I never understood why the more radical Arab members of the Knesset behave so provocatively. Why did Haneen Zoabi take part in the 2010 Gaza flotilla? Why did she, along with her Balad colleagues Jamal Zahalka and Basel Ghattas visit the families of terrorists killed after murdering Jews and participate in a moment of silence for the ‘martyrs’? Why did her party and the Communist (mostly Arab) Hadash party condemn Arab states that declared Hezbollah a terrorist organization?
The simple answer is that they are anti-Zionist and these are anti-Zionist actions. But why so provocative? It has already made them a target of legislation designed to remove them from the Knesset, although it’s doubtful that such a law will pass in a form that would result in Arab MKs being banished, as they so richly deserve.
Gadi Taub, writing in Ha’aretz, argues that they are trying to provoke the Right to propose actions that are anti-democratic, which will cause a response from the Left that opposes the Jewish nature of the state. Thus, the result will be to negate both the democratic and Jewish aspects of the state. According to this view, both the Right and the Left are being manipulated.
I think the answer is more simple: they want to incite and infuriate both Jews and Arabs against each other, to destroy the possibility of coexistence between Israel’s Jews and the 20% of its population (not including Judea and Samaria) that are (mostly Muslim) Arabs. But this coexistence is necessary for the continued existence of the state.
20% is a large minority. France, with all of its troubles, has a Muslim minority of 7-9%; the UK hovers at about 5% and Germany at less than 4%. Given the hostility between ‘Palestinians’ and Israeli Jews, there is great potential for instability here. Politician Avigdor Lieberman has proposed transferring some of the most heavily-populated Arab areas of Israel to Palestinian Authority control in order to reduce the size of the minority (nobody would move; the proposal transfers the territory to the PA). The chances of this happening are infinitesimal, since the Arabs that live there strongly oppose it.
Meir Kahane thought that the present situation was unsustainable. He pointed to a higher birthrate among the Arab population. But since then, with increased education and development in the Arab sector, the Arab and Jewish birthrates have tended to converge.
A 2013 survey showed that 53% of Israel’s Arab citizens recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. That sounds encouraging until you think about the other 47%. Nevertheless, in the recent wave of terrorism (up to March 27) which includes 338 stabbings, shootings and vehicular attacks, only a few were perpetrated by Arab citizens of Israel. Most of the terrorists were residents of Judea/Samaria or eastern Jerusalem. While Arab citizens may pay lip service to anti-Zionism, they are far less militant than their cousins in the territories.
Although the narrative of Palestinian victimization is strongly established among Arab citizens of Israel, most appreciate the practical benefits of being a minority in a functioning state rather than a majority in a failed one. They have eyes and ears and are aware of the conditions in Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and the Palestinian Authority.
They do believe strongly that they are victims of discrimination in Israel. To a great extent this is exaggerated. Consumption levels for Arabs and Jews in Israel are quite similar, and large sums of government aid go to Arab municipalities. There is a great deal of corruption in the Arab towns and cities, which results in a lower level of service to their population. But this is not because the national government discriminates against Arabs. There is also a problem of crime and illegal weapons, and in this case the complaints are justified. The police have had a hands-off attitude, which has allowed crime to flourish. The new head of the Israel police has promised to take action.
Last year the Hamas-linked Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel was outlawed because of its incitement of violence on the false grounds that Israel was endangering the al-Aksa mosque, a perennial favorite of Muslim Israel-haters since at least 1920. Several terrorists attributed their actions to their concern for the mosque and the Temple Mount.
Much propaganda against Israel turns on the supposed discrimination against Arab citizens. Recently a right-wing member of the Knesset, Betzalel Smotrich, was severely criticized for saying that maternity wards should separate Jewish and Arab mothers because his wife didn’t want to be disturbed by Arab haflot [parties] in the rooms, and that today’s Arab baby might become tomorrow’s terrorist. Naturally, this was picked up with glee by those who seek anything negative about Israel, but his statement was widely derided, including by the head of his party.
Foreign funders like the American New Israel Fund and the EU fund a number of organizations (e.g., Adalah, Mossawa Center) which allegedly defend the rights of Arabs in Israel, but actually are trying to create discord between Jews and Arabs, as well as to promulgate the usual propaganda which accuses Israel of racism and bias.
All of this represents another line of attack against the Jewish state, focusing on its internal behavior rather than its relations with ‘Palestinians’ living in Judea and Samaria, or its alleged ‘disproportionate’ response to Hamas rockets and tunnels.
The potential for chaos if there were a widespread Arab revolt is very great. But on the other hand, good relations between Jews and Arabs could be a powerful tool for Israel in its effort to fight delegitimization. Not much can be done with the PLO, whose reason for being has always been to destroy Israel. But mutual understanding – or at least mutual acceptance – can be achieved with our Arab citizens.
The government was right in banning the Islamic movement, the flow of foreign money to hostile Arab NGOs should be stopped, the police should make serious anti-crime efforts in Arab towns, and Smotrich should shut up and keep his nastiness to himself. The calculated actions of Zoabi and company are nothing less than treason, and should be treated as such.
Jews and Arabs can get along. They must. Both groups would suffer from the alternative.