Mr. Sweetat is prepared to make compromises in a land where few are ready to do so. He believes cooperation in pursuit of shared prosperity, however difficult, is the only way forward. “If we don’t like it,” he said, “we can pack our bags and go to Switzerland.”
I asked him if he felt like an equal citizen in Israel.
“Of course, I don’t feel equal,” he said, “but I can achieve everything I want.”
Still, he said, “I don’t see new Arab villages being built. I don’t have enough space in my own village. I wanted to buy a piece of land near Tarshiha, but I couldn’t. I want my son, who is 2, to grow up here. Ask the country why I can’t find land here.”
“So, you can’t achieve everything you want?” I asked.
“There are things you can’t change, but we can improve them. The change can start from people.”
Overcoming Mutual Incomprehension
When Tal Becker, the legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, drafted the preamble to the normalization treaty between Israel and the United Arab Emirates last year, he expected pushback on this clause:
“Recognizing that the Arab and Jewish peoples are descendants of a common ancestor, Abraham, and inspired,in that spirit, to foster in the Middle East a reality in which Muslims, Jews, Christians and peoples of all faiths, denominations, beliefs and nationalities live in, and are committed to, a spirit of coexistence.”
There was no dissent, despite the fact that the wording made clear that both Jews and Arabs belong in the Middle East.
A widespread view among Palestinians and throughout the Arab world has long been, on the contrary, that Israel and its Jewish population represent an illicit colonial projection into the Middle East that will one day end.
JERUSALEM — The rabbi stood before the grave of the imam, weeping as he gave his eulogy. In life, Rabbi Michael Melchior said, Sheikh Abdullah Nimr Darwish had promised him that he would never leave his side. In death, the sheikh had left him feeling as bereft as an orphan.
Sheikh Abdullah died in 2017, four years before the Islamist party he helped found, Raam, became the first independent Arab faction to join an Israeli government coalition. But the sheikh’s funeral and his unlikely friendship with Rabbi Melchior, as well as their below-the-radar attempts at religious-based peacemaking between Israelis and Palestinians, were all part of an unexpected, decades-long back story of an effort by some Islamists to find a place within Israeli politics.
For Mansour Abbas, a politician standing in tears to the rabbi’s right that day, the sheikh’s death was one of several pivotal way stations in his journey to lead Raam into Israel’s government.
“At Sheikh Abdullah’s funeral and Rabbi Melchior’s speech, it hit me — that I need to be committed to Sheikh Abdullah and Rabbi Melchior’s joint approach,” said Mr. Abbas, who became Raam’s leader in 2018 and entered Parliament two years ago. The speech and the funeral “made me go from being a supporter and minor contributor to it to someone wishing to strengthen it and push it forward,” he said.
violent clashes in May. And Israel had just ended a brief war with Hamas, the militant group that holds sway in the Gaza Strip.
Both Raam and Hamas have roots in the same Islamist movement. And Raam’s leading influence, Sheikh Abdullah, was convicted and imprisoned in the 1980s for links to a militant Islamist group.
To those in and around Raam, its new role makes more sense in the context of Sheikh Abdullah’s spiritual journey since he left jail, when he had an ideological about-face and sought to use Islamic teachings to justify a more peaceful approach.
helped legitimize the idea of Arab participation in government by pursuing Raam’s support.
are fighting to restore momentum to a formal peace process that petered out in 2014. To them, Mr. Abbas’s political maneuver was a natural outgrowth of a long-term project of religious-based peace building begun by Sheikh Abdullah.
“My sheikh went through several stations in his life,” said Sheikh Raed, citing Sheikh Abdullah’s break with militance after leaving prison in the 1980s.
“The whole religious dialogue,” Sheikh Raed said, “started from that point.”
Born in 1948 in an Arab town in what became Israel, Sheikh Abdullah flirted briefly with Communism as a young man before turning more seriously to Islam.
In the 1970s, he founded the Islamic Movement, a group based in Israel that aimed to encourage the Muslim minority to deepen its faith and, ultimately, to create a society governed by Islamic law. The group also had a militant wing that carried out arson attacks on Israeli property.
But in the 1980s, he surprised his followers by pushing to establish better relations between Arabs and Israelis, within both Israel and the occupied territories.
participation of the Islamic Movement’s political wing, later known as Raam, in Israeli parliamentary elections. That caused a split in the movement, with some members forming a now banned splinter group that rejected participation in the Israeli parliamentary process.
But Sheikh Abdullah continued on a path of moderation, writing a book that rejected any religious justification for suicide attacks. He also began to work on several peace-building projects with Rabbi Melchior, then a deputy foreign minister in the Israeli government.
communal violence in the city of Acre, in northern Israel.
