The Charge: Arabs

While it may be true that Israeli Arabs enjoy more rights than most of the world's Arabs, hey are worse off than most of the world's Jews.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

No, this is not (yet ) a defense of Dr. Omar Sayid and Ameer Makhoul, who were arrested in the dead of night. No one knows yet what exactly they are accused of and on what grounds. Perhaps the Shin Bet security mountain will produce a mole hill, perhaps not, but in the context of another ugly and collective wave of mudslinging against the Arabs of Israel, it's time to reveal an indictment of a different sort: What can we possibly want from our Arab citizens?

Protesters demand the release of Arab-Israeli activist Amir Makhoul, Haifa, May 10, 2010Credit: Tomer Neuberg

The truth is, more than anything, we would like them to disappear, though not their hummus restaurants. A second choice would be to have them all crowd into their cities and villages - not to say their ghettos. There they'll soon be standing on top of each other, some unemployed through no fault of their own, outcast and discriminated against. They'll raise the Israeli flag, preferably two, and sing about the Jewish soul yearning from the national anthem - anything less would be considered a transgression.

We would like their MKs, if we still agree to let them have MKs, to visit the Jewish communities of the United States, prostrate themselves on the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav and take part in the March of the Living at Auschwitz. Just as long as they don't visit their brethren in Arab countries. Let them stand at attention during the sirens on memorial day for the soldiers who fought against their people. Let them cheer the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces that eats away at them in the territories. Let their young people say thank you for their extensive and generous employment opportunities (1.3 percent of the Prime Minister's Office staff, 6 out of 469 Knesset employees, 2 percent of the workforce at the transportation and communications ministries, a total of 6 percent in public service ).

Let them take Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's loyalty test. Let them obey the Citizenship Law and not marry members of their people from the occupied territories. Let them obey the so-called Nakba Law and not dare mention the events of 1948, even in a whisper, ever. Let them not dare buy an apartment in Upper Nazareth or Carmiel, which were built on their lands, and let them not try to rent an apartment in Tel Aviv. Let them not even think of enjoying themselves at our clubs, though there's no chance the security guards would let them in. Let them adopt an Israeli accent, preferably Ashkenazi, so security guards at Ben-Gurion International Airport won't stop them. Let them continue to arrive at the airport, and without complaining please, four hours before their flight because they are Arabs.

Let their poets continue to need the Supreme Court to accept Arab literary prizes. Let them have fewer children because they are "multiplying too much" and turning into a "demographic problem." Let them not speak too loudly around Jews because we don't like hearing Arabic. And of course, let them not dare meet with "foreign agents," almost all of whom are citizens of neighboring countries.

If indeed the "minorities" or "Arab Israelis" - we also forced these titles on them, why should we call them Palestinians? - meet all these impossible conditions, maybe we will accept them somehow. Then we will continue to gobble up pita and hummus, coffee and baklava on the house, and let them build our homes - on condition that they don't listen to Arabic radio while working.

The parliamentary inquiry committee headed by MK Ahmed Tibi on hiring more Arabs in the civil service issued its interim report at the beginning of the year. This impressive report should have been an indictment of Israeli society. But the report was met with indifference. It reveals severe state discrimination. But the report is only part of the problem. The other part is political and national: We can't ignore that the debate about the "Jewish state" excludes Israel's Arabs by definition, shunting them into a corner from which there is no way out.

True, they may enjoy more rights than most of the world's Arabs, but that's irrelevant. After all, we're a democracy. In contrast, they are worse off than most of the world's Jews. With the two-state solution rapidly vanishing and the option of one state becoming the only one, the litmus test for the regime to be instituted in a country that is already almost binational will be its treatment of its Arab citizens. Meanwhile, let's admit it: Even if the suspicions against Sayid and Makhoul turn out to be true, Israel's Arabs are still loyal to the state, much more than it is loyal to them.



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