Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Israel’s Arabs, Living a Paradox

March 23, 2012 2:57 pm 0 comments

The Jerusalem Nature Museum regularly hosts instruction sessions by IDF Emergency Population Instructors of the Jerusalem district. Pictured here is an IDF soldier instructing 5th grade students of the Arabic-Israeli school "Alachuwa". The students began with a tour of the museum, followed by a lesson on preparedness and response in case of emergency. Photo: wiki commons.

Can Arabs, who make up one-fifth of Israel’s population, be loyal citizens of the Jewish state?

With this question in mind, I recently visited several Arab-inhabited regions of Israel (Jaffa, Baqa al-Gharbiya, Umm al-Fahm, Haifa, Acre, Nazareth, the Golan Heights, Jerusalem) and held discussions with mainstream Arab and Jewish Israelis.

I found most Arabic-speaking citizens to be intensely conflicted about living in a Jewish polity. On the one hand, they resent Judaism as the country’s privileged religion, the Law of Return that permits only Jews to immigrate at will, Hebrew as the primary language of state, the Star of David in the flag, and mention of the “Jewish soul” in the anthem. On the other hand, they appreciate the country’s economic success, standard of health care, rule of law, and functioning democracy.

These conflicts find many expressions. The small, uneducated, and defeated Israeli Arab population of 1949 has grown ten-fold, acquired modern skills, and recovered its confidence. Some from this community have acquired positions of prestige and responsibility, including Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran, former ambassador Ali Yahya, former government minister Raleb Majadele, and journalist Khaled Abu Toameh.

But these assimilated few pale beside the discontented masses who identify with Land Day, Nakba Day, and the Future Vision report. Revealingly, most Israeli Arab parliamentarians, such as Ahmed Tibi and Haneen Zuabi, are hotheads spewing rank anti-Zionism. Israeli Arabs have increasingly resorted to violence against their Jewish co-nationals.

Indeed, Israeli Arabs live two paradoxes. Although they suffer discrimination within Israel, they enjoy more rights and greater stability than any Arab populace living in their own sovereign countries (think Egypt or Syria). Second, they hold citizenship in a country that their fellow Arabs malign and threaten with annihilation.

My conversations in Israel led me to conclude that these complexities impede robust discussion, by Jews and Arabs alike, of the full implications of Israeli Arabs’ anomalous existence. Extremist parliamentarians and violent youth get dismissed as an unrepresentative fringe. Instead, one hears that if only Israeli Arabs received more respect and more municipal aid from the central government, current discontents would be eased; that one must distinguish between (the good) Arabs of Israel and (the bad) Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza; and a warning that Israeli Arabs will metastasize into Palestinians unless Israel treats them better.

My interlocutors generally brushed aside questions about Islam. It almost felt impolite to mention the Islamic imperative that Muslims (who make up 84 percent of the Israeli Arab population) rule themselves, Discussing the Islamic drive for application of Islamic law drew blank looks and a shift to more immediate topics.

This avoidance reminded me of Turkey before 2002, when mainstream Turks assumed that Atatürk’s revolution was permanent and assumed Islamists would remain a fringe phenomenon. They proved very wrong: a decade after Islamists democratically rode to power in late 2002, the elected government steadily applied more Islamic laws and built a neo-Ottoman regional power.

I predict a similar evolution in Israel, as Israeli Arab paradoxes grow more acute. Muslim citizens of Israel will continue to grow in numbers, skills, and confidence, becoming simultaneously more integral to the country’s life and more ambitious to throw off Jewish sovereignty. This suggests that as Israel overcomes external threats, Israeli Arabs will emerge as an ever-greater concern. Indeed, I predict they represent the ultimate obstacle to establishing the Jewish homeland anticipated by Theodor Herzl and Lord Balfour.

What can be done? Lebanon’s Christians lost power because they incorporated too many Muslims and became too small a proportion of the country’s population to rule it. Recalling this lesson, Israel’s identity and security require minimizing the number of Arab citizens – not by reducing their democratic rights, much less by deporting them, but by such steps as adjusting Israel’s borders, building fences along the frontiers, implementing stringent family reunification policies, changing pro-natalist policies, and carefully scrutinizing refugee applications.

Ironically, the greatest impediment to these actions will be that most Israeli Arabs emphatically wish to remain disloyal citizens of the Jewish state (as opposed to loyal citizens of a Palestinian state). Further, many other Middle Eastern Muslims aspire to become Israelis (a phenomenon I call Muslim aliyah). These preferences, I predict, will stymie the government of Israel, which will not develop adequate responses, thereby turning today’s relative quiet into tomorrow’s crisis.

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. © 2012 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Features Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    JNS.org – The entrance to Jerusalem’s Sacher Park was transformed from April 25-27 by a fire-breathing robotic dragon, which flailed its arms and attempted to take flight. The robot, a signature feature at Jerusalem’s first-ever “Geek Picnic,” was one of more than 150 scientific amusements available for the public to experience. This particular dragon was designed by students from Moscow’s Art Industrial Institute in conjunction with the Flacon design factory, said Anatasia Shaminer, a student who helped facilitate the display. Children […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love. CreateSpace, 2015. The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love, is a very interesting novel. Equally a political and romantic thriller, at times a real page-turner, it gets you intimately involved in the dire situation in today’s Syria, as well as in the romantic entanglements of its mostly New York-based characters — whose entanglements just might determine the fate of that dire situation in Syria. Along the way it introduces a really important idea that somehow […]

    Read more →
  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    JNS.org – Alan Gross used to be nothing more to me than a tragic headline. When I started my position at this news service in July 2011, Gross had been imprisoned in Cuba since December 2009 for what that country called “crimes against the state.” Gross, a subcontractor for the United States Agency for International Development, went to Cuba to help the Jewish community there access the Internet. After his arrest, he received a trial he describes as a “B movie,” […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Features New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    JNS.org – When I saw the recent Academy Award-winning film “The Big Short,” I was struck by the sheer genius of the financiers who devised the schemes and packaged the loans for resale, but it left me with unanswered questions about how the properties these loans represented were moved. “The Big Short” was largely about paper transactions, big money, and wealthy investors, and it mildly touched on the way the actual end-users — the home buyers and brokers — played into this […]

    Read more →