Understand Developments in Israeli Politics
Key Figures.The main players in the latest twist in Israeli politics have very different agendas, but one common goal. Naftali Bennett, who leads a small right-wing party, and Yair Lapid, the centrist leader of the Israeli opposition, have joined forces to form a diverse coalition to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.
Range of Ideals. Spanning Israel’s fractious political spectrum from left to right, and relying on the support of a small Arab, Islamist party, the coalition, dubbed the “change government” by supporters, will likely mark a profound shift for Israel.
A Common Goal. After grinding deadlock that led to four inconclusive elections in two years, and an even longer period of polarizing politics and government paralysis, the architects of the coalition have pledged to get Israel back on track.
An Unclear Future. Parliament still has to ratify the fragile agreement in a confidence vote in the coming days. But even if it does, it remains unclear how much change the “change government” could bring to Israel because some of the parties involved have little in common besides animosity for Mr. Netanyahu.
In 2014, they coordinated to avoid religious violence in mixed Arab-Jewish cities when the Jewish day of atonement, Yom Kippur, fell on the same day as the Islamic celebration of Eid al-Adha, and tried to taper conflict during a low-level intifada the next year.
Mr. Abbas became involved in the initiatives and later developed a close relationship with Rabbi Melchior, speaking with him several times a month.
To the rabbi, these religious-based peace initiatives offered a way to move on from the secular-led diplomatic efforts of the 1990s and 2000s, which he said failed in part because they did not sufficiently include religious elements from the two populations.
“The traditional and religious population felt that the peace was part of the uprooting of what they felt was their sense of belonging, of their DNA, of their identity, of their narrative,” Rabbi Melchior said.
After Sheikh Abdullah’s death, Sheikh Raed took up his mantle. He worked with Rabbi Melchior to defuse another crisis in 2017, when the installation of metal detectors at the entrance to the Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem almost set off another uprising.
In 2020, Sheikh Raed released a lengthy religious tract that provided a theological justification for Raam’s joining an Israeli government. Several months later, Mr. Abbas joined the current governing coalition.
During the coalition negotiations, Mr. Abbas gave a televised speech in Hebrew, largely pitched at Israeli Jews, in which he called for coexistence and presented himself as a citizen of Israel. Analysts later said it played a pivotal role in positioning him as an acceptable partner for Jewish-led parties. The speech was his own, but he spoke beforehand with Rabbi Melchior about its content, both men said.
To some Palestinian citizens of Israel, Mr. Abbas is a sellout for helping put right-wing Jewish politicians in power in exchange for what critics perceive as only token victories.
Ayman Odeh, the leader of the left-wing party Hadash, said Mr. Abbas’s approach was transactional, positioning Palestinian citizens of Israel as servants and subjects instead of as true citizens with collective rights.
“I don’t want to work as a politician under a Jewish supremacy,” said Mr. Odeh, whose party includes a mix of Arabs and Jews. “I fight for deep equality on both a civil and national level between the two peoples.”
But to advocates like Sheikh Raed and Rabbi Melchior, Mr. Abbas’s decision was a hopeful byproduct of a long process of religious peace-building that seeks to place Palestinians and Israelis on a more equal footing, and which political leaders would do well to amplify.
“If the religious element is not inside the peace camp, and not included fully, it just won’t happen,” Rabbi Melchior said. “I, for one, do not want to exclude the secular — not from our society and not from the peacemaking,” he added. “I just want to expand that sense of peace.”
JERUSALEM — More than 1,550 people have been arrested over the past two weeks, the Israeli police said on Monday, on suspicion of involvement in the recent outbreak of mob violence between Arabs and Jews that convulsed cities across Israel.
Announcing the start of an even more concerted arrest campaign, the police said in a statement that thousands of police and border police officers had spread out across the country “to bring the rioters, criminals and all those involved in the disturbances to justice.”
Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the police, said that 70 percent of those arrested were Arab citizens of Israel while 30 percent were Jewish. About 150 suspects have already been charged, the police said.
“The majority of incidents that took place were carried out by Arab Israelis who took to the streets and attacked Jewish civilians and police officers,” he said.
the worst intercommunal violence Israel has seen in decades, the outburst of assaults, arson and vandalism spread to other mixed cities in northern Israel and the Arab towns of the Galilee, while Bedouin Arabs torched and ambushed Jews’ cars with stones on the roads in the southern Negev desert.
