Israel’s Many Ways to Hate Arabs

Unfortunately, there is a broad spectrum of hostility toward Arabs throughout Israeli society. It is not limited to the ‘price-tag’ gangs.

Moshe_Arens_croppedBy Moshe Arens

(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on June 24, 2013)

The “price-tag” vandalism against the residents of Abu Ghosh last week was abhorrent. It was criminal behavior by primitive minds, an expression of blind hatred of our Arab fellow citizens. There is no excuse for it and no forgiveness. You wonder who leads these gangs and from whom they draw their inspiration.

There is a lot of hostility toward Arabs in Israeli society. Some of it is understandable considering the many years of conflict between Jews and Arabs, but none of it is excusable when directed indiscriminately at Israel’s Arab citizens. But make no mistake, those young vandals attacking Arab property are not the only signs of that hostility in Israeli society, a hostility that may be the breeding ground for these criminal acts.

When Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of a mid-sized political party and until recently Israel’s foreign minister, promotes the idea that in a settlement with the Palestinians areas heavily populated by Israeli Arabs should be transferred to the Palestinians, with those Arabs stripped of their citizenship, he’s saying “the fewer Arabs in Israel the better.” What is that if not an expression of blind hostility toward Israel’s Arab citizens? How many people in Israel tend to agree with this pathological view?

You may have noticed that in the current debate over ultra-Orthodox Jews sharing the burden of citizenship and serving in the Israel Defense Forces, the subject of military service by Israeli Arabs is being consistently evaded. It is argued that their place is national service, not military service. The more outspoken in this debate say clearly that the Arabs cannot be trusted with guns. That may reflect an opinion that Israel’s Arab citizens are hostile to the State of Israel, a generalized assertion that is patently untrue and is really an expression of hostility toward all Israeli Arabs. These statements are made publicly with total disregard for their feelings.

But why stop there? Aren’t there many others who in effect are saying “the fewer Arabs in Israel the better,” and even more forcefully, “not one single Arab more on the roster of Israeli citizens if we can prevent it.” You don’t have to look very far to find those who harbor this sentiment, even if they don’t always express it vocally. They may hide behind the benign assertion that they want peace, support “two states for two peoples” and want a “democratic Jewish state,” but it’s clear what they really mean. We don’t want any more Arabs in Israel, is what they’re thinking. And Israel’s Arab citizens know it.

After 65 years during which Arabic alongside Hebrew has been one of Israel’s official languages, there are Knesset members who would lift that status. What’s that if not a hostile act toward Israel’s Arab citizens?

Then there’s the inane insistence that Israel is not and should not be “a state of all its citizens.” Are they trying to tell Israel’s Arab citizens that Israel is not their state? That it belongs only to Israel’s Jewish citizens? Not to the Druze, not to the Christians and not to the Muslims? Try telling that to those serving in the IDF and to the families whose sons have given their lives for Israel’s defense. It is not only absurd, it is shameful.

Unfortunately, there is a broad spectrum of hostility toward Arabs throughout Israeli society. It is not limited to the price-tag gangs, who may feel encouraged by a sense that they are not alone and may imagine that others secretly admire their criminal acts. I know that the standard-bearers of the “two-state solution” will rebel at the thought that there is some connection, even if tenuous, between their ideology and hostility toward Arabs. But they should give it a thought.

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