April 13, 2021

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Barkan and the Myth of Arab-Jewish Coexistence (Judean Rose)


The Barkan Industrial Zone terror attack was a shooting spree which left two dead, one wounded, two spouses with no partners, and several motherless children. But all the talking heads want to discuss is “the threat to coexistence.” That’s because Barkan, with its 164 factories employing 4,200 Palestinians and 3,000 Israelis was one of those places you show off to foreigners: “See? Arabs and Jews can get along just fine.”

But it’s a false paradigm. The Barkan murders were, in fact, predictable. The larger the number of Arabs you have working side by side with Jews, the more likely it is, statistically, that one of them will decide to go berserk and murder a Jew or two. And that’s exactly what happened.

Arab-Israeli coexistence as a concept, is similar to describing Arab violence against Jews as the Arab-Israeli “conflict.” The prefix “co” suggests that it takes two to tango, that this is about two kids who either will or won’t play nicely in the sandbox. It suggests a sameness of intent and purpose, a moral equivalency. But this is a lie, the fear and the violence is on one side, only. 

Israel’s dynamic has never been one in which Arabs fear proximity to Jews. Jews are not a threat or a liability in the mixed Arab/Jewish environment. The Jews, rather, are at risk, the Arabs the threat. 
Arabs do not fear to walk along Jerusalem’s main thoroughfare, Jaffa Road, but Jews do fear to walk on Salah A Din Street in “East” Jerusalem. 
Some years ago in Efrat, where I live, a trusted Arab worker, an installer of drywall to whom all were friendly, strapped on a bomb and attempted to self-destruct in our supermarket (by miracle, a Jew intervened with a pistol). This supermarket terrorist never feared spending time with Jews. He felt perfectly safe and comfortable in Efrat, and welcome in any home. But the Arab a Jew knows and loves, may turn out to be a deadly foe.
What happened at the recycling plant in Barkan can unfortunately, on the other hand, happen on any day, at any time, to any Jew who spends time in close proximity to Arabs.
That’s just the way things are. And there is no reason we need pretend otherwise. You can’t change things if you can’t see them as they are, and this is indeed, the way it is: it’s Arabs against Jews. Not all Arabs are violent and out to kill Jews, and there may be a small minority of violent Jews who attack Arabs, but these are the exceptions that prove the rule. The danger is one-sided.
Ari Fuld, HY”D

I live in Israel, which means I have intimate knowledge of terror attacks and the way they can affect a community and a country.  In the first days after terror strikes, you’re more watchful and you tell your kids to be vigilant, too. Then slowly, you relax back into what passes for normal. In my community, for instance, we are in gradual recovery from what happened to Ari Fuld, HY’D. By now we’ve been to the shopping center, the scene of Ari’s murder, several times. It makes you sad, but life goes on.

This made me wonder what it would be like to go back to a mixed work environment after a terror attack. Wouldn’t you wonder: “Who’s next? How do I know if I can trust my Arab coworkers?”
And the truth is, you can’t trust them. Even if you have years and years of beautiful “coexistence,” all it takes is one evil player one afternoon, and a gun or a knife to turn things on their head.

I looked to speak with someone from Barkan—someone who works there on a daily basis. I wanted to commiserate and ask how they were going to bear it: how they will go back to work, knowing it could happen again at any time. Because I know what it was like to go back to the Gush Etzion shopping center to do my mundane grocery shopping after Ari Fuldwas murdered.

But my desire for commiseration was frustrated by Moshe Lev Ran, export manager of Twitoplast, a plastics factory that exports its products to 20 countries worldwide. Lev Ran isn’t angry or despairing. He is “sorry about what happened,” but his commitment to the idea of coexistence remains unshakable, even in the aftermath of the terror attack.

Moshe Lev Ran, at right

Judean Rose: How does it feel to go back to work after what happened?

Moshe Lev Ran: Nothing changed. Our workers at our factory, they’re like our family. We work together as if we’re on our honeymoon all these years, and even such a bump in the road will not change anything between us and the Palestinians.

Judean Rose: But surely you must be upset, nervous after the tragedy?

Moshe Lev Ran: We are very sorry about what happened and we have a lot of sympathy for those who died [sic!!], but as I said, it’s only a bump in a road. We’re back to working normally, the Palestinians are like our friends and they feel very comfortable to work here. (emphasis added)

Of course, I don’t work at the recycling plant. Our factory is only close by. Barkan is a big place with 160 factories. I can’t tell you how the people at the Alon Group, where the attack happened, are feeling.

I know that the owner is in a very bad mood, refusing to speak. The plant is closed for now.

Judean Rose: Has anything changed for you since the attack?

Moshe Lev Ran: The only thing that has changed is increased security. It takes another hour for the Palestinians to cross the checkpoints and arrive at work. We explained. But they are very angry. Because they know that this harms only the Palestinians, and not us. (emphasis added)

Judean Rose: Do some Jewish workers feel resentment: “we give them work and this is how they pay us back?”

Moshe Lev Ran: No, no, no. I don’t know him, don’t know why he took a gun and shot people. I don’t know what happened between him and management. I’m not a psychologist. My duty, my only responsibility, is to keep the good relations we have with the Palestinians. When they come in the morning, they are happy to work. (emphasis added)

Lev Ran isn’t worried or scared or feeling threatened, just as we were not worried about our drywall installer in Efrat. He sees the terrorist as mentally ill, an aberration. Someone who had problems with management. And since Lev Ran is a great manager, he’s never going to have this “problem.”

He’s only disturbed that the Palestinians are angry about having to spend more time going through security checkpoints.

Lev Ran says, “They feel very comfortable to work here.”

Of course they do. They’re not the ones in danger. They’re completely safe. Just as our drywall worker in Efrat, was safe until the day he walked into our supermarket with a bomb. 
From my point of view, I wonder why the onerous security checks had to be explained to the Arab workers of Barkan. Is it not self-evident that if one of you attacks your coworkers, the rest of you will now exist under a cloud of suspicion? And if you really valued your jobs, why would you not work to prevent this from ever happening again? Why would you not do everything possible to cooperate with security?

Arab workers at Barkan who are paid by the hour will no doubt lose money by arriving late to work each morning. They choose to be angry about this. Instead, why not accept it as the deterrent measure it is? Is this not a fair price to pay to keep the people who pay you, safe?

The bigger problem at Barkan, perhaps, concerns Jewish workers: how will Jewish Barkan  employees protect themselves going forward if their ideas about coexistence remain exactly the same? It’s not just about not being able to change things if you can’t recognize them for the way they are. There’s also a high probability that if you can’t see things they way they are, you won’t be able to protect yourself from danger.

Fellow EOZ columnist Forest Rain told me about the normalcy bias, which according to Wikipedia, “is a belief people hold when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the likelihood of a disaster and its possible effects, because people believe that things will always function the way things normally have functioned. This may result in situations where people fail to adequately prepare themselves for disasters, and on a larger scale, the failure of governments to include the populace in its disaster preparations. About 70% of people reportedly display normalcy bias in disasters.”

This would appear to describe the situation at Barkan, both before the attack and in its aftermath.

The thing about Arab-Jewish coexistence is that there’s a prerequisite: in order to have coexistence, the Jews must exist. Which is what stepped up security is all about: preventing Arabs from killing more Jews. What we mustn’t do is pretend that when security measures function as they should, what we have is coexistence.

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