Over several nights, Arab and Jewish gangs sought out targets. Several victims on both sides were beaten unconscious; one Jewish man was badly burned; and at times the unrest turned lethal.
looming eviction of six Palestinian families from homes claimed by Jewish landlords has contributed to the unrest, and where the police continue to disperse sporadic protests.
The police have come in for harsh criticism from both Jewish and Arab witnesses and victims of the mob violence. Many said they had tried to call the police as their properties came under attack during the disturbances but got no response.
Mr. Rosenfeld said that at that time too many incidents were occurring simultaneously and that it was impossible to place an officer by every door.
The government called in hundreds of border police officers from the occupied West Bank to restore order in Lod.
When crime involved only Arab citizens, as both perpetrators and victims, the police showed little interest, said Ms. Touma-Sliman, the lawmaker, adding, “we’ve been pleading for years for them to take action.”
Only now, she said, when the violence affected the Jewish population, were the police talking about gathering video footage from security cameras and using other technological means to locate and identify suspects.
“I have lost confidence in the police,” she said. “They will have to earn it.”
On Monday alone, the police said, they had arrested 74 suspects, including dozens who had thrown stones, fireworks and firebombs and assaulted officers in Jerusalem and Arab-populated areas of central Israel. They said they had also seized illegal weapons, including an M16 assault rifle, and ammunition.
Three Israeli Jews, including a minor, 16, were charged on Monday for what the prosecution called the “attempted terrorist murder” of an Arab Israeli driver in Bat Yam, a Tel Aviv suburb. He was dragged from his car and beaten almost to death at the height of the intercommunal violence.
LOD, Israel — Years before the mixed Arab-Jewish city of Lod erupted in mob violence, a demographic shift had begun to take root: Hundreds of young Jews who support a religious, nationalist movement started to move into a mostly Arab neighborhood with the express aim of strengthening the Israeli city’s Jewish identity.
A similar change was playing out in other mixed Arab-Jewish cities inside Israel, such as nearby Ramla and Acre in the north — part of a loosely organized nationwide project known as Torah Nucleus. They say that their intention is to uplift poor and neglected areas on the margins of society, particularly in mixed cities, and to enrich Jewish life there. Its supporters have moved into dozens of Israeli cities and towns.
“Perhaps ours is a complex message,” said Avi Rokach, 43, chairman of the Torah Nucleus association in Lod. “Lod is a Jewish city. It is our agenda and our religious duty to look out for whoever lives here, be they Jewish, Muslim or Hindu.”
In Lod, hundreds of the city’s Arab citizens took to the streets, throwing stones, burning cars and setting fire to properties, venting their rage against one primary target: The mostly young, Orthodox Jewish families who had arrived in recent years, saying they wanted to lift up the working-class city and make it more Jewish.
organized on social networks and sought out Arab victims in Lod and other cities, beating an Arab man almost to death in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam.
Lod, which traces its history to the days of Canaan and is known as Lydda in Arabic, has a particularly fraught history centered around the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Most of the original Palestinian residents of the city were expelled and never allowed to return.
Bedouins — the seminomadic Arabs from Israel’s Negev desert — arrived in the following decades as did families of Palestinians from the West Bank who had collaborated with Israel, seeking refuge.
to tone down the volume on the Muslim call to prayer from minarets in the city and his right-hand man is a founder of Lod’s Torah Nucleus.
Arab resentment is compounded by a lingering fear of displacement, house by house.
About eight years ago, Torah Nucleus built a pre-army academy and a religious boys’ elementary school next to the long-established school for Arab pupils on Exodus Street in the heart of Ramat Eshkol.
These Jewish institutions were the first to be set on fire on May 10. The trouble started after evening prayers, witnesses said. Arab youths raised a Palestinian flag in the square and demonstrated in solidarity with Palestinians in Jerusalem and Gaza. The police dispersed them with tear gas and stun grenades.
Angry Arab mobs then went on a rampage, burning synagogues, Jewish apartments and cars in Ramat Eshkol. One group approached another Torah Nucleus neighborhood, where a Jewish crowd had gathered.
There, the four Jewish suspects in the shooting claimed, they fired in the air in self-defense as Arab rioters began to rush at them, throwing stones and firebombs, according to court documents.
The funeral for the victim, Mr. Hassouna, the next day devolved into new clashes as the mourners, the building contractor Mr. Salama among them, insisted on passing through Exodus Street with the body in defiance of police instructions.
That night, gangs of Jewish extremists, some of them armed, came from out of town to attack Arabs and their property, according to witnesses. Mr. Salama said he was hit by a stone while sitting in his garden. Gunshots were heard on both sides.
