Israel’s Likud hopes to complete the ethnic cleansing of Jaffa

In 1948, Zionist gangs perpetrated the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian coastal city of Jaffa.

Their violent tactics included a massive car bomb on 4 January that year, set off by the Irgun terrorist group, destroying the saraya, the city’s municipal headquarters, killing and injuring dozens.

Once a major cosmpolitan center of trade and citrus-growing, and the cultural capital of Palestine, poorly-defended Jaffa, beset by hunger and chaos, lay at the mercy of the besieging Zionist invaders.

In April 1948, Jaffa fell to the invading forces, led by the Haganah.

Thrown into the sea

With no escape by land, tens of thousands of residents of Jaffa and neighboring villages fled by sea – scores drowning – leaving just 4,000 of the city’s original people behind.

After the occupation, Israel confiscated most Palestinian property, corralled the remaining Palestinian residents into the Ajami neighborhood and annexed Jaffa into the “Tel Aviv-Jaffa” municipality.

Since then, the Palestinians remaining in Jaffa have struggled to maintain their presence, as well as the historic character of their city despite racist attacks and harassment and gentrification calculated to drive them out for the benefit of wealthy Jewish transplants.

The 18,000 Palestinians currently in Jaffa are politically powerless within this large municipality in which Palestinians form just three percent of the population.

“Silence the muezzin”

A Likud party poster promises to “silence” the Muslim call to prayer in Jaffa.

Today, the local branch of Israel’s ruling Likud party, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, hopes to finish the job started by the Haganah, Irgun and other terrorist groups in 1948 – albeit by “democratic” means.

Israel’s municipal and local authority elections are scheduled for 22 October.

The local Likud electoral list is headed by Arnon Giladi, currently deputy mayor. Likud legislators have also spearheaded incitement campaigns against African asylum-seekers and migrants in Tel Aviv.

In an 8 October posting on its official blog, the Tel Aviv Likud branch promises voters that it will “Silence the muezzin and stop the spread of Islamic movements in Jaffa.” The muezzin is the person who makes the call to prayer from a mosque.

The subheading on the post quotes deputy mayor Arnon Giladi saying: “it is not possible that only a few kilometers from the center of town there will be a Palestinian nationalist autonomy that alienates itself from the values of the State of Israel.”

The poster above, from the official Likud website, carries the caption: “Silence the Muezzin in Jaffa? Only the Likud can get it done.”

The lower right-hand corner displays a municipal ballot, which bears the logo and the name of the party, and the words “led by Arnon Giladi.”

Since Israel’s general election earlier this year, Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu have run joint candidates lists under the name “Likud Beiteinu.”

“Jewish character”

In the blog post, the Likud explains that it has put the poster up throughout Jaffa as part of a set of demands: “Silence the muezzin, bring quiet back to Jaffa, enforce noise nuisance laws at the mosques, and stop the expansion of Islamic movements in the area.”

It is clear that the call to prayer is only a pretext. The post asserts:

Political elements from the radical left and Islamist movements have, in recent years, taken over public discourse in Jaffa. Likud Beiteinu has decided to bring the issue into public awareness because during the recent Yom Kippur and throughout the Tishrei month of holidays, complaints were lodged by Jewish residents about having violated the sanctity of the holidays in an organized manner, solely in order to rile up the atmosphere and violate the life of Jews living in Jaffa.

Deputy Mayor Giladi adds: “In recent years Jaffa has been occupied by Islamist movements and radical left movements which try, through activity masked as religion and education, to separate Jaffa from Israel and detach it from Tel Aviv. We will act to correct this situation and crystallize a national plan that will guarantee that Jaffa will remain a part of the State of Israel and also have a Jewish character.

Unsurprisingly, the Likud does not point out that it was Jaffa, a Palestinian city, predominantly Muslim and Christian, that was invaded, ethnically cleansed and forced to submit to the rule of the “Jewish state.”

“Losing Jaffa”

Israel’s Ynet reports that hundreds of posters have been put up in Jaffa with these slogans:

  • “In recent years, Tel Aviv - Jaffa has been losing Jaffa”

  • “Jaffa is becoming increasingly different from Israel in its values and image”

  • “Only a strong Likud will attach Jaffa to Israel”

  • “Only a strong national camp will not allow extremist and anti-Zionist elements take over Jaffa”

These slogans reveal the Likud campaign as a thinly-disguised call to continue and complete the process started in 1948, leaving no place in Jaffa for the city’s native population, culture or religious diversity and coexistence.

“Playing with fire”

Wahel Mahmid, chairperson of the Southern Section of the Islamic Movement, condemned the campaign’s extremist and described it as “playing with fire,” according to Ynet.

Muhammad Abu Nizzam, chairperson of the Northern Section of the Islamic Movement, noted that “The muezzins in Jaffa’s mosques were there before the state was established.” The poster campaign would do nothing to help coexistence, he said, and charged that it “violates freedom of religion.”

Ahmed Mashrawi, a city council representative for the left Zionist Meretz party, said that “The best response is to see Arnon Giladi disappear off the municipal map.”

Sami Abu Shahada, a council member representing the Jaffa List, warned that “Giladi is playing with fire which, if it catches, will burn Jaffa and hurt everyone.”

No distancing

According to Israel expert Dena Shunra, funding for the posters, websites and additional infrastructure in municipal elections tends to come from the national party apparatus, although the exact distribution of funds is not clear.

Shunra said she found no evidence that central Likud figures had distanced themselves from Giladi or denounced the Tel Aviv Likud branch’s poster campaign.

Widespread racism

The anti-Arab and anti-Muslim electoral campaign in Jaffa does not appear to be a one-off for the Likud. The Carmiel branch of Likud, in the north of present-day Israel, has promised in its local campaign to prevent anyone from building a mosque and “to keep the city Jewish.”

“Carmiel is a city that was established with the goal of Judaizing the Galilee, and no one can deny that,” Carmiel’s Likud leader, Koren Neumark, told Haaretz.

This kind of mainstream and officially-endorsed racism is increasingly the norm in Israel.

Shimon Gapso, the mayor of Upper Nazareth – a settlement also established to “Judaize” the Galilee and to prevent the growth of predominantly Palestinian Nazareth – has vowed never to allow the construction of a school for his city’s Arab children.

And municipalities have not only targeted Muslims.

Gapso has banned Christmas trees in his city for several years, calling them a “provocation.”

With thanks to Dena Shunra for research, translation and analysis.


Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.