Ticking Intelligence Bomb

Zoheir Andrewous
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Zoheir Andrewous

Amid all of the public debate around the declining birthrate in the Arab sector in the past year, my attention was drawn in particular to the original response by Finance Ministry officials, who said this was proof that the cutbacks in child allowances leads to demographic balance.

I am not as happy as they. On the contrary, it makes me sad. Goodness knows why there hasn't been a drastic decline in the percentage of Arab children. I am angry with my people, who continue to bring children into the world and, consciously or not, shoot themselves in the foot.

Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu: I, for example, brought three children into the world, out of a strategic decision reached together with my wife, according to which the struggle with people like you has to be based on quality, not quantity. I gave all three children Italian names: Dina, Carina and Carlo - a modest contribution to Italy, which enabled me to study in its institutions and did not make me feel like an alien. The decision also stemmed from my admiration for Italy's national soccer team, and its moral and humane decision to give the World Cup that it won in 1982 to my Palestinian people, which that year was the victim of the vicious massacre in the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps.

As a consequence of our family decision, that education is the only weapon we can use in your state, which is incidentally my homeland. We opened savings plans for our children for higher education, so they will be able to pursue academic study without being dependent on a variety of factors.

We are conscious of the fact that the "sinister of education," Limor Livnat, is proposing, as is her wont, creative solutions to make it harder for Arab students to register for university immediately after completing high school. For instance, she proposes restricting the age at which one may enter university to 21 or older, and I assume that this has to do with the principle of affirmative action for Jews, who serve three years in the army of occupation and only then continue their studies, whereas the Arabs do not serve, and can immediately pursue academic study.

However, even if age restrictions are imposed, we will find, or have to invent, ways around it: We'll send our children abroad for three years. They will get good grades, let the goyim make a lot of money, your country will lose, and they will return to Israel hardened and continue their studies here, whether you like it or not.

I am angry at the Palestinian Arabs that remained in Israel after the Nakba of 1948; angry because they continue to bring children into the world in an uncontrolled manner. The high birthrates in the Arab sector led many people to assimilate new terms in the Israeli lexicon of racism.

You, for example, Mr. Netanyahu, issued a statement according to which the Arabs in Israel are a ticking demographic bomb. The leader of Shas, Eli Yishai, who came to Israel from an Arab country, Morocco, claims that children's allowances make no difference at all to Arabs living in tents, since in his opinion Arabs don't waste money on children and they systematically evade paying property taxes.

Listening to it, you could laugh your head off: I've been following the Haredi sector, which Mr. Yishai professes to represent, and to this day I have not heard that they are working or paying property tax, since their Torah is their craft. They bring a lot of children into the world, which is their right, and you, Mr. Netanyahu, with the generous help of your prime minister, are trying to harness them to the rickety government while cynically exploiting the Arabs and the children's allowance payments.

Mr. Netanyahu, perhaps you will be surprised by my stand on the issue, which is not exactly popular in the Arab sector, to say the least. Nevertheless, I am demanding that the leaders of the Arab public embark on an aggressive campaign to persuade members of the national Arab minority living in Israel to take a critical decision - to limit childbirth of their own free will. This campaign must be initiated now, without connection to allowances your ministry distributes to citizens from the taxes they pay. I firmly believe that we, the "Israeli Arabs," must transform ourselves from a ticking demographic bomb, as you term us, to a ticking intelligence bomb.

Incidentally, Mr. Minister of Finance, I am publicly informing you that I am not interested in the children's allowance your government gives me each month, which totals NIS 480. I do therefore hereby declare that I am contributing this amount to the establishment of a new fund for the study of racism in Israel.

The writer is editor of the Arab-Israeli newspaper Kull al-Arab.