One Jewish apartment in Ramat Eshkol was burned to cinders after Arab intruders broke open a hole in the wall. The family had already left. A neighbor, Nadav Klinger, said the charred flat would be preserved as a museum.
Elsewhere in Lod, some veteran Jewish and Arab neighbors said their good relations remained intact and agreed that the influx of religious Jewish professionals had lifted the city up.
Ayelet-Chen Wadler, 44, a physicist who grew up in a West Bank settlement, came to Lod with her family 15 years ago to join the Torah Nucleus community.
“I was raised to try to make an impact,” she said. “Just by living here, you make a difference.”
A week after the peak in the violence, about 30 of the 40 Jewish families who had evacuated their homes in the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood had returned.
“I believe we can get back to where we were before, but it might take some time,” said Mr. Rokach, the chairman of the Torah nucleus in Lod, condemning the revenge attacks by Jews from outside.
“Nobody’s leaving. Quite the opposite. As we speak, I just got a WhatsApp message from a family looking for a home here. Nor are the Arabs leaving.”
Rocks thrown at doors of a synagogue in Bonn, Germany. Israeli flags burned outside a synagogue in Münster. A convoy of cars in North London from which a man chanted anti-Jewish slurs.
As the conflict in Israel and Gaza extended into a 10th day on Wednesday, recent episodes like these are fanning concerns among Jewish groups and European leaders that the latest strife in the Middle East is spilling over into anti-Semitic words and actions in Europe.
Thousands of demonstrators have gathered on the streets of Paris, Berlin, Vienna and other European cities in mostly peaceful protests over the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, which has killed at least 212 Palestinians, including 61 children.
Pro-Palestinian activists and organizers say that solidarity with Palestinians should not be confused with anti-Semitism, and they denounce what they say are attempts to use accusations of anti-Semitism to try to shield Israel from criticism. They say they aim to hold Israel accountable for what they characterize as atrocities against Palestinians.
tweeted a video last Thursday showing protesters in Gelsenkirchen, in western Germany, waving Palestinian and Turkish flags and shouting anti-Jewish slurs. “The times in which Jews were cursed in the middle of the street should have long been over,” the group wrote. “This is pure anti-Semitism, nothing else!”
The United States on Tuesday criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who said at a news conference this week that Jews were “murderers, to the point that they kill children who are 5 or 6 years old.” He also said they were “only are satisfied by sucking blood.”
said in a statement that four men had been arrested.
Owen Jones, a prominent British columnist who has been a vocal supporter of Palestinian rights, warned against conflating Israel’s actions with Jews as a whole.
“If you’re holding British Jews responsible for the crimes committed by the Israeli state, and trying to terrorize Jews because of what is happening in Palestine,” he wrote on Twitter, “you’re not a Palestinian solidarity activist, you’re a nauseating anti-Semite who needs to be comprehensively defeated.”
Last Wednesday, a message appeared in a new WhatsApp channel called “Death to the Arabs.” The message urged Israelis to join a mass street brawl against Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Within hours, dozens of other new WhatsApp groups popped up with variations of the same name and message. The groups soon organized a 6 p.m. start time for a clash in Bat Yam, a town on Israel’s coast.
“Together we organize and together we act,” read a message in one of the WhatsApp groups. “Tell your friends to join the group, because here we know how to defend Jewish honor.”
That evening, live scenes aired of black-clad Israelis smashing car windows and roaming the streets of Bat Yam. The mob pulled one man they presumed to be Arab from his car and beat him unconscious. He was hospitalized in serious condition.
violence between Israelis and Palestinians escalated last week, at least 100 new WhatsApp groups have been formed for the express purpose of committing violence against Palestinians, according to an analysis by The New York Times and FakeReporter, an Israeli watchdog group that studies misinformation.
The WhatsApp groups, with names like “The Jewish Guard” and “The Revenge Troops,” have added hundreds of new members a day over the past week, according to The Times’s analysis. The groups, which are in Hebrew, have also been featured on email lists and online message boards used by far-right extremists in Israel.
While social media and messaging apps have been used in the past to spread hate speech and inspire violence, these WhatsApp groups go further, researchers said. That’s because the groups are explicitly planning and executing violent acts against Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up roughly 20 percent of the population and live largely integrated lives with Jewish neighbors.
That is far more specific than past WhatsApp-fueled mob attacks in India, where calls for violence were vague and generally not targeted at individuals or businesses, the researchers said. Even the Stop the Steal groups in the United States that organized the Jan. 6 protests in Washington did not openly direct attacks using social media or messaging apps, they said.
