Dividing Ourselves for Conquest

A dangerous sectarian devil has reared its head among Palestinian Arab communities in Israel, pitting Muslims against Christians and Christians against Muslims.

Zuher Andrawous
Zuher Andrawous
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Zuher Andrawous
Zuher Andrawous

With apologies to those bleeding hearts among my own people, the Palestinian Arabs, who prefer for unconvincing reasons not to wash our dirty linen in public, I have to call it as I see it. A dangerous sectarian devil has reared its head among Palestinian Arab communities in Israel, pitting Muslims against Christians and Christians against Muslims. I will temper my remarks by adding that not everyone is implicated in the war that is playing itself out on websites and on Facebook and Twitter. And as with every war, we know how it started, but it’s hard, if not impossible, to predict how it will play out and conclude.

Nazareth, which is justifiably considered the Palestinians’ capital in this Jewish-majority country, is constantly in the headlines for negative reasons. It began with the municipal elections in October. The Hadash party, which had control of city hall for about 40 years, has, as it stands now, lost this valuable stronghold to a candidate who left the party’s ranks and ran on an independent slate. The court, however, has not yet issued its ruling on who won the election in an exceedingly tight race separated by a handful of votes. In a major irony, however, the Hadash incumbent, Ramez Jerayssi, is Christian and his rival, Ali Salem, is Muslim. At that point, communal incitement was not long in coming.

The wasted negative energy devoted to this dispute is liable to destroy all that is good in Nazareth’s Arab society and, as a result, in other Palestinian communities in Israel as well. A review of the mutual mudslinging on Facebook leaves no room for doubt. A controversy that erupted in the 1990s over failed efforts to build the Shihab al-Din mosque next to the city’s Church of the Annunciation is still alive and kicking. The philosopher Khalil Gibran once said that an ostrich once tried to hide its head in the sand, but found the heads of Arabs already there. Indeed we have sunk that low.

A few decades ago an Israeli leader proposed that if Arabs were given their own local councils and soccer teams, they would fight among themselves. For his part, Adolf Hitler said the fate of the Arabs didn’t interest him because he was sure they would kill one another. According to a famous statement attributed to Winston Churchill, if the Arabs died, treason would die with them. One can dispute such sayings, but one cannot avoid the fact that they unfortunately reflect the situation in which we are living in one way or another.

And in addition, the mutual accusations between the two hawkish camps in Nazareth are adding fuel to the fire. The leadership, which has called for things to be cooled down on the communal front, has apparently forgotten that its members are solely responsible for the situation that we have gotten ourselves into. By digging themselves in their positions, they have added huge amounts of adrenaline in this unnecessary war.

In the town of Umm al-Fahm, a city controlled by the northern faction of the Islamic Movement, placards have been distributed stating that with all due respect to other communal groups (meaning Christians), we don’t have to celebrate their holidays with them. If that’s not evidence of this communal disease, I don’t know what an incurable disease is. In the interim, an Israeli television station broadcast a report about the “traitors’” efforts to recruit Christian Arabs into the Israeli occupation army. A young man from a Galilee Arab village told the interviewer who had called him a Palestinian not to call him that as it was a curse word as far as he was concerned.

Government authorities are celebrating another victory by splitting the Arab Palestinian minority. Therefore no one should be surprised if the rate at which Christian Arabs enlist in the army increases. We are involved in shattering Palestinian Arab society and with soldiers like these, who says Israel needs a war?

Impromptu Shihab al-Din mosque in Nazareth, with Church of the Annuciation in background.Credit: Yaron Kaminsky

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