10/27/2014, 00.00
ISRAEL - PALESTINE
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Jerusalem: as tensions grow so do racism and settlements

by Joshua Lapide
The symbolic funeral for a Palestinian man leads to clashes with the police as well as 4 arrests and 21 injured. Netanyahu orders 1,060 new homes in East Jerusalem, boosts the number of police in the city. Starting next month, Palestinians who work in Israel will have to travel on separate buses from those used by Israelis. For Israeli President Rivlin, Israeli society is sick of racism.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave orders to speed up plans to build 1,060 new homes in East Jerusalem, widening the settlements of Ramat Shlomo and Har Homa.

The prime minister's decision came after leaders from the right wing Habayit Hayehudi party threatened to quit the ruling coalition government.

It is likely to make matters worse in the city, which has recently been the scene of clashes between the army and Palestinian protesters.

The latest clash took place last night during the funeral of Abdel Rahman Shaludi, a 21-year-old Palestinian man shot dead by police on 22 October for driving his car into a group of people waiting for a streetcar.

In the clash - which Israel considers a terrorist act - a three-year-old girl was killed immediately. An Ecuadorian woman involved in the incident died yesterday as a result of her injuries.

Despite its promise, by yesterday police had not returned Shaludi's body to his family, which held a symbolic Islamic funeral without the body.

Although police requested that the funeral be strictly private, hundreds of Palestinians gathered at Shaludi's house in the neighbourhood of Silwan, in East Jerusalem.

A group then tried to go to the nearby Temple Mount. This led to a series of clashes with police as protesters threw stones and Molotov cocktails and police responded with gunfire and tear gas.

Four Palestinians were arrested. According to the Red Cross, at least 21 people were injured by bullets or tear gas.

To crack down on the violence, Prime Minister Netanyahu boosted security in the city by adding at least a thousand agents. He also accused Islamic extremists for the problem, as well as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for failing  to stop them.

Palestinian leaders argue that the violence is caused by the failure of the peace efforts, the growth of illegal settlements and attempts to secure a place of prayer for Jews on the Temple Mount, a project cherished by many Jewish extremists.

Faced with a situation that is becoming gangrenous, Israelis are becoming suspicious of all Palestinians with an obvious element of racism.

Starting next month, all West Bank Palestinians who work in Israel will no longer be allowed to use the same buses as Israelis and will have to use the border crossing at Eyal near Qalqiliya, forcing them to take longer and tiring routes.

Perhaps, in an attempt to appease tensions, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin acknowledged some past and present injustices by Israel towards Israeli Arabs.

Yesterday, for the first time in the history of the state, Rivlin took part in the commemoration of the massacre of Kafr Oasim, which took place October 29, 1956. On that day, the Israeli police killed 47 Israeli Arab civilians to enforce a curfew near Tel Aviv.

"I am not naive," Mr Rivlin said. "We belong to two nations, whose dreams and aspirations, to a great extent contradict each other."

"Many Israeli Arabs, who are part of the Palestinian people, feel the hurt and suffering of their brothers on the other side of the Green Line. Many of them encounter racism and arrogance from Jews," said the Israeli president.

Nevertheless, "The Arab population in Israel, and the Arab leaders, must take a clear stand against violence and terrorism," Rivlin stressed.

This is not the first time that Rivlin expressed such thoughts. On 19 October, at a conference entitled 'From Hatred of the Stranger to Acceptance of the Other', he said that it was time to acknowledge that Israel is a sick society that needs treatment.

With regard to Jews he said, "I'm not asking if they've forgotten how to be Jews, but if they've forgotten how to be decent human beings.

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