The proliferation of these WhatsApp groups has alarmed Israeli security officials and disinformation researchers. In the groups, attacks have been carefully documented, with members often gloating about taking part in the violence, according to The Times’s review. Some said they were taking revenge for rockets being fired onto Israel from militants in the Gaza Strip, while others cited different grievances. Many solicited names of Arab-owned businesses they could target next.
do not plan attacks on the services for fear of being discovered.
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
A WhatsApp spokeswoman said the messaging service was concerned by the activity from Israeli extremists. She said the company had removed some accounts of people who participated in the groups. WhatsApp cannot read the encrypted messages on its service, she added, but it has acted when accounts were reported to it for violating its terms of service.
“We take action to ban accounts we believe may be involved in causing imminent harm,” she said.
In Israel, WhatsApp has long been used to form groups so people can communicate and share interests or plan school activities. As violence soared between Israel’s military and Palestinian militants in Gaza over the past week, WhatsApp was also one of the platforms where false information about the conflict has spread.
Tensions in the area ran so high that new groups calling for revenge against Palestinians began emerging on WhatsApp and on other messaging services like Telegram. The first WhatsApp groups appeared last Tuesday, Mr. Schatz said. By last Wednesday, his organization had found dozens of the groups.
People can join the groups through a link, many of which are shared within existing WhatsApp groups. Once they have joined one group, other groups are advertised to them.
The groups have since grown steadily in size, Mr. Schatz said. Some have become so big that they have branched off into local chapters that are dedicated to certain cities and towns. To evade detection by WhatsApp, organizers of the groups are urging people to vet new members, he said.
On Telegram, Israelis have formed roughly 20 channels to commit and plan violence against Palestinians, according to FakeReporter. Much of the content and messaging in those groups imitates what is in the WhatsApp channels.
On one new WhatsApp group that The Times reviewed, “The Revenge Troops,” people recently shared instructions for how to build Molotov cocktails and makeshift explosives. The group asked its 400 members to also provide addresses of Arab-owned businesses that could be targeted.
In another group with just under 100 members, people shared photos of guns, knives and other weapons as they discussed engaging in street combat in mixed Jewish-Arab cities. Another new WhatsApp group was named “The unapologetic right-wing group.”
After participating in attacks, members of the groups posted photos of their exploits and encouraged others to mimic them.
“We destroyed them, we left them in pieces,” said one person in “The Revenge Troops” WhatsApp group, alongside a photo showing smashed car windows. In a different group, a video was uploaded of black-clad Jewish youths stopping cars on an unnamed street and asking drivers if they were Jewish or Arab.
We beat “the enemy car-by-car,” said a comment posted underneath the video, using an expletive.
Over the weekend, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel visited Lod, a mixed Jewish-Arab city in central Israel that has been the scene of recent clashes.
“There is no greater threat now than these riots, and it is essential to bring back law and order,” said Mr. Netanyahu.
Within some of the WhatsApp groups, Mr. Netanyahu’s calls for peace were ridiculed.
“Our government is too weak to do what is necessary, so we take it into our own hands,” wrote one person in a WhatsApp group dedicated to city of Ramle in central Israel. “Now that we have organized, they can’t stop us.”
WASHINGTON — President Biden’s carefully worded statement on Monday supporting a cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians came amid growing pressure within his own party for the United States to take a more skeptical stance toward one of its closest allies.
Mr. Biden’s urging of a halt to the fighting — tucked at the end of a summary of a call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel — followed a drumbeat of calls from Democratic lawmakers across the ideological spectrum for his administration to speak out firmly against the escalation of violence. It reflected a different tone than the one members of Congress have sounded during past clashes in the region, when most Democrats have repeated their strong backing for Israel’s right to defend itself and called for peace, without openly criticizing its actions.
The push is strongest from the energized progressive wing of the party, whose representatives in the House, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, have drawn attention in recent days for accusing Israel of gross human rights violations against Palestinians and of operating an “apartheid state.” But their intensity has obscured a quieter, concerted shift among more mainstream Democrats that could ultimately be more consequential.
Though they have no intention of ending the United States’ close alliance with Israel, a growing number of Democrats in Washington say they are no longer willing to give the country a pass for its harsh treatment of the Palestinians and the spasms of violence that have defined the conflict for years.
a letter on Friday that stood by Israel but also said Palestinians “should know that the American people value their lives as we do Israeli lives,” AIPAC quietly worked behind the scenes to discourage lawmakers from signing.
