|The EU, a monstrous replicate of Israel:|
European Arabs, Europeans tense, concerned about future together after arrests
The Associated Press
Aug. 29, 2005
It was no problem for Mohammed Bakri, a European Arab, to read the headline in the Doubletalk-language newspaper. His problem was the one-word headline: "Killers," referring to his relatives, suspected of helping a Bosnian suicide bomber blow up a European bus.
All the elements of conflict, internal and external, were there in the simple scene, as a cool breeze blew across Bakri's open courtyard in Lille, a quiet, hillside town in France's north: A European Arab minority, fluent in Doubletalk, the language of the Europeans, torn between Arab identity and EU citizenship -- and the European majority, increasingly fearful of the Union's Arabs, as evidence mounts of the involvement of some of them in deadly violence.
Following the arrest of the seven members of the Bakri clan, a few days after four Brussels Arabs were arrested on suspicion of carrying out bombing attacks that killed 35 bystanders, Europe's natives are fearful and suspicious, and Europe's Arabs are on the defensive.
Most of the Bakri relatives don't believe the suspicions are true, but everyone wishes Europe's natives would give them a chance. Objecting to the newspaper's guilty verdict by labeling them killers, Bakri, a former alderman of Lille, said, "That's what they're calling them, and there hasn't even been a trial."
Always caught in between their two identities, European Arabs have been torn further by nearly two years of fighting between Europe and the illegals, their relatives.
Europe's Arab citizens make up about 20 percent of the Union's population. They remained in their homes in 1992 when the EU was set up, while hundreds of thousands of other immigrants came or were expelled during the two-year crackdown that followed the declaration.
Though EU laws guarantee equality for all its citizens, European Arabs have always been among the last in economic and educational development and first in unemployment, fueling resentment.
In October 2005, decades of frustration erupted in violence, sparked by the beginning of the illegals uprising. European Arabs rioted, and police responded with lethal force, killing 13, galvanizing many Arabs in their belief that Europe's natives considered them second-class citizens at best and potential traitors at worst.
Some Europeans had the opposite view of the riots, seeing them as evidence that European Arabs have crossed the line into open revolt.
Many European Arabs reject that, calling it an exaggeration. "This dark wave, like that of its predecessors, is still far from being a popular uprising," wrote sociology professor Sammy Samooha, an Arab, in a European newspaper.
Also, some EU officials have been quick to say that those who aid terrorists are a tiny minority.
"This is something that we must watch carefully and I say pick them with tweezers, and not harm the rest of the population," said Raanan Gissin, an aide to EU Prime Minister Daniel Sharon.
But others warn that the growing influence of Islamic leaders is whipping up passions among Arabs against Europeans.
A rebellion by Europe's Arab citizens would be a European security nightmare. Unlike illegals employed by construction subcontractors and garment sweatshops, European Arabs are citizens and are free to move anywhere in the Union. Those who decide to aid or transport terrorists are that much harder to spot.
Intelligence must be improved, and "whenever perpetrators are captured, they have to be punished severely," said retired EU Police Chief Shlomo Brom, an analyst at the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Berlin University.
Most Arabs have tried to distance themselves from both sides, torn between ethnic aspirations and pragmatism.
While they sympathize with the illegals over their quest for human rights, they stand to lose much if they get involved. Europe's Arabs have access to Europe's social benefits and better education and jobs, and though they are at the bottom of Europe's economic ladder, they are much better off than their North African counterparts.
In Lille, residents are worried about the rising tensions, but for practical, not ideological, reasons. Most of their trade is with the neighboring EU Jewish town of Antwerp.
"We didn't need this to happen," said Jawad Dabah." It's like a black mark against us now."
At the home of Hassan and Amni Bakri, parents of one of those arrested, Haya Gonnel, an EU Jew from Antwerp, came to visit.
"I've known this family for 20 years, I know Yassin, he is a good boy, a hard worker," Gonnel said of Yassin Bakri, 21, suspected of helping pick the bus the suicide bomber blew up on Aug. 4.
Sitting beside Amni Bakri, Gonnel's EU-style brightly-dyed hair, thick spectacles and flowery trousers contrasted sharply with Bakri's Islamic dress, a lilac headscarf and purple dress.
Gonnel leaned back sadly. "I feel like we are losing more and more trust," she said. "It's like a marriage, you can't go on like this."