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Good Morning, non-Arabs

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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A paramedic of Israel's Magen David Adom handles a swab to test for coronavirus at a drive-thru testing site in Tamra, March 31, 2020.
A paramedic of Israel's Magen David Adom handles a swab to test for coronavirus at a drive-thru testing site in Tamra, March 31, 2020.Credit: Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

The non-Arab prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, never misses an opportunity to prove how racist and petty he is, even during these days of deep crisis. During the huge fire in Haifa a few years ago, instead of exploiting the distress to forge civilian unity, he and his cohorts started to speak of arson terror by Arabs. To this day there has never been proof of any such “terror.”

Now, when he addresses the citizenry, he is addressing the “Jews” and the “non-Jews.” At least the Arabs can be happy that they are the first people in history whose name begins with “non.” And as an incurable optimist I thought to myself that if we are “non-Jews” then we are simply the rest of the world. We are the world.

Meanwhile, the propaganda machine is working overtime. Even though all the indications show that the Arab population is exhibiting good citizenship, awareness and impressive discipline during this crisis – the mosques and churches are closed and no one is praying there secretly; no religious or societal leader came out against the official guidelines – every time someone mentions the serious situation in the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) community, another hastens to ask: And what about the Arabs?”

So this is the situation with the Arabs: According to MK Mtanes Shehadeh, chairman of the Knesset subcommittee on the coronavirus in the Arab community, the percentage of Arabs found to have been infected is very low, even after the recent wave of testing, and so is their percentage of patients in critical condition. My dear right-wingers, we are sorry for the disappointment we’ve caused you.

What would you like us to do to raise morale in the state of the Jewish majority? Perhaps we should spray ourselves with coronavirus in order to please the crown prince, Yair ben Netanyahu (can we refer to him as YbN, the way people refer to MbS, the Saudi crown prince so beloved by the royal family here?). Netanyahu the son pushed the incitement another few steps forward and tweeted the photo of a demonstration from 2014 as if it was a news photo from Jaffa last week. “When are they locking down Jaffa?” asked the incited masses on social media? Bnei Brak is not alone.

Meanwhile, it seems as if the TV networks have decided to reduce the appearance of Arab doctors onscreen. It’s as if a hidden hand decided to keep them hidden. Perhaps the separation policy preferred by Betzalel Smotrich in labor rooms has been expanded, courtesy of the broadcast networks. On the other hand, Arab friends and acquaintance are speaking proudly, albeit with some concern, of their children at the front lines of the war on the coronavirus. In the future, when historians examine what happened here during these difficult coronavirus days, they will think, if they rely solely on televised material, that the Arabs fled the front and left the courageous Maccabees alone on the battlefield.

But using reverse logic, if you want to speak about citizenship, the Arabs are the state’s ultimate citizens. They and their representatives, at all levels and in all sectors, are demonstrating deep responsibility and awareness. Moreover, at this time of trouble they are expressing solidarity with their Haredi brothers, who are in serious distress, as evidenced by remarks by MKs Ayman Odeh and Waleed Taha. This contrasts with the slanderous atmosphere being generated by Israeli opinionmakers, first and foremost by broadcaster Rina Matzliah, who has turned herself into the self-styled military governor of the Bnei Brak district. It’s shameful.

In this context, we should note that the fact that Kahol Lavan and Labor have decided to hook up with Netanyahu is in stark contrast to the situation on the ground. In doing so they have expressed support for the ostracism of 20 percent of the population. If they really and truly wanted an emergency government, they could have conditioned it on the participation of Arab citizens, which would have been an important milestone for the state.

In the struggle over the state’s modern image, the Arabs have done their part, and how.

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