Republicans have also seen a political advantage in trying to use the most extreme statements from progressive Democrats to try to peel Jewish voters away from the party.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader and a vocal supporter of Israel, condemned Ms. Ocasio-Cortez on Monday for her description of Israel as an “apartheid state” and urged the president to “leave no doubt where America stands.”
wrote on Twitter. (Mr. Yang later released a new statement saying that his first was “overly simplistic” and “failed to acknowledge the pain and suffering on both sides.”)
That has left some of Israel’s most vocal traditional allies in the party in an awkward position.
Mindful of the crosscurrents in his party and home state, where he faces re-election next year, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, has been largely silent since the fighting broke out. Like Mr. Menendez, Mr. Schumer voted against the Iran nuclear deal, and he represents the largest Jewish population in the country, ranging from secular progressives to politically conservative Orthodox communities.
In response to a question asked by a reporter at the Capitol on Monday, Mr. Schumer said, “I want to see a cease-fire reached quickly, and mourn the loss of life.”
Yitzhak Arad, who as an orphaned teenage partisan fought the Germans and their collaborators during World War II, then went on to become an esteemed scholar of the Holocaust and the longtime chairman of the Yad Vashem remembrance and research center in Israel, died on May 6 in a hospital in Tel Aviv. He was 94.
Yad Vashem announced the death but did not specify the cause.
Mr. Arad was not even bar mitzvahed when the Germans invaded Poland and what is now part of Lithuania in 1939 and began rounding up and murdering Jews and forcing them into ghettos. His parents and 30 close family members would perish before the war ended in 1945.
But he survived, at first as a forced laborer — cleaning captured Soviet weapons in a munitions warehouse — and then, sensing what fate awaited, by smuggling weapons to partisans in the nearby forests and forming an underground movement in the ghetto. He, his sister and their underground associates eventually stole a revolver and escaped, meeting up with a brigade of Soviet partisans.
Acquiring the lifelong nickname Tolya (diminutive for Anatoly), he took part in ambushing German bases in what is now Belarus and setting up mines that blew up more than a dozen trains carrying German soldiers and supplies. Among his exploits was a battle with pro-German Lithuanian partisans in fields and forests covered in deep snow in the village of Girdan.
“We fought with them for a whole day, but by evening none of them remained alive,” he wrote in a 1979 memoir, “The Partisan: From the Valley of Death to Mt. Zion.” “The next day we counted over 250 Lithuanian dead.”
A Zionist since childhood, Mr. Arad made his way to Palestine, then a British mandate, aboard a ship, the Hannah Senesh, filled with immigrants.
He changed his Polish name, Icchak Rudnicki, to the Hebrew, Yitzhak Arad, and joined the fight for an autonomous Jewish land, serving with the Palmach, the elite fighting force that was eventually incorporated into the Israeli Army after Israel declared its independence in 1948. Assigned to an armor brigade, he rose to the rank of brigadier general, retiring in 1972.
He devoted himself to researching the history of the Holocaust, completing a doctorate at Tel Aviv University with a treatise on the destruction of the Jews of Vilna, Lithuania’s capital, now known as Vilnius. He was among the first scholars to study the Jewish partisans in the forests and the ghettos and the systematic murder of Jews by killing squads as the German Army moved deeper into Soviet territory.
“What gave Yitzhak Arad credibility was both the fact that he was a survivor and a historian,” said Abraham H. Foxman, former national director of the Anti-Defamation League. “He could discuss and teach about the Shoah from a very personal perspective.”
When another Palmach veteran, Yigal Allon, became a minister of education and culture, he asked Mr. Arad in 1972 to lead Yad Vashem — which means “a memorial and a name” and is taken from a verse in Isaiah.
A complex of museums, archives and memorial sculptures on a Jerusalem hill, Yad Vashem is considered the world’s leading repository of Holocaust documents, survivor interviews and other material. He served as its chairman of the directorate for more than two decades, until 1993.
“He never forgot,” said Avner Shalev, Mr. Arad’s successor as chairman. “He was part of the most important event for Jews in the 20th century — the Shoah — and he understood that it is an important mission in his life to research and commemorate that event.”
For most of his tenure at Yad Vashem, the Soviet Union and the Eastern European countries in its bloc cut off diplomatic relations with Israel. But Mr. Arad took pride in having established working relationships with archivists in those countries and securing hundreds of thousands documents that detailed the scope of the Holocaust.
Under his leadership, Yad Vashem added a number of monuments, including the Valley of the Communities, 2.5 acres of intersecting walls made of rough-hewed stone blocks engraved with the names of 5,000 Jewish communities, most of which were destroyed in the Holocaust.
He lectured at Tel Aviv University and wrote several books considered essential for scholars, including “The Holocaust in the Soviet Union,” which won a National Jewish Book Award in 2009, and “Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: the Operation Reinhard Death Camps,” which chronicled the murder of millions in those death camps.
