Matan Kaminer received his Ph.D. in Anthropology in 2019.
THESE LAST FEW DAYS IN JAFFA, the most centrally located and deeply unequal of Israel’s mixed Jewish–Arab cities, a tense quiet has prevailed. The intercommunal mayhem that engulfed mixed cities like Acre and Lod since Israel’s horrific attack on the Gaza Strip began last week has for the most part passed us by. To even speak of what might have happened, and still might, seems like courting misfortune. But if the worst is to be averted, it must be imagined and faced head-on.
The conflagration within Israel’s 1948 borders, while unexpected, did not erupt spontaneously. The Jewish residents of the mixed cities have for years been targeted for proselytization by garinim toraniim—“Torah nuclei,” or groups of extremist West Bank settlers whose guru, Meir Kahane, is also the hero of street-brawling groups like Lehava and La Familia. The involvement of Palestinian residents in the indefensible destruction of Jewish lives, livelihoods, and places of worship as part of this violence should not be ignored or glorified. But the arrival of armed settlers in the mixed cities, Netanyahu’s framing of the troubles as Arab “terrorism,” the criminal justice system’s completely lopsided response, and the police’s naked provocations all point in the direction of a strategic agenda being served: ethnic cleansing, known euphemistically in Israel as “population transfer.” Netanyahu’s recent courting of Kahanism, through his promotion of the far-right Religious Zionism party, explicitly legitimates this agenda.