You Don’t Have to Be a Zionist to Be a Proud Israeli

Arab politicians like Zouheir Bahloul and Esawi Freige are assets to Israeli society. It’s only natural that their national aspirations differ from those of their Jewish colleagues.

By Moshe Arens

Moshe_Arens_cropped-150x150MK Zouheir Bahloul isn’t a Zionist, but he’s a proud Israeli. He and MK Esawi Freige are Arab Knesset members who believe in the integration of Israel’s Arab citizens into the fabric of Israeli society. They know that the road to achieving that objective leads through Arab participation with Israel’s Jewish citizens in the country’s political parties, while separate Arab political parties lead to isolation, not integration.

The behavior of the MKs from the Joint Arab List proves this point. For Bahloul to run on the Zionist Union ticket and for Freige to run for Meretz takes courage. It’s something that all Israelis should appreciate, especially Bahloul’s Knesset colleagues in Zionist Union.

So it was surprising and disappointing to see Bahloul’s party colleagues attack him viciously for comparing a Palestinian who tried to knife an Israeli soldier to members of the Jewish underground who attacked the British army during Britain’s rule of Palestine. He was wrong – the Jewish underground in those days did not target British civilians, whereas Palestinian terrorist movements concentrate on targeting Jewish civilians.

Killing Jewish civilians was and remains their aim, whether passengers on civilian airlines, the Israeli athletes and coaches at the Munich Olympics, bus passengers or families attending a celebration. When the terrorists come up against Israeli soldiers or policemen there to protect civilians, they attack them for lack of a civilian target.

There is little doubt that the Palestinian who tried to knife an Israeli soldier in Hebron recently would not have hesitated to attack a Jewish civilian if one had been available. That is the essence of terrorism – taking the lives of civilians.

Terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas on occasion have to contend with Israeli soldiers trying to prevent attacks against Israeli civilians or retaliating against such attacks. That hardly transforms them from terrorists into freedom fighters. Attacking civilians, whether it’s blowing up the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires or firing rockets on Israeli population centers, is an integral part of their operational arsenal.

Bahloul, although a member of Zionist Union, is not a Zionist and should not be expected to be a Zionist. He is a Palestinian Israeli citizen, and it’s only natural that his attitude to Palestinians and their national aspirations differs from those of his Jewish colleagues.

It’s important to understand that. It’s quite proper to criticize him when he’s mistaken and try to convince him when he’s in error, but one should not forget that he has the courage to demonstrate his belief in the coexistence of Jews and Arabs in Israel and the integration of Israel’s Arab citizens into Israel’s society and economy.

Hopefully he will serve as a model to more of Israel’s Arab citizens. Their participation on the political scene along with Israel’s Jewish citizens is essential to Israeli democracy.

Arab parties that neglect the well-being of Israel’s Arab citizens while voicing support for Israel’s enemies and expressing admiration for terrorists and fascists in the Arab world are only sowing dissension among Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens. When they urge Israel’s Arab citizens to cast their ballots for them in Knesset elections, they are misleading the Arab electorate while attempting to build a Knesset faction that will obstruct the integration of Israel’s Arab citizens into Israeli society.

Unlike them, Arab politicians like Bahloul and Freige are assets to Israeli society and are helping to pave the way for a better Israel. They deserve the admiration of all Israelis – Jews and Arabs – regardless of party affiliation.

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