The Israeli Arab silent majority must prove they are law-abiding citizens

What really happened in Kafr Kana last weekend? The future of Jewish-Arab relations are at stake; both the Israeli government and the Arab citizens have work to do.

Moshe_Arens_cropped-150x150By Moshe Arens

What happened in Kafr Kana? The small village in western Galilee, believed to be the site where Jesus performed his first miracle, turning water to wine. That village, originally Christian but now mostly Muslim. We know that a policeman shot and killed a local youth, Khayr al-Din Hamdan.

That the circumstances were most unusual and called for rapid reaction by the police could be seen on the video clip taken at the time and broadcast on television. Hamdan, brandishing a knife, attacked the police van in which policemen were sitting. Recent television footage provided further room for concern. Ron Akerman, a reporter for Canadian TV, visited Kafr Kana after the incident. He was surrounded by a group of children between six and 10 years old waving a Hamas flag. One of the children, holding a filed down screwdriver, said that he would strike him in the neck. “He is an Israeli Jew”, he said of the reporter. “We will kill him.”

Whether the policeman’s action was justified under the circumstances is being investigated, and we shall shortly learn of the results of the investigation. But no less important is it to get to the root of the ugly scene we saw on television. Is Hamdan typical of the youth brought up in Kafr Kana, or is he the exception, a juvenile delinquent ready to take on the police? If he is typical of the young men in Kafr Kana, what kind of education are the youth of the village getting? Is there a difference between the education provided to the Muslim and Christian children? Is the northern branch of the Islamic Movement active in the village? And what about the Islamic clerics in Kafr Kana, what are they preaching at the local mosques? The answer to these questions may lead us to a better understanding of the hostility to Israel displayed by hundreds in Kafr Kana.

But does it stop in Kafr Kana? What about the demonstrations in a number of Arab villages in solidarity with Hamdan, where the flags that were waved were not only Palestinian flags, but also Hamas flags and flags of ISIS? Can what happened in Kafr Kana also happen in other Arab villages in Israel, attacks by knife-wielding youth on the police?

The incident in Kafr Kana has the potential of creating a gulf between Jews and Arabs that is going to be hard to bridge. That is exactly what those leading the demonstrations want. They are opposed to the integration of Israel’s Arab citizens into Israeli society and the Israeli economy. They want to compel Israel’s Arab citizens to identify and support Israel’s enemies, Hamas and ISIS.

There are many indications that the hostility to Israel displayed by some in Kafr Kana and in the demonstrations of “solidarity” in Arab villages is not representative of the majority of Israel’s Arab citizens. If this is the case, it is important to make this clear for the future of the relations between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens.

There is a lot that Israel’s leadership has to do in order to prevent the polarization between Jewish and Arab citizens. First and foremost they must demonstrate that it is the government’s aim to advance the status of Israel’s Arab citizens and to aid them to integrate into Israel’s society and economy. But the time has come for the silent majority of Israel’s Arab citizens to speak up. To dissociate themselves from armed attacks on the Israeli police. To distance themselves from the demonstrators waving Hamas and ISIS flags. To show that the majority of Israel’s Arab citizens are and want to be law-abiding citizens.

It certainly is not easy to speak up so as to be heard above the tumult being caused by the extremists. It may even be dangerous. But the incident at Kafr Kana and the subsequent developments have made it very important. The future of Jewish-Arab relations is at stake.


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