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When Ariel Sharon formed his second government, he announced that he personally would head a single ministerial committee: the one that deals with the non-Jewish population. The prime minister, it was understood, intended to attend personally to the advancement of the population's Arab sector. Five months later, the Sharon government declared that a Knesset vote against the law depriving Palestinians married to Israelis of the right to Israeli citizenship amounted to a vote of no-confidence in the government. Thus, the government forced the Knesset to accept its position and to enact a law that grossly discriminates against Israel's Arab citizens.

Thursday's vote exposed the self-righteous hypocrisy, not only of the government, its ministers and the Knesset coalition (including Shinui), but also of the Shin Bet security services. In recent years, Shin Bet has been making great efforts to foster its image as the more tolerant body within the Israeli government with regard to the Arab minority.

The heads of the Shin Bet seemingly oppose discriminating against Israeli Arabs and have called for the political echelon to adopt a liberal attitude toward this sector. But the debate over the amendment of the Citizenship Law revealed that it was the Shin Bet that created the impetus for the law.

MKs quoted statistics originating with the Shin Bet, that 11 percent of all Israeli Arabs who took part in terror attacks came from mixed families (i.e., marriages of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians from the territories).

The most outstanding example of an Arab with a blue Israeli identity card involved in a suicide bombing is the case of the terrorist from Nablus, whose mother was Israeli and who carried out the bombing of the Matza restaurant in Haifa. But the absolute numbers are in fact minuscule.

The number of Israeli Arabs involved in terror activities of varying degrees of severity totaled 68 last year. This is a very worrying statistic indeed, and is higher than in previous years. But only seven of this number (11 percent) came from mixed families. Even when it is taken into consideration that the blue identity card does make it easier for a terrorist planning an attack to move around in Israel, there is no justification for trying to defuse the danger by a sweeping law of the kind passed by the Knesset three days ago.

The heads of the Arab community must account for the growth in numbers of their young people involved in terror, and respond to the angry reaction of the Jewish majority, which has made itself known, among other things, by the amendment to the Citizenship Law.

However, it must be said that the purpose of the legislation is more than just to fill a breach in our line of defense. It satisfies the secret desire of right-wing parliamentarians (Shinui included, as it turns out) and to allow their nationalist inclinations to run rampant.

The present government is composed of parties whose primary reaction to Arabs, including Israeli Arabs, is one of foreignness and suspicion, if not outright racism. These parties represent the lion's share of the Jewish public in Israel. Only a minority of the establishment and the government elite (coalition and opposition) has developed tolerance toward and acceptance of Arabs.

The yearly reports of Sikui, a watchdog association, bear this out, noting the inability of both government institutions and universities to hire Israeli Arabs in key positions and to apply egalitarian standards where they are concerned.

The amendment to the Citizenship Law infringes on the basic right of all people to fall in love and marry without paying the price of being uprooted. It is not only a rabble-rousing response to the distress of the security situation, but also an attempt to distance as many Palestinians as possible from Israel. In this, it emphasizes the racist character of the legislation and strengthens the argument that Israel's claim to be a Jewish and a democratic state at the same time, is groundless.