In 2006, he was briefly the target of a war crimes investigation in Lithuania. A state prosecutor claimed there was evidence that a Soviet partisan band to which he belonged had killed 38 civilians, mostly women and children, in January 1944 in the village of Koniuchy.
Mr. Arad denied ever killing anyone in cold blood and pointed out that the village had been defended by a Lithuanian militia that collaborated with the Nazis. In the international outcry that ensued, historians noted that, at that point, Lithuania had never charged any non-Jews with war crimes despite the thousands of Lithuanians who had collaborated with the Nazis in the slaughter of 200,000 Jews. The case was dropped in 2008.
Mr. Arad was born on Nov. 11, 1926, in the ancient town of Swieciany, then within Poland but now part of Lithuania and known as Svencionys. (Another prominent resident was Mordecai Kaplan, the co-founder of Reconstructionist Judaism.) His father, Israel, was a synagogue cantor, and his mother, Chaya, a homemaker. The family moved to cosmopolitan Warsaw and sent Yitzhak to a Hebrew school. He belonged to a club that was part of the Zionist movement.
After the German blitzkrieg, his parents sent him and his older sister to live with his grandparents in his hometown, Swieciany, thinking they would be safe there. But the Germans occupied the town in June 1941, ordered all the Jews into a ghetto and soon began deportations to death camps and labor camps.
Mr. Arad’s wife, Michal, died in 2015. He is survived by two sons, Giora and Ruli, a daughter, Orit Lerer, 11 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
Mr. Arad remained active with Yad Vashem until his last weeks. Last year, he took part in a photography exhibition about Holocaust survivors and their lives after the war. When it was his turn to speak, he confronted the audience with a hard truth borne of his own ordeals.
“What happened in the past,” he said, “could potentially happen again, to any people, at any time.”
JERUSALEM — Twenty-seven days before the first rocket was fired from Gaza this week, a squad of Israeli police officers entered the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, brushed the Palestinian attendants aside and strode across its vast limestone courtyard. Then they cut the cables to the loudspeakers that broadcast prayers to the faithful from four medieval minarets.
It was the night of April 13, the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It was also Memorial Day in Israel, which honors those who died fighting for the country. The Israeli president was delivering a speech at the Western Wall, a sacred Jewish site that lies below the mosque, and Israeli officials were concerned that the prayers would drown it out.
The incident was confirmed by six mosque officials, three of whom witnessed it; the Israeli police declined to comment. In the outside world, it barely registered.
But in hindsight, the police raid on the mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam, was one of several actions that led, less than a month later, to the sudden resumption of war between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, and the outbreak of civil unrest between Arabs and Jews across Israel itself.
recognized the city as Israel’s capital and nominally moved the United States Embassy there. There were no mass protests after four Arab countries normalized relations with Israel, abandoning a long-held consensus that they would never do so until the Palestinian-Israeli conflict had been resolved.
Two months ago, few in the Israeli military establishment were expecting anything like this.
In private briefings, military officials said the biggest threat to Israel was 1,000 miles away in Iran, or across the northern border in Lebanon.
When diplomats met in March with the two generals who oversee administrative aspects of Israeli military affairs in Gaza and the West Bank, they found the pair relaxed about the possibility of significant violence and celebrating an extended period of relative quiet, according to a senior foreign diplomat who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak freely.
Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem. With a final court decision on their case due in the first half of May, regular protests were held throughout April — demonstrations that accelerated after Palestinians drew a connection between the events at Damascus Gate and the plight of the residents.
video and images showed they engaged in violence themselves. As the images began to circulate online, the neighborhood turned into a rallying point for Palestinians not just across the occupied territories and Israel, but among the diaspora.
The experience of the families, who had already been displaced from what became Israel in 1948, was something “every single Palestinian in the diaspora can relate to,” said Jehan Bseiso, a Palestinian poet living in Lebanon.
And it highlighted a piece of legal discrimination: Israeli law allows Jews to reclaim land in East Jerusalem that was owned by Jews before 1948. But the descendants of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled their homes that year have no legal means to reclaim their families’ land.
sight of stun grenades and bullets inside the prayer hall of one of the holiest sites in Islam — on the last Friday of Ramadan, one of its holiest nights — was seen as a grievous insult to all Muslims.
scenes that were broadcast across the world.
At the last minute, the government rerouted the Jerusalem Day march away from the Muslim Quarter, after receiving an intelligence briefing about the risk of escalation if it went ahead.
