Yair Lapid, the golden boy of Israeli politics and wannabe Prime Minister recently put it succinctly: “The Palestinians should get out of our faces already”- ״שהפלסטינים יעופו לנו כבר מהעיניים״
He was, of course referring to the Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and not Israeli Arabs but he certainly made no attempt to qualify his statement or make an exception regarding Israel’s 20% Arab minority. And why should he? Fifty years of occupation have long erased all efforts to differentiate between Gaza and West Bank Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. The green line has disappeared, in more ways than one.
Looking at the actions of the Israeli government under Netanyahu aided by a mostly obliging opposition, it is abundantly clear that policy changes both in planning and execution amount to a concerted attempt to disengage from the Arab/Palestinian population, sometimes physically but always metaphorically wherever they are under Israeli sovereignty. Let’s try not mention them in terms that describe them as residents or citizens, as Arabs or Palestinians or as fellow human beings with civil rights, even equal rights (within Israel). Calling them terrorists will do and so will addressing them as enemies.
The language used consistently and repeatedly by the government, the media and by the public on the internet to describe any negative interaction between Jews and Arabs or government authorities and Arabs and/or Palestinians is a language reserved for the enemies of the Jewish State. Positive mentions of the Arab and Palestinian community remain rare and exceptions are mostly reserved for members of the medical professions usually in a context where they treat soldiers of the IDF in Israeli hospitals.
No surprise then that a clearly racist (and still ongoing) media campaign by Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS) to prevent a binational state and a looming Palestinian majority met with nary a whimper in complaints by progressives in Israel who remain leaderless and at a loss if and how to deal with the government’s anti-Arab onslaught. They are of course caught between their own desire for ethnic separation into two states, a Jewish and a Palestinian one (a strange progressive agenda the likelihood of which ever to happen is decreasing by the day) and their commitment to equal rights. Jewish conservatives meanwhile continue to work for more territory to be appropriated by Israel in the West Bank and less Palestinians to be kept there, driving the separate but unequal agenda ever further, until it will blow. And blow it will.
A violent clash with authorities over property rights in an unrecognized Bedouin village in Israel, not the West Bank, is described a terror attack based on the flimsiest of evidence and before any serious investigation has been completed. Wildfires that spread under extreme climatic conditions next to Arab and Jewish living spaces within Israel become large scale Arab/Palestinian arson attacks with nationalist motives, a claim that is not repudiated or mitigated even when it turns out that there is spurious evidence, if at all. Criminal behavior by Arab members of the Knesset is similarly classified immediately as terror related or at least harming the security of Israel. Attacks by Arab/Palestinian individuals in public areas are automatically classified as nationalist based terror events even when more often than not there is enough evidence to show that they may have been caused by marginalization, economic misery and personal problems. Those may well be related to the occupation but nevertheless do not make up a nationalist motive on their own.
Palestinian society in the West Bank and Gaza is breaking down under the ongoing stress of the occupation and separation, economic and social neglect, its many side-effects and of course the ongoing incompetence of Palestinian leadership. Now that the Trump administration is about to coopt us into the battle against radical Islam and there is a likelihood of regional conflagration caused by the reaction to possible impending US policy changes, notably (but not only) a move of the US embassy to Jerusalem, it seems as good a time as ever to unleash Jewish wrath on the Arabs and Palestinians within the green line as well. After all, removing illegal settlements built by Jews in the West Bank requires Israel’s government to impart equal justice to remove illegal Arab building within the green line, even though the circumstances are totally different. To a large extent they have been brought on by government incompetence and ill-will, not necessarily in this order vis-a-vis Israel’s Arab society, over the last 68 years or so, with short and infrequent intervals of efforts to alleviate the situation. A recent government plan to massively invest in the Arab communities in Israel to make up for decades of sanctioned neglect has quickly been turned by the same government into a tool to force them to destroy illegal buildings that have been put up over the last decades to accommodate for population growth while building permits weren’t available because of a deliberate government refusal to prepare regional building plans.
While all this is happening, legislation to discriminate against Arabs is piling up in the Knesset, be it to harm Arab communities, leftist NGOs, to disqualify primarily Arab Knesset members through an extrajudicial process or to discriminate against other nationalities by qualifying citizenship for non-Jews.
Whatever political move will end this sorry tale must incorporate a holistic approach that covers the whole area of Israel’s sovereignty, deals with all the population, Jewish and Palestinian, in an equitable way and makes amends for the Gaza strip as well. It better be quick too, before all hell breaks loose and brings about the end the Jewish State’s moral legitimacy in Eretz Israel for once and for all. Even President Trump will not be able to prevent that from happening if we don’t do it ourselves.
The author is the co-chairman of the Federation Movement, www.federation.org.il