Israel's Arabs Have Been Misbehaving Lately

After all we've done for them, how dare they keep demanding basic democratic rights?

Our Arabs have been misbehaving lately. After all we did for Scandar Copti - funding and grooming him and sending him off to Hollywood - he dared say that his film "Ajami" - our film, the film of us all - doesn't represent us in the end. After we allowed MK Ahmed Tibi to study medicine at Hebrew University (!) and even let him be elected to the Knesset, he dared compare our saintly Zionist militants - the Olei Hagardom who were hanged by the British during the Mandate period - to their terrorists. That's not nice, Scandar. That's not right, Ahmed.

The young are going wild in the streets: a survey published in Haaretz last week offered a suitable Zionist answer to the rebellious Arabs. Half our young people think that Arabs do not deserve the same rights as Jews; 56 percent believe that they should not be allowed to run for a Knesset seat. If our Arabs continue to behave so disgracefully, after everything we've done for them, these numbers will only rise.

Since our Arabs have been acting out lately, maybe we should summon their parents for a talk. They would never have acted like this. Members of the first generation of the 1948 trauma would never have dared to behave so ungratefully. They, who obsequiously waved not one but two Israeli flags on our Independence Day, like the hero in Emile Habibi's "The Secret Life of Saeed the Pessoptimist", would not have spoken like Copti and Tibi. They voted en masse for Mapai, the precursor of the Labor Party, while the Shin Bet security service allowed them to become teachers in their own towns. They knew how to appreciate all of this.

It's not us, it's them: if the new Arabs behave nicely, if they look like us, talk like us, eat like us with knives and spoons, live in trendy areas of Tel Aviv and drive jeeps, cook maqluba and mop up hummus, perhaps we'll vote for them again on the next season of "Big Brother," as we did for the fair and noble Futna Jaber. But if they talk like Tibi and Copti, their fate will be the same.

Copti made an impressive movie about the depressing reality of Jaffa. He has no reason to feel that he represents our Israel, which does not give him the feeling that he belongs. The film funding he received for good behavior recalls regimes that give money to artists according to the messages they send.

Tibi doesn't owe the state anything either. But when he dared ask if the Olei Hagardom were heroes or terrorists, the Knesset speaker hurried out of the hall. Does the question lack legitimacy? Doesn't Tibi have not only the right but also the obligation to raise it? Aren't we obliged to answer? A devilish act took place the same day the Knesset remembered the Olei Hagardom, one of whom fired on a bus and killed several passengers: the Palestinian Authority sought to name a square in Ramallah after Dalal Mughrabi, who took part in an attack on an Israeli bus on the coastal road in 1978. Israel railed against this. "Each nation has its own truth," Tibi said before he was removed from the hall.

The ultimate Israeli dream is that the Coptis and Tibis will disappear from sight. If the so-called demographic problem can't be solved by driving Arabs out, we'll try to get rid of them another way: destroy their identity, cloud their national memory and turn them into Israelis, not to mention Zionists. It won't work. We are not only talking about economic discrimination, but about trampling on national heritage. This won't work either. The third generation after the Nakba is informed. It's true that some of them are being Israel-ized, the way we like to see, but Arabs lacking identity will also pose a pressing social problem. The Jews' situation in the world is much better than theirs.

The solution does not just lie in budgets, as we like to believe (but don't act on). Until we recognize equal rights, including the right to say things we don't want to hear, they will remain a demographic problem without a solution. Until we understand that we didn't give them anything, that in a democracy rights are natural and taken for granted, and until we accept - not only the fabulous Futna but the less pleasant Scandar and Ahmed - there will be no democracy here. They aren't loyal to the state? The state is much less loyal to them.