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  • Overcoming our primitive fear of Arabs as humans
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British Prime Minister David Cameron said the other day that multiculturalism in his country has failed. It did not succeed in promoting a uniform identity, based on the principles of democracy. Cameron - exactly like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said the same thing in October - doesn't really mean multiculturalism in the sense of many and varied cultures, but is rather talking about the "existence of the ideology of extremist Islam." This despite the findings of a poll by the Open Society Institute that found that an overwhelming majority of 86 percent of Muslims living in Britain (who constitute only 3 million out of 62 million residents ), define themselves as British, and only after that as Muslims.

Thus, without any relation to the facts, what Cameron is basically saying is that "this swarthy Islam doesn't fit in so well in our nice white country." It seems that the white Westerner's primeval fear of the Arab mob is uncontrollable, and is sparked even if the mob is in Egypt and demanding freedom. Many Israelis who travel to London and return astounded by the fact that "the streets are full of Arabs," can probably relate. Indeed, this white, Western fear exists here to the same extent, and here too it is reinforced by the masses demonstrating in Egypt. So there's a good chance that we'll soon hear the prime minister or one of his ministers taking a page from Cameron in justifying more measures against the Arab community in Israel.

Yet, there is a difference between Cameron - who, like Nicolas Sarkozy, is addressing anyone who is Western, Christian and white, and excluding everything that is black and Muslim - and Merkel, who in her remarks recognized Islam as part of Germany, and took responsibility for her country's failure to integrate immigrants. Actually, she spoke a truth that is not uttered here: "We lied to ourselves, we thought they wouldn't stay long, that they would disappear one day. But that's not the reality."

Merkel insists that her immigrants and Muslim citizens speak the local language, obey the law and find jobs. In Germany, Britain and Israel, the Muslim and Arab minority speaks the local language and obeys the law, but when it comes to finding employment, the true meaning of multiculturalism emerges.

The demand for multiculturalism arises only when a minority is excluded and discriminated against. When a private individual of any religion or origin achieves equality, when the job market is open to him, when he leads a dignified life, when his personal and civil rights, including freedom of religion and culture, are maintained - there is no need for multiculturalism. The demand by a particular group or nationality for multiculturalism arises when a minority suffers from rejection in a society or state that does not want to include that religious, ethnic or national minority.

The problem is not multiculturalism, but discrimination, racism and deprivation. When members of such a minority suffer from inequality, poverty, unemployment and violence, they segregate in their group, with its religious and cultural values, because society at large does not allow them to integrate and adopt its values.

For a long time Arab society in Israel had no demands regarding nationality or identity. But after many years of discrimination and deprivation directed at Arab society as a whole, and racism and exclusion aimed at Arabs as individuals, in addition to the protracted occupation of the Palestinian people - Israeli Arab society has gradually developed into a national minority with demands. Nevertheless, its overwhelming majority is eager to integrate. Israel knows in principle that economically this integration is in its best interest. The question is, can it overcome the primitive fear of Arabs as human beings.