Analysis |

Israeli Arab Society Is Splintered, Without Any Room for Hope

The mass altercation between Muslims and Druze over the weekend in the town of Abu Snan is not just another local incident – it’s a reflection of Arab society in Israel.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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 A knife and a grenade found at the scene of the brawl in Abu Snan.
A knife and a grenade found at the scene of the brawl in Abu Snan. Credit: Rami Shlush
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Another truce or meeting among religious leaders or “dignitaries” will not solve the problems of Israeli Arab society. It requires social and political conduct that unites rather than splinters it.

The mass altercation between Muslims and Druze that erupted Friday night in the northern Arab town of Abu Snan is not just another local incident – it’s a reflection of Arab society in Israel, splintered in all its glory and without any room for hope.

Those who are still sufficiently nave to believe that the establishment will deal with the situation and navigate things toward a better future will quickly be disappointed to discover that, as the establishment sees it, the Arabs, or “minority members” as they would be called, are nothing more than a group of communities divided into tribes and clans, who are measured based on the level of danger they pose to the country. Their citizenship and personal safety are of a lower rank. Furthermore, to the extent that they don’t pose a danger to the state, they can stew in their own juices. It’s the divide-and-conquer formula.

But an event such as what occurred over the weekend cannot happen in a properly run society that prides itself in its national identity and in a state that considers itself a developed country. Even without considering the role of the establishment or the absence thereof, brawls of this kind are the lot of Third-World countries and of tribes that are still far from what one would recognize as civilized.

Purportedly that is not the situation in Abu Snan. Every house in the town, as in Arab-Israeli communities in general, has Internet and televisions. But it is actually the younger generation, which is so easily exposed through Facebook and Twitter to the global, enlightened world, that is behaving like the last of the barbarians, ready to kill anyone who thinks differently. Who needs ISIS?

Everyone is asking why the riot broke out and everyone describes the same timeline: The terrorist attack in Jerusalem in which a Druze officer in the Israeli Border Police died after being run over by a car; the shooting by police of a resident of the Arab town of Kafr Kana; protests at schools in several Arab communities in which students wore Arab kaffiyeh headdresses; and, of course, the stirring of passions on social networks on the Internet. There are those who say that, when all is said and done, it is the result of a dispute between two young people. But is an incident in which dozens were injured and could have resulted in fatalities the result of a dispute between two residents of one village, one community?

The answer won’t surprise many people. With all due respect to communal and national identity, in the moment of truth, their sense of belonging is eroded but ethnicity or clan remains. That is the framework on behalf of which they are fighting and are prepared to sacrifice – not the party or the religion with which they are affiliated and which fundamentally calls for tolerance and mercy.

But those seeking evidence of this didn’t have to wait for the recent events. It was apparent in the local elections of a year ago. One after another, parties and political movements in Arab society collapsed over internal bickering. A world war nearly erupted in Abu Snan, where there are also Druze and Christians, when a Muslim decided to run for head of the local council. Another glance at those election results reveals that the vast majority of the local mayors who won had avoided party affiliations and returned to the time-honored formula of tribe, clan and ethnic group coming first.

One could have spoken of yellow caution light that was blinking. Now, however, it’s a red searchlight. Another truce and another meeting among religious leaders and “notables” will not solve the problem. What this society needs is social and political conduct that unites rather than divides, education toward accepting others that deals with the problems rather than sweeping them under the carpet, and a leadership that truly leads rather than being dragged along by events.

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