Behind the Headlines: Arabs Allowed to Return to Jobs Find Little Tolerance from Israelis
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Behind the Headlines: Arabs Allowed to Return to Jobs Find Little Tolerance from Israelis

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The night was cool but emotions were hot as hundreds of residents of Jerusalem’s Baka section gathered Sunday to memorialize three of their neighbors, brutally stabbed to death outside their homes one week earlier by a young Palestinian worker shouting, “Slaughter the Jews.”

Mourning was mixed with rage, and the placards carried by some of the people said it all: “Death to the Arabs.”

The message may have been directed only at Arab terrorists. But for the moment at least, there is very little tolerance for any Arabs here.

Knesset Member Rehavam Ze’evi, leader of the Moledet party, which advocates transfer of the Arab population out of Israel and the administered territories, was greeted by the crowd with cheers.

Ze’evi was angry because Defense Minister Moshe Arens had just lifted the ban on Palestinians entering Israel from the administered territories, four days after imposing it.

“We tried to live without them,” Ze’evi said, referring to the Palestinian workers who were forced to stay away from their jobs in Israel.

“We woke up for four days, but disappointment came quickly,” he told the crowd. “This morning they returned to our streets, to our towns and villages, to bring with them death, terror and bombs. Why?”

Ze’evi was articulating sentiments which seem to be shared this week by growing numbers of Israelis, on the left no less than the right, for whom Palestinian workers are no longer welcome here.


Several Cabinet ministers criticized the defense establishment Sunday for lifting the ban on Arab workers too hastily.

While the army wanted to prevent further Arab attacks on Jewish civilians, it feared that if Palestinians were kept confined to their towns, unrest would quickly escalate into riots throughout the territories.

But a number of influential politicians felt it was too early to return to business as usual. Ministers such as Ariel Sharon, Yitzhak Moda’i and the territories were sealed off last week are still relevant.

The Arab workers themselves are nervous about returning. An estimated 30 percent of the Gaza Strip labor force stayed home at the beginning of the week. The workers feared that Jewish extremists might take revenge for the wave of stabbings by Arabs after the Baka murders last week.

And many who returned to work found that Jews had been hired to replace them.

Still others are now barred from working in Israel, under new restrictions approved Monday night by Defense Ministry officials. The new rules forbid any Palestinian from the territories with a criminal or security record from crossing the Green Line into Israel proper.

Currently, some 8,000 Palestinians from the territories hold green identity cards, indicating they have criminal records or are considered security risks. Under the new restrictions, the cards, which bar the holders from entering Israel, are expected to be issued to another 7,000 Palestinian workers.

But there is a problem of enforcement. Almost 120,000 Palestinians from the territories work in Israel every day. If the restrictions are to work, all of them must have their identities checked every morning on their way to their jobs.

This is relatively easy to do in the Gaza Strip, because there are only a few roads leading into Israel proper. But there are many routes in and out of the West Bank, which has a long border with Israel proper.

The security forces in the Gaza Strip issued magnetized passes to workers with clean records last week, thereby screening out hostile elements. The authorities are now considering issuing magnetized passes to West Bank residents, as well.


Israeli employers are being asked, in an event, to be more selective in hiring Palestinian from the territories and to ensure that all have valid ID card.

The army also announced Monday that it had taken legal measures to outlaw Islamic Jihad, religious nationalist movement active in the territories.

It is the third Arab organization banned since the intifada started in December 1987. The others are Shabiba, the nationalist youth movement linked to Yasir Arafat’s Al Fatah faction the Palestine Liberation Organization, and Ham an Islamic fundamentalist movement still active the intifada.

It appears, meanwhile, that 23 years after Israel conquered the territories, hawks and do alike share the view that there should be great separation between Jews and Palestinians.

But that does not mean that the two sides have reached consensus on the political future the administered territories. The gap, in fact, remains wider than ever.

While the hawks want to keep the Palestinians out of Israel, the doves want to get Israel out of the territories. The Labor Party soon plans to discuss a proposal that Israel announce its unilateral withdrawal from the territories.

According to the plan, proposed by form Cabinet minister Gad Ya’acobi, Israel would announce by April 1991 that it was withdrawing from the Gaza Strip, and by October of year, it would withdraw from most of the Bank.

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