After the heinous attack on October 7th in the Gaza Envelope resulting in the murder of more than 1,400 citizens, including about 20 Arab citizens, and the ensuing declaration of war that has claimed the lives of thousands of people, especially women and children in the Gaza Strip, I addressed the Arab and Jewish citizens of the state. Concerned for the safety and lives of many people, I urged everyone to show civic responsibility and act with restraint, wisdom and tolerance; to maintain law and order. I warned against incidents that can devolve into acts of physical, verbal or written violence, I denounced vandalizing of public and private property, and I spoke out against incitement and spreading false rumors.
Today I reiterate my call, especially to the youth and university students: Take care with what you publish and share on social networks, especially when these posts carry messages that violate the law, arouse emotions, and contain provocations. Posts that can even remotely be interpreted as such can expose you to investigations, prosecution and penalties. Worse, some of these posts can increase tensions between other people and groups and may even provoke violence.
There are fears that the situation will escalate inside the country to the point of physical confrontations between Arab and Jewish citizens. These concerns are well-founded: we cannot ignore or underestimate them. We, Arab and Jewish citizens, must seek to offer a remedy, and we can do so through messages of reassurance. Arab-Jewish initiatives can work to mitigate tensions, especially between neighbors from the same city or locality. We must alleviate tensions in workplaces, in academia, in public institutions, and in the public sphere as a whole. It will not be easy to build trust in today’s reality, but we have no other choice.
At this moment, for the first time in 50 years, the State of Israel is in a state of declared war. In such a situation, the country must enact emergency regulations that may reduce the democratic space. In a state of emergency, police and security authorities automatically receive broad powers to deal immediately and directly with any publication that they see as harming or attempting to harm the security of the state and its citizens. The authorities can even investigate proactively when they suspect the poster’s intentions, therefore, caution must be exercised.
To those in the Arab community, citizens as well as leaders, I say today emphatically, we are, first of all, obligated to reject fringe extremist elements that try to put us on a collision course with the state, its security institutions, and its Jewish citizens. We must choose to act with wisdom and responsibility. This is imperative for the public good as well as the future vision for us as a Palestinian Arab society and as citizens of the State of Israel.
All of us, Arab and Jewish citizens, must take pains to cooperate in order to maintain peace and calm. We will strengthen the fabric of relations, increasing understanding and tolerance, to overcome this crisis peacefully.
Second, since the peace efforts have collapsed in recent years, and the opportunities to achieve reconciliation and a political settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians have been lost in light of the difficult events, our role under these circumstances as Palestinian Arabs and citizens of Israel has become greater and the need for us more essential. We can act as a future bridge for reconciliation and peace between the two peoples.
And third, it is clear that we, the Arab citizens of the country, are in a very complex and difficult situation. The events of October 7 and the murder of 1,400 Israeli citizens, 20 of them Arab citizens, shocked us and shook us to our core. At the same time, pictures of innocent victims – of thousands of women and children – and the scenes of destruction in Gaza cause us immense pain and sorrow. Despite this, Arab citizens continue to show responsibility while navigating this difficult situation. Since the war began, not one Arab citizen has hesitated to do their job. Everyone showed up, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, paramedics, and all the employees and officials in all service areas.
We call for a complete ceasefire, to release the captives, especially children, women and the elderly, and to expand humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. We must initiate a process that leads to a political solution that consists two states, the State of Israel and the State of Palestine, existing side by side in peace, security, partnership and tolerance.
Finally, we are at a critical stage; this requires us to be strong and restrained, to be patient and wise, to rise above the pain and anger; the fear and the sadness. I am sure that what will come will be better. With God’s help, with patience will come salvation.