The real tragedy of Israeli Arabs

There is no doubt that today the Arab minority constitutes one of the greatest challenges for Israel. Thanks to the Zionist enterprise, the poor , rattled community of 1948 has blossomed in one of the most advanced branches of the Arab world, with high standards of life and a unique exposure to democracy. Yet, in the same time, Israeli Arabs have gone through a dramatic radicalization, electing provocative MKs and bringing out a generation of extremist intellectuals and activists, whose sole purpose seems to destroy the Jewish State. This, in turn, has soliciting a frightening development in the Jewish majority: as recently reported, 24 per cent of Israeli Jews are boycotting Arab businesses, with a devastating impact, considering Arab dependence from Jewish consumers.

Supporters of Israeli Arabs in the Jewish sector agree that this continous escalation can’t go on indefinitely, without destroying the already fragile ties between the two communities. However, everytime they rise up to defend Arab rights, they fail to win consent. For example, during the recent Gaza War, Meretz leader Zehava Gal On reacted to Liberman’s call for a boycott of Arab businesses, stating that “the Arab citizens of Israel have the right, like any other citizen, to express their solidarity with their brethren suffering in Gaza”, but she didn’t succeed to avert the following trend.

Many observers will be induced to blame the “racist” nature of the Zionist society, a notorious obsession in the anti Israel camp. But an honest review of liberal arguments would notice a grave disregard of the classic elephant in the room: the feelings of Jewish majority. To their credit, this habit of minimizing Jewish concerns, whereas aggrandizing arab recriminations has been polluting the Israeli ultra leftist camp in the last decades. In this mindset, every Arab expression of outright hostility to the State needs to be condoned in the framework of the grievance from an oppressed minority, whereas every Jewish reaction must be dismissed because extremist, or even worse, racist.

This way of thinking, though, fails to consider some realities on the ground: first of all, democracy can’t work out in one way only. Israeli Arabs are of course entitled to express their support for their brethren, something they tended to abuse, resorting sometimes to outright antisemitic behaviours. But, at the same time, Israeli Jews have too the right of exert the same freedom, without being assaulted by Arabs and leftists. Liberman’s call for a boycott of Arab businesses is a clear example of this double standard. Demonized by Meretz and arab parties as racist, it was actually a legitimate use of democratic tools. The Foreign Minister, infact, didn’t advocate a general boycott of Arab businesses, but of those one who had abided to the strike set up by the Arab High Follow Up Committee. Largely ignored outside of Israel, this self styled organization is instead notorious to the jewish public for its extremist actions: among the others, in December 2006, it published the infamous “Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel”, where it advocated the demolition of Israel, and its replacement with two Arab majority States. Considering its history of provocations, it’s surprising that the Committee’s strike didn’t elicit harsher answers from the Jewish public. Far from appreciating this exceptional restraint, Gal On and her MKs preferred instead to support the notorious Arab narrative of victimism, ending up to widen the already strong distrust in the Jewish sector.

Yet if the ultra liberal Israeli left, with its one sided approach, bears a great responsibility for the arab predicament, the main culprits in any case remain Israeli Arabs. They tend frequently to complain about Jewish mistrust. But they refuse to consider the roots of this feeling, generated by their chosen leaders. The idea of a largely unrepresentative leadership, widespread in the liberal public, is in this regard ridiculous. It’s true that Arab participation in national vote has been going through a certain decline in the recent years. Though the arab voters kept on casting their support for the Arab parties, disregarding political formations with a platform focused on coexistence. In other words, put before the choice between bread and anti Israel agitation, the Arab of the street prefers to spit on the first for the sake of the second, even though this is exactly what exacerbates the anti Arab feelings among Jewish citizens.

Even worse, the same Arab public who never misses an occasion for blaming the alleged Jewish fascism, shows a surprising lack of respect for different opinion within it. The persecution unleashed by arab parties against Father Gabriel Naddaf, “guilty” of supporting Christian integration in Israeli society, speaks volumes regarding the double standards applied by the arab leadership. And as if that was not enough, it seems that this attitude hasn’t went unnoticed in the jewish public. In a lashing editorial, appropriately entitled “Zoabi’s sins”, Jerusalem Post summarised what can probably explain the explosion of the anti Arab feeling in the last summer. After having castigating Haneen Zoabi’s hypocrisy and reminded Mohammad Zoabi’s sad fate, the editor highlighted a point that people like Gal On should carefully ponder about: the jarring absence of indignation and revulsion from Arab sector toward the heinous persecution of a teen, carried out by an MK that doesn’t supposedly represent it. In the Jewish eyes, this absence matters more than a millions of riots. After all, if people like Gabriel Naddaf or Mohammad Zoabi risk their life simply for declaring themselves Israelis, what can Jews conclude, except that the entire arab community supports a leadership deemed an enemy from within?

In light of this, the real Israeli Arabs’s real tragedy emerges in its full extent. The one side blaming strategy adopted by them and their ultra liberal supporters has proven to be over the years a self defeating one. And the past harsheness can’t justify the permanence of a narrative of victimization that trashes jewish wishes and exalts a non existent Arab perfection. Infact, over that unrealistic, it ends up to infantilize Israeli Arabs, and it provides a cover for the lack of respect for pluralism that keeps on plaguing their sector. The time is ripe for the arab sector to choice whether being part of the Jewish and democratic State or reject it. And for the sake of Israeli Arabs, one has to wish that they will opt for the first one.

About the Author
An Italian jurist and a firm Israel supporter.