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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

September 26, 2002

Israeli-Arab Hero Is Praised, but Not Embraced

FULA, Israel, Sept. 25 — Something about the tall thin man waiting at the bus stop struck Rami Mahamid as suspicious. There was all that dust on his shoes and then there was that big black duffle bag in his hand.

He was a fellow Arab. But Rami, who is 17 and Israeli, thought the stranger was Palestinian, and feared he was a suicide bomber.

What happened next illuminates the problems faced by Israel's Arab minority, accounting for nearly 20 percent of the population of 6.6 million. It may also, perhaps, supply proof that Jews and Arabs can live together here, along with evidence of the suspicions that drive them apart.

Rami saved an untold number of Israelis by alerting the police. But he was wounded after he stepped in, and he later found himself bound in a hospital, suspected by the Israeli police and the internal intelligence service of being the bomber's accomplice. They kept him shackled for two days after he was lucid enough to explain what happened, he said. Other Israeli Arabs, after all, had helped Palestinian terrorists.

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