Israel – the best place to be an Arab

Although Israel is the world’s only Jewish state, it is home to a free and thriving Arab community. For decades, anti-Israel activists have decried Israel as an illegitimate state which represses Arabs and Muslims. Israel has been incorrectly labeled as a state for “settler colonialism” and apartheid. These baseless claims could not be further from the truth.

Researchers have conducted surveys to shine a light on the true treatment of Arabs living in Israel. According to these surveys, there is a growing trend of Israeli Arabs ditching their former Palestinian identity and starting to identify more heavily with their Israeli nationality. This switch in national identity is great news for everyone who holds a stake in the Middle East. It proves that Arabs have been able to call Israel home, while Israel is able to maintain its Jewish majority. Despite being the world’s only Jewish state, Israel is a welcoming, diverse country that boasts a thriving Arab population.

Arabs make up 20% of Israel’s 8.8 million people population. Israel’s Arabs have been integrating into society and live in every corner of the country. Israel’s Arabs enjoy the same freedoms as their Jewish neighbors. Contrary to anti-Israel talking points, Israel’s Arabs live and work side-by-side with Jews, Christians, Armenians, and all others who call Israel their homes. As they do in other western democracies, Arabs can vote in elections, own businesses, work, speak, and worship freely, wherever in Israel they call home. In the recent Israeli elections, Ra’am, a pan-Arab party, became a part of Israel’s governing coalition. These results could not be more clear: Israel, a heterogeneous society, is among the leading nations in the Middle East. Israel’s Arabs have taken notice.

Arabs, no matter how long they have been Israelis, are increasingly supportive of their home country. According to a 2019 survey by Dahlia Scheindlin and David Reis, two leading progressive pollsters, 51% of Israel’s Arabs identify themselves as “Arab-Israeli” and 23% identify as “Israeli”. The survey went on to indicate that 76% of Israeli-Arabs went on to say that, within Israel, Jewish-Muslim relations are overwhelmingly positive and that 58% want to continue to advance coexistence and improvement of relations between Muslims and Jews.

What was even more shocking from the Schenindinlin-Reis poll were outcomes regarding one of the most contentious issues in the Israel-Palestinian conflict: control of Jerusalem. The survey, conducted by SFHA, a Palestinian news outlet, indicates that 93% of Arabs, none of whom are Israeli citizens, would prefer that Israel retain control over the city. Of the 1,200 Arabs surveyed, 79 said that they refused to give up their Israeli identification documents.

The data speaks for itself: Muslims and Jews are living coexisting. The biggest winners? The Middle East and human rights. This is very good news for the evolving Middle East: an Israel in which Arabs feel empowered is a powerful thing. When Muslims and Jews coexist in peace, the region wins. When Israel was founded, it was created to be a place, not just for the Jewish people, but for all who sought to make the Holy Land a better place and to raise families in peace. Arabs have always been a welcome part of this equation. The only bad news is that anti-Israel activists will not cease in their quest to divide Muslims and Jews over the issues relating to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Nevertheless, the sentiments reflected in these surveys will make Israel stronger and a better place to live for Arabs and Jews. Disproving rhetoric spewed by the anti-Israel mob will allow Israel to become a place of harmony. I look forward to watching Israel evolve into a place where the children of Isaac and Ishmael work and live peacefully. This evolution marks a rare point of light, illuminating a world in need of it.

About the Author
Bassem Eid (born 5 February 1958) is a Palestinian living in Israel who has an extensive career as a Palestinian human rights activist. His initial focus was on human rights violations committed by Israeli armed forces, but for many years has broadened his research to include human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority (PA), and the Palestinian armed forces on their own people. He founded the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group in 1996, although it ceased operations in 2011. He now works as a political analyst for Israeli TV and radio.
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