Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

News Analysis; Israelis, Alarmed by Stabbings, Brace for More Violence to Come

October 25, 1990
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The spate of Palestinian stabbing attacks against Jews this week in widely separated parts of Israel has alarmed the public, which is now bracing for additional violence.

Defense Minister Moshe Arens offered a gloomy assessment of the situation in an army radio interview Wednesday. “I don’t think incidents like these will disappear in the coming months,” he said, “perhaps not even in the next year or two.”

The stabbings, together with a number of violent reprisals by Jews against Arabs, have left more than a score of dead and wounded on both sides.

The West Bank and Gaza Strip have been sealed off. Their Palestinian residents are not permitted to enter Jerusalem or any part of Israel until further notice. The measure, which Arens announced Tuesday, was intended to protect both Jews and Arabs by keeping them apart.

The new restriction has had a strong psychological impact on Israelis. It has also caused economic dislocation, because of the sudden unavailability of Arab labor from the territories.

The mounting violence has produced pervasive tension, anger and fear.


Israelis are arming themselves. There has been a run on gun shops all over the country, but especially in Jerusalem, where an Arab laborer from the West Bank fatally stabbed three Jews and wounded a fourth Sunday in the quiet neighborhood of Baka.

Shopowners said sales of handguns were up several hundred percent this week.

Dov Kehat, director general of the Interior Ministry, which issues gun licenses, said Wednesday he would simplify the bureaucratic procedure for obtaining firearms in Jerusalem.

At present, more than 200,000 Israelis are licensed to carry handguns, and 70,000 licenses have been issued to firms and institutions.

Israel’s economy, hard hit by a 50 percent drop in tourism last month and the resulting layoffs of thousands of hotel employees, could face a crisis if the territories remain sealed off for any length of time.

Normally, some 100,000 Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip go to work in Israel every day. Only about 40 percent of them have legal work permits. The others make private arrangements with Israeli employers to work without benefits for less than the minimum wage.

Hardest hit by the Arab labor shortage are construction sites, garbage collection, and restaurants and cafes, which are without busboys and dishwashers.

Most construction sites were idle Wednesday. Streets went uncleaned, and garbage bags piled up on the curbs. Those jobs traditionally have depended almost entirely on Arab labor.

Police were making spot checks to see that no Arabs from the territories were in Israel and no Jews were employing them. The Arabs faced arrest, the Jews stiff fines for violating a Defense Ministry order.

The ban was holding, however. Fruit and vegetable markets, hospitals and supermarkets were affected by the absence of Arabs, who perform menial work that most Israelis refuse to do.

The National Employment Service reported a 20 percent increase Wednesday morning in the number of calls from Jewish employers begging for replacement workers. Many are hoping to recruit recently arrived Soviet immigrants or veteran Israelis who have joined the ranks of the unemployed.


But that will work, economists say, only if the immigrants and Israelis will settle for the low pay accepted by the Arabs or if the employers are prepared to increase their wages.

Some analysts are saying the switch from Arab to Jewish labor could be a godsend at a time of growing unemployment and immigration.

But the long-term political, economic and social implications of such a development are dangerous.

It is estimated that some 75 percent of the wage-earners in the Gaza Strip and 50 percent in the West Bank depend on jobs in Israel. If they disappear, the bitterness and resentment would only grow and might be used by the intifada leadership to encourage terrorism.

Arens insists the closure of the territories does not represent a return to the Green Line, the boundary that once separated Israel from the territories it conquered in 1967.

“I think everyone understands that this step was necessary following the murders and attempted murders of the past few days, which were carried out by residents who came as laborers to the Israeli market,” the defense minister said in his radio interview.

He said one of the measure’s purposes was to allow the Palestinians time to contemplate their situation and reach the conclusion that violent acts will only worsen their lives.

Arens added that he believes there is a “silent majority” of Arabs who understand that violence only stymies the peace process, “which is neither in their interests or ours.”


The spate of attacks by Arabs on individual Jews seems to have been inspired by leaflets circulated by intifada activists urging vengeance for the 21 Arabs killed Oct. 8 on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

The leaflets call for the use of knives and other lethal weapons, instead of the rocks and firebombs employed in the intifada up till now.

Separate leaflets were circulated by Hamas, the Moslem fundamentalist group based in the Gaza Strip; Al Fatah, the arm of the Palestine Liberation Organization headed by Yasir Arafat; and the intifada’s Unified National Command.

The Israel Government Press Office translated portions of the leaflets and distributed them to the foreign press here Wednesday.

A Fatah leaflet found in Ramallah on Oct. 12 accuses Israel of using the Persian Gulf crisis to execute a plan to eliminate the Palestinian problem in the Nazi fashion. It calls for “shock forces” and other armed groups to stalk Israel Defense Force soldiers, settlers and collaborators.

“At this stage, it is necessary to use weapons, to light fires, to stab with knives, to destroy everything possible without limit,” the Fatah leaflet says.

The flier issued by the Unified National Command exhorts Palestinians to react decisively to the killings on the Temple Mount. It states that “every Israeli soldier and settler in Palestine is a target for destruction.”

The Hamas leaflet depicts Jews as “blood-suckers who have sown the seeds of evil in every era, haters of humanity who fight all religions and everything holy.

“Opposing the Jews stands a believing and fighting people willing to die and sacrifice. This people believes that Allah’s order to destroy the Jews is drawing near,” the leaflet says.

It also calls on Moslems everywhere to demonstrate against the American “creators of the Zionist entity.”

Recommended from JTA