But that was too little, and far too late. By then, the Israeli Army had already begun to order civilians away from the Gaza perimeter.
Shortly after 6 p.m. on Monday, the rocket fire from Gaza began.
Rami Nazzal contributed reporting from Ramallah, West Bank, and Iyad Abuhweila from Gaza City.
In 1988, when James Zogby, the founder of the Arab American Institute, pushed Democrats to include a mention of Palestinian sovereignty in their platform, party leaders responded with a clear warning, he recalled: “If the P-word is even in the platform, all hell will break loose.” Eager to stave off an angry confrontation at the convention, the issue was shelved without a vote.
Now, with violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories forcing the issue back to the forefront of American politics, divisions between the leadership of the Democratic Party and the activist wing have burst into public view. While the Biden administration is handling the growing conflict as a highly sensitive diplomatic challenge involving a longstanding ally, the ascendant left views it as a searing racial justice issue that is deeply intertwined with the politics of the United States.
For those activists, Palestinian rights and the decades-long conflict over land in the Middle East are linked to causes like police brutality and conditions for migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Party activists who fight for racial justice now post messages against the “colonization of Palestine” with the hashtag #PalestinianLivesMatter.
With President Biden in the White House, traditional U.S. support for Israel is hardly in question from a policy perspective; he has made his support for the country clear throughout his nearly 50 years in public life. Still, the terms of the debate are shifting in Democratic circles.
had asserted that Israel had a right to defend itself. “Do Palestinians have a right to survive?” she asked in an impassioned address. “Do we believe that? And if so, we have a responsibility to that as well.”
Less than 24 hours later, on Friday, nearly 150 prominent liberal advocacy organizations issued a joint statement calling for “solidarity with the Palestinian residents” and condemning “Israeli state violence” and “supremacy” in Jerusalem.
The statement was signed not just by groups focused on Middle Eastern and Jewish issues but by groups dedicated to causes like climate change, immigration, feminism and racial justice — a sign that for the party’s liberal faction, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has moved far beyond the realm of foreign policy.
“The base of the party is moving in a very different direction than where the party establishment is,” Mr. Zogby said. “If you support Black Lives Matter, it was not a difficult leap to saying Palestinian lives matter, too.”
Leaders of the country’s biggest pro-Israel lobby, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, say they are confident of their support from the White House and Capitol Hill, pointing to continued congressional backing of several billion dollars in aid to Israel annually. Before Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and other liberals took the House floor on Thursday, other Democratic lawmakers offered their “unwavering and steadfast support” for Israel.
growing global anti-Semitism, while young voters struggle to reconcile the right-wing policies of the Israeli government with their own liberal values.
A survey released in the past week by the Pew Research Center found that two-thirds of American Jews 65 and older described themselves as emotionally attached to Israel, compared with 48 percent of Jewish adults under 30.
closely aligned his administration with the embattled prime minister and delivered a long-sought Israeli goal of moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem.
In return, Mr. Netanyahu promoted Mr. Trump among Republicans and conservative Christians in the U.S., lifting his standing with the evangelical leaders who wield so much influence over the voters who proved vital to Mr. Trump’s electoral support.
Mr. Biden devoted little attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an intractable issue that had bedeviled his predecessors. But the violence in recent days, the worst in years, has proved just how difficult that will be. And now, Mr. Biden finds his administration buffeted by conflicting forces within his coalition.
“Neglect is not a policy,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of the pro-Israel, pro-peace advocacy group J Street, who would like to see Mr. Biden more engaged in the region.
As the fighting has exploded, Mr. Biden has relied on a familiar playbook: full-throated support for Israel’s right to defend itself, and no mention of the Palestinians. He has expressed regret for deaths on both sides and has voiced hopes for “restoring a sustainable calm.”
spoke against the deal to a joint session of Congress, at the invitation of Republicans. The appearance angered many Democrats, particularly supporters of Israel who oppose Mr. Netanyahu’s policies.
Ron Dermer, the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, suggested in the past week that Israel should focus more on the “passionate and unequivocal” support of evangelical Christians instead of American Jews, who he said were “disproportionately among our critics.”
But many Jewish progressives say their criticism comes from a place of love and idealism. They argue that the Israeli and American governments would be wise to tune out some of the partisan language and move beyond what they call the false choice of being either pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian.
“What most American Jews desire is to see Israelis and Palestinians living in dignity, in a just and equitable society,” said Rabbi Sharon Brous, the leader of IKAR, a large progressive synagogue in Los Angeles. “It is imperative that we support a third way,” she said, “recognizing the generational trauma and suffering of both peoples and creating a just and shared future for everyone.”