The Real Traitors in Israel Are Not the Arabs

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Young Palestinian women walk past Israeli border police near Damascus Gate, Jerusalem, March 13, 2016.
Young Palestinian women walk past Israeli border police near Damascus Gate, Jerusalem, March 13, 2016.Credit: AFP

Israel Harel’s latest opinion piece, "It's Not Hezbollah’s Israeli Arab Friends Who've Lost Their Minds" (Haaretz, March 10, 2016), is a hysterical, misleading, bigoted reaction to three Israeli-Arab Knesset members' decision to condemn the labeling of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization by Saudi Arabia and the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Following the inflammatory and, quite frankly, ridiculous condemnation, surveys released to the media and published in Haaretz revealed that the majority (56 percent) of Israel’s Arab citizens do not agree with the lawmakers and that only a small minority (19 percent) found the condemnation legitimate. Dov Khenin, the sole Jewish member of the Joint Arab List, subsequently told Channel 2 that his fellow party members’ poorly-worded statement was intended to criticize hypocrisy in intra-Arab politics, and not to support Hezbollah. Mr. Harel’s article conveniently ignores this very reassuring epilogue.

It is clear to any logical person that it’s problematic to ask an Israeli Arab to identify with a country that existentially relies on Jewish political dominion over its non-Jewish citizens, chronically neglects non-Jewish communities (law enforcement, infrastructure, etc.) and elects a prime minister who stigmatizes the Arab population on Election Day. Yet, instead of soberly analyzing the complexity of Israeli Arabs’ attitudes toward their country, Mr. Harel holds a loudspeaker to the voices of a few rabble-rousing politicians to depict all Israeli Arabs as traitors masquerading as loyal neighbors who are just waiting for the chance to “march to Jerusalem and destroy the Jewish state.”

Mr. Harel’s argument is based not on truths, but on what can only be a hateful, populist desire to sow fear and disparage Arabs.

The truth that Mr. Harel has chosen to ignore is that most Israeli Arabs live in harmony with their Jewish Israeli neighbors, whatever their political opinions or allegiances might be. The truth is that Druze, Bedouin and Circassian youth, all ethnically Arab, serve in the Israel Defense Forces and die alongside their Jewish comrades. The truth is that only one third of East Jerusalem Arabs would prefer to be citizens of a future Palestinian state rather than citizens of Israel, according to a 2011 poll. When asked to explain their choice, they cited freedom of movement, higher income and better job opportunities, leaving any supposed malevolent ethnic sympathies on the other side of the Green Line.

The truth is that a 2008 Harvard Kennedy School of Government poll found that 77 percent of Israeli Arabs would rather live in Israel than in any other country in the world. Similar Israeli-Arab voices of unapologetic affiliation with Israel were heard in 2014, when Avigdor Lieberman proposed a land swap with the Palestinians as part of a future peace deal.

Mr. Harel need not go to East Jerusalem or Jaffa to sniff out the traitors among us. The absolutely shocking finding of a recent Pew Research Center poll that 48 percent of Israeli Jews support the transfer of Arabs out of the country was released soon after the Arab MKs’ condemnation.

Faced with this statistic, the only thing greater than my disbelief is my shame as a Jew and a Zionist. The concept of transfer comes straight out of the fascist playbook; it’s a fossil from the era of arrogantly racist, Eurocentric, slave-trading colonialist states.

How can the “Startup Nation” or “the People of the Book,” who, every Passover, claim to have absorbed the moral lessons of being an enslaved and wandering people, justify such an abhorrent idea? How can this frightening statistic reflect the mind and soul of a people that had no homeland of its own for 2,000 years and suffered countless expulsions and pogroms? Boycott, divestment and sanctions are not okay but transfer is?

Before Mr. Harel burns all Israeli Arabs at the stake because of the rantings of a few of their leaders, he would be wise to consider the devilish coven of Jewish-Israeli politicians and activists like Bentzi Gopstein, Baruch Marzel and Bezalel Smotrich, whose sickening records of hate speech, racism and incitement against Arabs, gays and other minorities make them more suited to a Salem witch trial than a country committed to the equality of all its citizens.

Before Mr. Harel portrays Israeli Arabs as insurgents waiting to join Hezbollah in the pillaging of Israel, he might contemplate the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the dispossession and destruction it has sown for the past 50 years.

Before tarring and feathering all Israeli Arabs as terrorist sympathizers, Mr. Harel should reflect on the sympathy of Jewish-Israeli groups like “Honenu” for the Jewish terrorists who murdered and burned the body of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir in July 2014 and the Jewish terrorists who firebombed the house of an innocent Palestinian family in July 2015.

Before crusading against Israeli Arabs and their unproven desire to wipe out the Jewish state, Mr. Harel should cast the first stone at the 48 percent of Israeli Jews who want to remove people from their houses and ancestral homeland.

Mr. Harel and his ilk are the Jewish pot calling the Arab kettle black.

David Sarna Galdi, a former editor at Haaretz, is the head of English language content for a non-profit organization in Tel Aviv.

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