי רובין (@bentzi_r) May 12, 2021
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) May 11, 2021
Hundreds of Jewish owned cars were set alight by Arab rioters.
פרעות בערים המעורבות: בתי כנסת הוצתו בלוד, מג"ב בדרך אל העיר > מהומות ברמלה, לוד, רהט pic.twitter.com/WrpMWbdTSx
— ידיעות אחרונות (@YediotAhronot) May 11, 2021
— Joe Truzman (@JoeTruzman) May 11, 2021
One Jewish resident of Lod told Israel’s Channel 12 the following on the worst night of Arab rioting:
“Gangs of Arab youths are going street to street, burning stores, smashing windows… Jewish families are huddled at home, terrified of going out… Their cars are being set alight outside… Police are nowhere to be seen.”
The five days of violence in May was not a ‘extremists on both sides’ situation.
“There are five Ws in journalism”, Ferrer correctly noted in his Times op-ed, “who, what, where, when, why”. Yet, in describing the rioting in Israel last year excluisvely as “riots against Israeli Arabs“, he failed to provide a factual answer to the first interogative.