Piles of charred Korans in a smouldering prayer hall in a mosque in the Galilee Bedouin village of Tuba-Zangariya, northern Israel. The word 'revenge' scrawled on a wall in Hebrew. Are we looking at the ugly face of the future for Israel's 1.3 million Arabs? Sheikh Kamel Khatib, assistant chairman of Israel's Islamic Movement fears so: "The Israeli establishment bears responsibility."
But there is good reason to think that while the attack says a great deal about the bigoted perpetrators - who were almost certainly extremist settlers - it says nothing about the 'Israeli establishment' or about the deeper trends in Jewish-Arab relations in Israel.
First, the entire 'Israeli establishment' condemned the attack immediately. By morning Israel's president Shimon Peres stood shoulder to shoulder with the local villagers, the chief Rabbis at his side. He raged with anger. "I am full of shame and humiliation about this disgusting act" he said, adding that "This is a difficult day for the entire Israeli society, not only the Arab sector." The head of the Upper Galilee Regional Council, Aharon Valensi, has pledged the local kibbutzim will help rebuild the mosque. Rabbi Haim Druckman, a leading figure from the world of religious Zionism has written that "All the actions that are carried out under the title 'price tag' are horrific, shocking, anti-Jewish and immoral."
Second, the 7,500 residents of Tuba-Zangariya, mostly Bedouin, do not reciprocate their attackers' hatred. According to Zvika Fogel, head of the local council, "This is a community that has invested so much into integrating into Israeli society." The Bedouin have served in the IDF, police and Prisons Service, and have died in Israel's wars. During Israel's War of Independence in 1948 some 70 local villagers fought alongside Palmah fighters against the Syrian and Lebanese armies.
Although the Islamic Movement in Israel has tried to exploit the situation by telling the residents of Tuba-Zangariya to spurn Israeli government funds to rebuild their destroyed mosque, the Bedouin elders have decided they want to preserve the bond between the Bedouins and Israel.
Third, Israel has taken steps away from its early history of neglect and discrimination of the Israeli Arabs, such that even the anti-Israeli academic Ilan Pappe, author of The Forgotten Palestinians: A History of the Palestinians in Israel has observed that very few would now choose to live in a new Palestinian state. What they want is the deepening and quickening of the reforms which have transformed their experience.
Last week at Labour Party conference I listened to Doug Krikler, co-chair of the 'UK Task Force on issues facing Arab citizens of Israel', set out some hopeful facts.
• The Authority for Economic Development in the Minorities Sector was created in 2009 to tackle socio-economic gaps between Arab and Jewish Communities. It is led by an Arab, Aiman Seif. The Government is committed to an overall investment of NIS 2 billion (£) to reduce the gaps between the various sectors of Israeli society. The building of 13 industrial parks in Arab communities is a downpayment.
• In 2008 the Ministry of Justice announced that 30% of all civil service vacancies in future would be set aside for Arabs, and it also introduced incentive packages so Arabs could relocate to Jerusalem.
• In 2011 the National Civic Service Scheme was reformed to make it easier for the Arabs sector to take part, making community service an alternative to IDF enlistment.
• After the Israeli police were criticised for its role in the October 2000 riots in which 13 Arab citizens were killed, a Community Police Initiative was established, the Abraham Fund was given the task of providing educational activities on the issues of democracy, civil rights and egalitarian service in a multicultural society, and over 100 Arab towns now have new community police units made up of both Jewish and Arab personnel.
• In 2010 the Government introduced 'Ya Salam', an Arabic language requirement for fifth graders in 170 Jewish schools in the Northern Israel. The scheme will be rolled out more widely.
• In 2010 an investment fund for the Arab sector was set up. Al-Bawadir has raised about £30 million and is investing in Arab-owned technology, manufacturing and service companies. The high-tech employment of Arab graduates has doubled in the last three years, co-ordinated by Tsofen, a joint Arab-Israeli organisation. The Israeli government has now agreed to pay 25% of the salary of all Arab citizens hired in the high-tech sector.
• While the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange has introduced a programme to boots listings of Arab companies, the social protest movement co-ordinated with Arab community leaders and raised the demand for state recognition of unrecognised villages throughout the country, especially the Bedouin communities in the Negev.
Is all this overdue? Yes. About half of all Arabs live in poverty (but then so do 60% of Haredim). Is more needed? For sure. The judgement of Israeli High Court Justice (Ret.) Theodor Or, in his 2000 Commission of Enquiry, that 'The Arab citizens of Israel live in a reality in which they experience discrimination as Arabs' retains force. A 2007 State Department Country Report on Human Rights criticised Israel for the unequal spend on education for Jewish children and Arab children, citing a 2005 study at the Hebrew University, and as education is the means to employment and employment is the most effective route out of poverty, then equalising education spending should be the priority. According to a 2010 academic study, Israel's affirmative action programme in education "appear[s] to have an effect within sectors, the figure above shows that affirmative action policies have been less effective between sectors."
So, much more is to be done, but there is a lively debate across Israeli civil society and politics about the future of the Israeli Arabs. Ilan Peleg and Dov Waxman, in Israel's Palestinians: The Conflict Within, argued that Israel's Arab citizens should be recognised as a fully-fledged national group exercising autonomy in certain cultural areas. Others worry that would encourage a separatist development and a non- or even anti-Israeli identity. The point is that the debate is about how best to make Israel at once a Jewish homeland and a state of all its citizens.
Israel has a long way to go before it can say its minorities enjoy full untrammelled rights as individual citizens and are free of institutionalised discrimination as a national minority. But of what European society is that not true? What matters is that Israel is making positive steps forward. And that it has not stopped yet. And that, not the actions of a few bigots at Tuba-Zangariya, points to the future.
Professor Alan Johnson is Director and Senior Research Fellow at Britain Israel Research and Communications Centre. He writes in a personal capacity.