Israel Must Stop With the 'Good Arab' Generalizations

The settlements contain people who see the Israeli government as an enemy and the prime minister as a traitor - just like in the Arab community.

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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Mohammed Melhem leaves the Haifa Magistrate's Court on Sunday, January 10, 2016.
Mohammed Melhem leaves the Haifa Magistrate's Court on Sunday, January 10, 2016. Credit: Rami Shllush
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

What’s the name of Nashat Melhem’s father again? Ahmed? Mahmoud? Mohammed? It doesn’t matter. It’s enough for us to remember that he’s the father who informed to the police on his son the murderer. He’s an Arab collaborator, a volunteer with the Zionist police force, who was willing to sell even his own son.

No surprises there. That’s how Arabs are. It’s a different culture. He’s a good Arab – not. A Jew would never have turned in his own son. Would a settler tell the Shin Bet security service that his son torched a family or a mosque?

What a disappointment. We were so expecting that all of Arara, along with all the rest of the Wadi Ara region’s residents, would stand like a rock behind Nashat Melhem and back the murder he committed in Tel Aviv, that they would attack the policemen who came to arrest him, that they’d shoot them with all those illegal weapons they have in their basements, that they’d block the Wadi Ara highway. In short, that they’d act like Arabs. After all, that’s what an enemy population is supposed to do.

It’s a good thing they found two suspects from the village who put off reporting the murderer’s presence for a day and a half, 36 whole hours. Two heroes who saved the community’s honor. To them we can add the 40 Israeli Arabs who have joined the Islamic State and the Bedouin Muhannad al-Okbi, who perpetrated the murder in Be’er Sheva’s central bus station in October, and now we’re all set. Our Arabs haven’t changed.

True, as usual, we’re very sensitive. It’s wrong to generalize; we’re talking about a handful, an unimportant blip that doesn’t represent Israel’s Arab citizens. Nevertheless, we must open our eyes; it’s impossible to ignore the potential. These 1.5 million Arabs, most of them Muslims, aren’t disconnected from their environment.

After all, we’re enlightened and broad-minded, so we understand it’s impossible for an Arab not to be influenced by the occupation, by the demolition of Palestinian houses in the West Bank; moreover, as a Muslim, he’s obligated to support the Islamic State’s vision of an Islamic state. We know he worries that the Temple Mount will become the Temple or that Jewish parties will annex him to the West Bank. We can identify with the sensitivities of Israeli Arabs, because they’re the same sensitivities that unite the Jewish people wherever they are whenever the State of Israel is in danger.

Because of this deep understanding, we know it’s impossible to demand loyalty from the Arabs; we’ll always have to be looking suspiciously over our shoulders. They’re eternally fated to be a treasonous community, and it makes no difference whatsoever how many billions of shekels we invest in them, how many houses we build for them and how many colleges we open for them.

This, we realize, isn’t a question of money. Please, let them just tell us how much money they want to forget the Nakba, how many villas they demand in exchange for agreeing to stand at attention during “Hatikva,” how many gold coins it would take to get them to dance the hora on Independence Day.

Look, the government has decided to give them 15 billion shekels ($3.8 billion) over the next five years without even demanding that they sign a declaration of loyalty. The only condition is that they obey the law, end the illegal construction and collect the weapons from their houses – exactly the same demands the government makes of residents of the settlements.

The two communities are twins. Just like in the Arab community, so too in the settlements, the handful of troublemakers doesn’t represent the whole. The settlements, too, contain people who see the Israeli government as an enemy and the prime minister as a traitor. And just like in the Arab community, it doesn’t matter how much money the state invests in the settlers, their loyalty still isn’t assured. First comes God, then the rabbi, and only after that, maybe, the state. It’s a matter of culture. Just like with the Arabs.

It’s high time to stop being moved to tears every time an Arab behaves like a loyal citizen, someone who denounces acts of murder or turns his murderous son over to the authorities. We shouldn’t conclude that the “good Arab” represents the entire community. Enough with the generalizations. Anyone who believes in an Arab like that will also end up believing the settler’s pious pretensions.

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