An Israeli Arab doctor’s wish to live alongside Jews in a northern Israeli community, and a controversial picture posted by his son, have unleashed a wave of hateful and racist remarks from his future Jewish neighbors.
Dr. Ali Zoabi purchased land in the community of Nurit 10 years ago, getting an okay from the town’s screening committee, Channel 10 reported.
Zoabi, who plans to begin construction on his home this year, has been treating the children of Gan Ner, a nearby community, for decades, and is held in high regard among local residents.
But none of this helped him when his 13-year-old son posted a picture to Facebook holding a Palestinian flag. One Facebook user spotted the photo and posted it to the community’s Facebook page. The boy’s profile was also found to contain a picture of a Palestinian protester and a hand holding rocks.
In a conversation which began on Facebook and then spread to Whatsapp discussions – revealed by the blog The Hottest Place in Hell — future Nurit residents expressed revulsion at the prospect of living alongside Zoabi and called for his removal from the community.
One resident on the community’s Facebook page immediately suggested that the boy was probably responsible for spray painting swastikas at the entrance to Gan Ner in the past. Another answered that “A father teaches his son.”
Language quickly escalated to calls to stop the doctor’s treatment of children and “send him to Gaza.”
When cooler heads attempted to remind posters that Zoabi was a friendly and well-respected doctor who has been treating Jewish children for many years, raging residents set up an exclusive Whatsapp group into which they admitted only those who they felt were on their side. Still, their discussions were leaked to the blog.
“Any Arab who lives in the community will suffer, and so will anyone who supports an Arab family,” one person wrote. “The inclusion of Arabs is out of the question, even at the level of [creating an] earthquake.”
“I feel like throwing up on [the boy] and burning him with his flag,” wrote another.
A third spoke of the need to “scare” Zoabi away. He must be afraid “of the residents. He should know that he can’t sleep quietly. He should know there’s a great danger in raising his kids [here],” he said.
Many other residents have expressed outrage over the hateful speech against Zoabi and Arabs, sowing tension in the small town . Zoabi’s attackers are calling on the Nurit council to revoke his membership in the community.
The new town, being built as an eco-friendly community over a former moshav and army base on the Gilboa mountain range in the lower Galilee, is planned to house several hundred families.
As with other Israeli towns, prospective residents are required to be accepted by a vetting committee, a controversial but deeply ingrained practice enshrined in law as an option for communities under 400 families.
Zoabi has the support of local council head Danny Atar as well as other residents, though many of those have been uncomfortable backing the doctor publicly.
Meanwhile, Zoabi himself said that his son has received threats and was horrified by the wave of hate that his picture had brought on. “He’s 13, so he’s very frightened,” he said.
Despite the turmoil, Zoabi said he still intended to build his house in Nurit He called for dialogue with his neighbors, telling the blog: “It would be better to sit down and discuss and get to know each other, and not to go and attack.”