Middle East expert Daniel Pipes was in Israel recently and subsequently published an article entitled “Israel’s Arabs, living a paradox” in the Washington Times. I don’t know Dr. Pipes personally, but I feel compelled to call him to task for his baseless and inflammatory attack on the Arab citizens of Israel.
Pipes has written an aggressive and confused jumble of half-truths and misunderstandings about the Arabs citizens of Israel.
Pipes’s main point in the article is that as Israel overcomes “external threats,” the Arab citizens of Israel will become an “ever-greater concern” and will be the “ultimate obstacle to establishing the Jewish homeland” (and I thought the Jewish homeland was established in 1948).
He claims that the Arab citizens of Israel are a threat to the existence of the State and bases this claim on an unsubstantiated accusation that “Israeli Arabs have increasingly resorted to violence against their Jewish co-nationals.”
This malicious statement is false and the facts are exactly the opposite. Based on all indicators, violence against Jews or other actions against the State by Arab citizens of Israel has decreased significantly in recent years.
I refer Pipes to a speech made by Yoram Cohen, the head of Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service in which he said, "as a community, Arab Israelis are not a target of Shin Bet. They are not a fifth column and we do not view them as such"
Cohen said that Israeli Arabs were involved in three attacks during the past year and that "The number of those involved in terrorism is not large. We arrested 20-30 Israeli Arabs during the past year."
So, Dr. Pipes, your entire thesis that the Arab citizens of Israel are an ever more violent threat to the State crumbles.
But there is in Israel a frightening increase in violence when it comes to Arab citizens and this is well documented. And I mean Jewish attacks directed against Arab citizens. Sadly, Pipes neglects to weigh in on this.
These include terror attacks by lone Israeli Jews, such as in August 2005, when Natan Zada, an AWOL soldier, travelled by bus to the Arab town of Shfaram, shot and killed 4 Arab passengers, and was then killed by enraged local residents. More recently we have seen a frightening rise in attacks on mosques, cemeteries, and other Arab institutions and individuals. Few of the perpetrators have been identified or arrested.
Arabs are increasingly threatened and attacked by ruffians in the public space. Not too long ago Arab workers at the Jerusalem Malha Mall were attacked and beaten by Beitar Jerusalem football fans who rioted there after a football match in the nearby Teddy Stadium. One of the cleaners at the mall, Mohammed Yusuf, stated that "It was a mass lynching attempt."
A look at the 2011 report of the “Coalition Against Racism“, of which my organization Sikkuy is a member, presents a frightening picture of ever-increasing physical and verbal attacks by Jews on Arab citizens in 2011. There’s no room here to provide all the grim statistics, but you can access the full summary here.
Pipes cites Arab citizens of Israel who are prominent in public life such as Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran and labels them the “assimilated few” in contrast to the “discontented masses” whom he links to his false claim of increased violence by Arabs against Jews. The fact is that these so-called assimilated few are not the “Uncle Toms” that he seems to think they are and the “discontented” Arab citizens of Israel indeed show no signs of rising up against the state.
Rather, both the Arab leadership and the rank and file are increasingly vocal in their demand for the state to end its systematic discrimination against them in all areas of state funding, resource allocation, land distribution, hiring policy, language rights and so on. They demand fair representation in the various mechanisms of state decision making and consistently walk through every door that it is opened to them in Israeli society without forgoing their identity as Palestinian Arabs. And they do this using all the tools available to them in a democracy: demonstrations, civil society organizations, litigation, lobbying, etc.
For sure the Arab citizens of Israel, as an indigenous minority, continue to raise serious challenges to their status as second-class citizens in the Jewish State and have proposed a dialogue with the Jewish citizens in order to advance their concept of Israel as a “state of all of its citizens.” No framer of any of the “Vision” documents has suggested anything other than conducting a peaceful dialogue with the Jewish citizens of Israel toward the achievement of full equality for the Arab citizens of Israel.
This is not to say that there haven’t been violent protests by Arab citizens against the government. The “events of October 2000” were the last major outburst of anger and frustration by Arab citizens and in those events 13 Arab demonstrators were shot and killed by police snipers. And while the Or State Commission of Inquiry criticized the police for their unpreparedness and excessive use of force in quelling the protests, no police officers were ever held responsible or brought to trial for the killings. It should be pointed out that in Israel, when Jews protest violently (for instance, the ultra-Orthodox, Sephardim, settlers, etc.), use of lethal force is never sanctioned by the police as a tool of riot control.
Pipes seems to deliberately surround himself with like-minded people who are happy to confirm what he already believes and in so doing creates a totally distorted view of the facts on the ground.
So Dr. Pipes, next time, please do your homework. If you do, I’m sure that you will discover that the real danger to the “Jewish homeland” is its ever-increasing slide down the slippery slope of violence and intimidation by the Jewish majority toward the Arab minority.
Let us not forget what Gandhi said: “A civilization will be judged by how it treats its minorities”.
Carl Perkal lives in Israel, is documentary film producer and director of resource development for Sikkuy: The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality.