Tawfiq Jamal at Knesset
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Photo: Gil Yohanan
MK Azoulay. No coexistence
Photo: Gil Yohanan

Arab driver who ignited Akko riots 'ready to sacrifice himself'

Tawfiq Jamal, who drove into Jewish neighborhood on Yom Kippur, tells Knesset's Internal Affairs Committee he made a mistake

Tawfiq Jamal, the Arab driver who entered a Jewish neighborhood in Akko on Yom Kippur, igniting violent riots across the northern city, told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Sunday that he made a mistake.


"I am ready to sacrifice myself for forgiveness," he said, claiming that despite accusations, he was not drunk and was not listening to loud music in his car.


"All I wanted was to get home. A mistake happened. I want to ask for forgiveness. I underwent a difficult experience and was made into a murderer and fascist."


Jamal said he lives in the mixed Wolfson neighborhood and was one of the founders of a coexistence forum in Akko, which initiated the establishment of a community center. "We invented coexistence," he said.


His appearance before the committee sparked a row among right-wing Knesset members, led by MK Effie Eitam (National Union-National Religious Party), who interrupted the Arab driver, calling out, "Why wasn't he arrested? He came here for a show?"


MK Talab El-Sana (United Arab List-Ta'al) responded, "You're dancing on the blood."

MKs Barakeh and Eitam (Photo: Gil Yohanan) 


Committee Chairman MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor) silenced Eitam in order to let the Arab driver talk, after he found the courage to appear before us."


"He didn't find anything," Eitam replied. "He should have been arrested."


Eitam to Barakeh: Your dirty mouth is the fuel

The discussion heated up when Hadash Chairman Mohammad Barakeh said that the riots were started by a group of radical Jews who settled in the city with the encouragement of "political elements sitting around this table" in a bid to maintain the city's Jewish character.


He claimed that these elements, supported by Akko Mayor Shimon Lankry, attempted to torch an Arab house several months ago while its tenants were still in it.


MK Eitam interrupted him, saying "you are an instigator, you should have been arrested. Your dirty mouth was the fuel of the riots."


"The thief doth fear each bush an officer," Barakeh replied. "This is a contemptible provocation," said Eitam. "You came to celebrate the transfer of Arabs from Akko," Barakeh added.


The discussion was held at the request of MK David Azoulay (Shas), an Akko resident. He was sitting next to MK Abas Zkoor (United Arab List-Ta'al), another city resident, who brought the driver to the discussion and said that coexistence exists, noting that Arabs have been helping a Jews build a sukkah.


"We condemned and continue to condemn the vehicle incident," he said.


Azoulay accused the police of not intervening on Yom Kippur Eve. According to the MK. The driver and several other people hid in Jamal's house and hurled stones at those who arrived to attack them, including the police "who went up and down, but did not call on them to turn themselves in."


Azoulay said he had asked a police officer to respond, but to no avail. "This is where the failure begins, resulting in the street taking control of the situation," he said, adding that the commotion could have been prevented within 10 minutes had the police used force immediately when the incident took place.


The Shas MK went on to say that this was not an unusual incident, but rather a continuation of similar incidents which took place at the end of the holiday of Simchat Torah one year and two years ago, and of the torching of a synagogue.


"The problem is that 'the street is heated up' and harming Jews on Yom Kippur Eve is not a regular thing. More than 200 masked people chant 'Allahu Akbar' (God is great) and 'Itbah al Yahud' (slaughter the Jews) and the police are not present in the area," he said.


Azoulay demanded that the police launch an investigation into the incident and file a report with the Knesset committee. "This is not coexistence because today we have no personal security," he concluded.


פרסום ראשון: 10.12.08, 15:56
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