Samuel Koltov

Towards a New Narrative: The Israeli Arabs

We need to look for the light in the darkness

The world hasn’t been the same since October 7. The way we, Israelis, see ourselves, the world, and particularly the Palestinians, has changed fundamentally. I don’t think there is one person, who hasn’t been affected deeply by this indescribable event, bringing us all back to the horrors of the Holocaust.

It’s not just what Hamas, and their partners in Islamic Jihad, did. Nor the support they’ve received from the murderous Hizbullah in north or the hateful regime in Iran, including its proxies in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. The reactions of the western left have left many of us feeling deeply betrayed and wondering how to understand this reaction, if not as a deeply antisemitic reaction mirroring millennia of Jew-hatred. But even worse than that, for those of us hoping for some solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which would consider both sides, is the reaction of the Palestinians, where we today see a growing support of Hamas in the West Bank, and a complete rejecting of any acknowledgement of the right of Jews to live in peace in the Middle East.

Today everything seems to have boiled down into a zero-sum conflict, where only one side can be allowed room to exist, but where neither side really wins. Neither side seem to be interested in finding a constructive, just, and workable solution, where we can exist side by side, either as equal citizens in the same state or as two states. For many, the whole idea of talking about peace now, is close to treason. The future is dark.

Yet, there is one thing, which brings me hope and should bring you hope as well. The Israeli Arabs.

To be sure, there have been individuals, who have crossed the line, such as Maisa Abd Elhadi, who declared their support for Hamas in the days after the attack. But many more, I dare to say the majority, have been showing horror over the attack and condemned Hamas for their actions. Political figures such as Ra’am’s Mansour Abbas and several Arabic mayors have condemned Hamas, and even a controversial person such as Sheikh Ra’ed Salah called for peace and distanced himself from the killing of innocent, seemingly referring to Hamas’ murder of Israelis on October 7, rather than outright condemning Israel’s attacks in Gaza. Also other Israeli Arabs have expressed their opposition to Hamas. Lucy Aharish, a well-known news presenter presently working for Channel 13, voiced her strong condemnations of Hamas and those who claim that they didn’t do what they did. The ordinary Israeli Arab also expresses support for Israel and the situation, insisting that they are part of the Israeli society, as witnessed in for example this video by the YouTuber Corey Gil-Shuster. These sentiments are reflected in my own encounters with Israeli Arabs.

The horrific attack on October 7 proved that our destinies are shared. Both Jews and Arabs were victims, and just as we have accounts of heroic responses from Jews, we see the same readiness to risk lives among Israeli Arabs. The names of Awad Darawsheh and Amer Abu Sabeelah are among those who sacrificed their lives to save the lives of Jews, but there are so many more Arab victims of Hamas’ brutal attack, that trying to mention them all would result in another post. And even among the kidnapped do we find Arabs, proving that Hamas had no care who they shot or took as prisoners. The Zayadneh family is probably the best known, having the father Yousef, and his three children, Hamsa, Bilal, and Aisha, with her scarf, kidnapped. Fortunately, the two youngest, Bilal and Aisha, have since been released, but Yousef and Hamsa are still somewhere in Gaza.

The Israeli Arabs should not be ignored anymore. They are an integral part of the Israeli society, Israeli citizens, and they should be acknowledged and treated as such. While many of them might insist on also being Palestinian, they are not only that, but they are also Israelis, and more and more are insisting on making the Israeli reality part of their identity. Not instead of their Palestinian ancestry, but together with it.

They, more than any group of people, can be part of a possible solution. Even if that isn’t now, at some point we need to work towards a solution to this terrible conflict. And our fellow Arab citizens can play a constructive and fundamental role in this, being the link between the two sides, which allows us to establish a much-needed dialog.

But until then, if for no other reason than their destiny being intertwined with the broader Israeli society, we owe them to give them place and give them a voice. Allow them to be heard and seen.

If you don’t live near any Arab Israeli community or have any encounters with them in your everyday life, then at least allow me to recommend you take a listen to Ibrahim and Amira in their podcast Unapologetic: The Third Narrative.

October 7 changed things fundamentally. Let’s take one thing with us, particularly in context of Hanukkah, in complete darkness even the smallest lights shine bright. To me, the Israeli Arabs are one of those lights. I hope they will be to all of us.

About the Author
Amateur historian wanting to present alternative narratives of the Holy Land.
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