Back to a military government
The proposal by Uri Borovsky, the prime minister's adviser on Arab affairs, to make a loyalty oath to the state a condition for Israeli Arabs getting an identity card, reverberated last week in the Lapid committee (the ministerial committee examining the implementation of the Or Commission recommendations) like an old memo from an officer of the military government of not-at-all-blessed memory.
The proposal by Uri Borovsky, the prime minister's adviser on Arab affairs, to make a loyalty oath to the state a condition for Israeli Arabs getting an identity card, reverberated last week in the Lapid committee (the ministerial committee examining the implementation of the Or Commission recommendations) like an old memo from an officer of the military government of not-at-all-blessed memory. Borovsky also proposed requiring Arabs to fly the state flag over public buildings and to enlist in either the army or some form of national service.
However, all those brilliant ideas, which are part of a broader plan dubbed "a strategic plan for dealing with the minority sectors," are nothing compared to Borovsky's claim that "nowadays, there is no discrimination against Arabs."
In an interview to Likudnik, a newsletter delivered to party members, Borovsky provides explanations. "I issued a document in 2001 and 2002, as well," he says. The document he wrote says, among other things, "the Arab sector received a significantly larger budget than its relative proportion in the population." No wonder that after his performance at the Lapid committee one of its members, Tourism Minister Benny Elon, wondered aloud why Borovsky was not summoned to testify at the Or Commission. After all, he revealed amazing data that the Or Commission (which Elon, like Effi Eitam, another member of the Lapid committee, rejects outright) never heard.
And not only the Or Commission. The National Security Council - which practically pleaded that the Or Commission recommendations be adopted, especially those touching on affirmative action and corrective preferential treatment for the Arab community - never heard of Borovsky's strange version, either. On the contrary, the council members believe the combination of nationalist fervor and socioeconomic difficulty in the Arab population is a recipe for disaster.
Borovsky takes pride in what he claims is his knowledge of the Arabs of Israel, since he spent 10 years in the civil administration in the territories and five years on state-appointed councils to manage the Bedouin communities of Al Maksur and Segev Shalom. Those two positions, seemingly civilian, only rarely afford the ability to operate on behalf of the population with respect and equality. While he was preceded by a few people who, during their terms, grew to become particularly attentive to the changes underway in the Israeli Arab community, Borovsky is not one of those, to use an understatement. He is not the first prime minister's adviser on "Arab affairs," but his statements are outrageous and most worrisome.
First, to the facts: It is difficult to understand where Borovsky, a veteran Likudnik and a settler of the knitted kippa sort, gets his information. Has he never seen the state flag flying over Nazareth city hall? In Sakhnin, they even joke that on their city hall there are two flags - one for the state and the other for Borovsky. The same is true in many other Arab municipalities. But that's not the point. Turning the flag into a condition for getting basic civil rights, and conditioning the receipt of an ID card on loyalty tests, are gross violations of Article 15 of the 1948 International Declaration of Human Rights, which states: "No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality." Moreover, if even a single Israeli Arab loses his citizenship, it will make a mockery of Israel's moral justification as a national home for Jewish refugees.
Of course, it's possible to mock Borovsky's anachronistic colonialism and to argue that, in any case, he doesn't have any powers and the Lapid committee will ultimately decide how the government implements the Or Commission conclusions. But that is ingenuous. First, Borovsky's horror show at the Lapid committee could help turn the Or Commission report into dead letters flying through the air. In addition, although his authority is very limited, he has enough power to do a little damage - not only on the statutory committees that he heads (for freeing abandoned property and Waqf monies, which provide grants to students, among other things) but also through indirect measures, like his ability to affect the Government Publications Bureau, which for the past several months has not been running advertisements in Al Ahali, edited by author-journalist Salam Jubran, one of the most courageous fighters for Jewish-Arab coexistence in Israel. In a conversation between Borovsky and the newspaper's publisher, Ali Dagam, the adviser explicitly said he cannot support someone who incites against the state and proposed that Dagam write a letter in which he declares he doesn't support terror.
Jubran likes to tell a story about a blind couple who give birth to a baby who can see, but they fondle him with so much strength that, in the end, the baby goes blind. There are at least two morals to the tale. One is that the Jewish people finally got their own state, flag and anthem but thousands of years of exile stripped them of the ability to be easygoing sovereigns, and out of excessive anxiety for their symbols of sovereignty, they apply a stupid amount of force that could yet destroy them, as well as those they seek to control. The other moral to the fable is the prime minister who chose Borovsky as an adviser.