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Demolition of Bedouin Town Destroyed Israeli Arabs' Faith in State

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Arab Israeli lawmaker from the Joint Arab List, Ayman Odeh (front row C), wounded during clashes, stands with other Arab Israeli politicians in Umm Al-Hiran, a Bedouin village in Israel's southern Negev Desert January 18, 2017.
Arab Israeli lawmaker from the Joint Arab List, Ayman Odeh (front row C), wounded during clashes, stands with other Arab Israeli politicians in Umm Al-Hiran, a Bedouin village in Israel's southern NegCredit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS

The announcement by Israel’s Higher Arab Monitoring Committee of actions it is planning in response to the demolitions in Umm al-Hiran Wednesday and the killing of Yakub Abu al-Kiyan was expected, the intended measure familiar from previous incidents — general strikes in Arab communities, a march in Wadi Ara and a convoy from Kalansua to the Knesset. It is the announcement’s last two, additional items that point to the depth of the crisis between Israel’s Arab community and state institutions.

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The first is a call for schools to devote the first two hours of classes today to a discussion about the incident in Umm al-Hiran, the demolition of homes in Kalansua last week and the housing crisis in the country’s Arab communities. The second calls on the international community to provide protection to Israel’s Arab minority in the face of what the committee calls “the increased aggression of state institutions against Arab citizens at the clear instruction of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and with the support of his government.”

Residents prevented from entering the village of Umm al Hiran, January 18, 2017.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

It’s hard to estimate how many principals and teachers who are governed by the Education Ministry, which is headed by Naftali Bennett, will respond to the committee’s initiative and how many will dare allow themselves and their students to conduct a deep and serious discussion of these burning issues.

>> Deadly clash with police could set off explosion in Israel's Arab community | Analysis <<

Violent clashes between police forces and residents in Umm al-Hiran, January 18, 2017Credit: N/A

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee was responsive to the criticism in Arab society of the decision to suspend classes following the demolitions in Kalansua. This time, rather than send the students to the streets and perhaps endanger them in superfluous clashes, the committee changed its approach. This time they will teach how the government of Israel and its prime minister, under pressure from the education minister, worked tirelessly to find a solution, in the name of the law, for the land thieves in Amona, but in Umm al-Hiran and Kalansua chose to demolish and destroy, in the name of the same law. This is food for thought for Arab society’s next generation, a lesson in the state’s attitude to one-fifth of its citizens, who are shoved to the margins just because they are Arabs.

Nor does anyone believe that the call to the world will be effective, certainly not in the near term. The United Nations, the European Union, Russian President Vladmir Putin or even the symbol of the new era, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, are not going to bring salvation. But this call expresses the clear lack of confidence the Arabs have in those meant to be responsible for protecting them as citizens — the government, the Knesset, the Supreme Court and the media. Even the hope that some had pinned on peace groups and nonprofits that advocate for coexistence has been dashed under the bulldozers’ treads.

This situation really worries the 1.5 million citizens determined to remain on their lands and in their homeland, both the parents who don’t want their children to take to the streets, and young people who aspire to integrate. But it should be of no less concern to anyone who calls himself a democrat and a liberal, and who seeks to live a normal life in the State of Israel.

This week there was a lot of talk of the campaign by former generals trying to scare people with the threat of an Arab majority by calling for separation from the Palestinians to preserve the character of the state. Given the events of the past several days, it seems that in the Netanyahu era, the battle is not for the state’s character, but for its sanity.

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