TEL AVIV (Dec. 21)
The general strike called by Israel’s Arab citizens in solidarity with their fellow Arabs in the administered territories was virtually 100 percent effective Monday.
The strike shut down Arab shops, businesses, manufacturing plants, schools, municipalities and all public services. It spread to East Jerusalem, whose Arab residents are not Israeli citizens, to Arab villages near the capital and the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
It reportedly was joined by Druze residents on the Golan Heights who heretofore remained aloof to such demonstrations.
The strike was accompanied by scattered incidents of rock-throwing and tire-burning, some in the heart of the country. Security forces used tear gas to disperse violent demonstrators. In the West Bank, three Palestinians were killed and one was wounded in confrontations with Israeli security forces.
Haaretz reported Monday that leading Likud figures discussed the possibility of dissolving the national committee of local Arab leaders because of the general strike and to withdraw financial assistance to Arab municipalities that participated in it. About 750,000 Arabs are Israeli citizens.
The West Bank and Gaza Strip parallel strike shut down all activity Monday. Eighty Palestinians were detained as rioting broke out anew.
An Arab youth was killed in the West Bank town of Jenin when police opened fire to extricate an Israeli civilian who was being pelted with rocks. Two Arabs were shot to death in the West Bank village of Tubas, where soldiers came under a hail of rocks and gasoline bombs.
Israel Defense Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dan Shomron visited West Bank trouble spots Monday to appeal for restraint. He said the task of the security forces was to prevent casualties and the destruction of property. He warned that rioters were playing into the hands of extremists.
In Israel proper, more than 2,500 regular and border police, reinforced by the Israel Defense Force, patrolled potential trouble spots. All police leaves had been canceled in anticipation of the strike.
The main center of unrest in Israel was Nazareth, in the Galilee, the largest Arab city. Rioting erupted there following a “Peace Day” moment of silence in memory of Palestinians killed in the territories in recent days.
Several hundred Arab youths hurled rocks at the local police station and at civilian and police vehicles. Similar disturbances broke out in the Arab town of Umm el-Fahm, just off the Afule-Hadera highway, when a peaceful rally quickly degenerated into a riot. Police dispersed 3,000 rock-throwing youths. Two policemen were slightly injured.
Other disturbances were reported in Lod, near Ben-Gurion International Airport, and in Jaffa, which is part of the Tel Aviv municipality.
Meanwhile, Mayor Elias Freij of Bethlehem confirmed Monday that he canceled the Christmas reception traditionally held by his municipality for visiting dignitaries, including senior Israeli political and military figures. It was the first time in 20 years that the event was canceled.
“There is a complete commercial strike in Bethlehem and neighboring townships. There is no public transportation and most residents and merchants are staying home. There is a great sorrow, anger and tension in the town,” he told reporters. However, the annual Christmas religious observances in Manger Square will be held as in past years, Freij said.
News that the Golan Druze decided to join the general strike was reported by Al Hamishmar. The announcement was made by loudspeaker in the four Druze villages in the heights. All residents were urged not to open their shops or go to their jobs in Israel.
The Golan Heights, captured from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War, were formally annexed by Israel in 1981. Relations with the Golan Druze, many of whom have families in Syrian territory, have been generally friendly. This is the first time the Druze, who are not Arabs and whose mysterious religion derives in part from Islam, have acted in solidarity with Israeli Arabs.