Ten thousand Arab Israeli citizens participated this week in what they called “the March of the Uprooted” in a coastal city in the north near Haifa.
They were, like their fellow Arabs in Gaza, demanding a return to once-upon-a-time homes and property in pre-State Israel. Somehow it seems beyond understanding why Arabs who left Israel in 1948 should want to return to a Jewish state. Their dream of a return is one that can never be realized. Arabs who fled numbered in the hundreds of thousands and today their children and grandchildren are numbered in the millions. A return of those who left in 1948 would mean the demise of Israel as a Jewish majority in its country. Most of the homes and lands of those who fled no longer exist.
I can understand the protest marches on the Gaza side of our fenced border but I simply cannot understand why thousands of Arab Israeli citizens, born in our country, should march for a return of the “uprooted”.
Our Arabs are full citizens of Israel with all the rights, privileges and benefits of Israeli citizenship. They receive health care insurance, the right to vote freely in national elections, many of them are physicians and surgeons of high reputations in our hospitals. Many Arabs sit on the benches as judges in our courts, even in the highly esteemed Supreme Court of Israel. In addition Arab political parties are represented by Arab members of the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament.
Their youths are educated in our universities and they sit side by side with Jewish fellow students, learning together and often socializing together.
It is true, unfortunately, that their schools and infrastructures do not receive the same funds which are allotted to Israeli Jewish schools and infrastructure. Government is trying to allocate more funds from the budget to provide for the Arab communities and to improve infrastructures.
The recent protest march of 10,000 of our Arab citizens has disturbed me. Their leaders included members of the Knesset, Dr. Ahmed Tibi and Hanin Zouabi, neither of them professing loyalty to a government in whose legislature they serve.
Dr. Tibi led the cries of “Palestine is ours. The land is ours. We will fight for the return of the Arab refugees to their homes and property”. Carrying Palestinian flags held high with pledged loyalty to the Palestinian refugees, the thousands of protesters demonstrated their lack of loyalty to Israel, the country of their birth.
The feelings of our Arab population of 20% can be understood. They consist of children and grandchildren of families which fled from the terrible days of the 1948 war, never to be seen since.
But the Israeli Arabs have a choice. They can remain in Israel receiving all the benefits and welfare given to every Israeli citizen or they can choose to leave Israel and settle in a nearby Arab country among their own people.
The March of the Uprooted clearly demonstrates the participating marchers’ disloyalty to Israel and should be a matter of concern to all of us.
Our Declaration of Independence in 1948 clearly included our hope for peace. David Ben-Gurion, our first Prime Minister, declared “we hold out a hand of peace to the Arabs of Palestine”. Regrettably, the majority of their population rejected the offer and instead turned to violence and terrorism.
Hopefully, as the world is changing, as Israel is in friendly contact with several of the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia, we may be yet privileged to see a change in behavior of The Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Hezbullah.
Then Ben-Gurion’s hope in 1948 may hopefully see fruition in 2018. Insh’Allah. God willing.