Arab Lawmakers, Not Collaborators

The outline of an Arab leader that Israel is bent on fostering among you: He's a collaborator. And Arab citizens? They are expected to rise up against leaders who harm the honey-sweet relations between them and the government.

Arab Israeli lawmaker from the Joint Arab List, Ayman Odeh, seen wounded during clashes in the Bedioun village of Umm Al-Hiran, January 18, 2017.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

It would have been better if, during the house demolitions in Umm al-Hiran, Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh would have taken the place of the bulldozer driver and rushed forth to tear down houses. At the same time, lawmaker Taleb Abu Arar should have taken upon himself the task of using live ammunition when necessary and lawmaker Aida Touma-Suliman the role of firing rubber-coated metal bullets.

Lawmaker Ahmad Tibi should have had the no less important assignment of showing up with a truckload of pepper spray, seeing to it that it works against the inciters and that his party colleagues don’t surreptitiously use it as a refreshing additive to their hummus. The rest of the Joint List faction, along with their allies in Meretz, would have done well to organize circles of debka dancers to raise the morale of the demolition fans, gleefully flattening Arab houses.

What a heartwarming sight! Lawmaker “Dheibeh” Galon at the head of the line, waving the Border Police flag, and lawmaker Masud Ganaim at the other end, singing, “We’ve brought destruction unto you” to the tune of Heveinu Shalom Aleichem.

This, in a nutshell, is what Arab Knesset members are obliged to do to receive the blessings of our rulers. I promise you that even if all these patriotic acts were undertaken, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich would still argue that the blows inflicted by the Arab lawmakers on the demonstrators were too feeble, and that Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan would argue that the pepper spray was past its expiry date. Culture Minister Miri Regev would add that Galon sang off-tune deliberately.

If this weren’t a tragedy one could crack up laughing. What do you want from the Arab lawmakers? On one hand deafening screaming and heart-wrenching scenes of people whose lives have been destroyed, claiming that Arab lawmakers aren’t looking after the problems of ordinary Arab citizens since they devote all their time and energy to the Palestinian problem. On the other hand, when these lawmakers roll up their sleeves to protect their people from the willfulness of the government, accusations that they are incorrigible inciters are hurled at them. Arabs apparently foresaw such hypocritical behavior by governments when they made up an immortal folk saying: “You’ve confused us, baldie – where should we kiss you?”

Well, then, dear Arabs, here is the outline of an Arab leader that the government is bent on fostering among you: He’s a collaborator. And Arab citizens? They are expected to rise up against leaders who harm the honey-sweet relations between them and the government. Here is what the government would like to hear: “What is your response, loyal Arabs, to the demolition of your houses? We thank the State of Israel. And if we build a Jewish settlement on the ruins? Even more gratitude. As the old song goes: ‘Whom should we thank and bless? Our state which has brought destruction.’”

What an idyll exists here between he who’s seen destruction and he who builds on top of the ruins, between the uprooted and the one planted in his place. In the absence of incitement by Arab lawmakers even the flowers look fresher. Thus, instead of the two minutes of hate George Orwell suggests in “1984,” Arabs are required to devote two hours a day to convincing themselves that the injustices that are their lot in the Jewish state are nothing but a blessing.

I sometimes feel that before writing “1984” (in 1948) the great Orwell peeked at what was going on here, in our Middle Eastern backyard. He probably couldn’t believe what he was seeing, which is why he wrote about a similar paradox that would take place many years hence. Really, how could he believe it? Most of the Palestinian nation was being expelled from its homeland and the world believed the expelled were the criminals. And here, 70 years later, history repeats itself. A Jew arises on the ruins of an Arab. Maybe the recent days’ events in Umm al-Hiran are told in another book by Orwell, tucked away somewhere.