Israel's Russian-Arab Bond: Stronger Than the Politics of Hatred

Perhaps the exposure of Yisrael Beiteinu's culture of corruption will cause its voters to shake off the 'patriots' eager to use racism for their selfish purposes.

Saja Abu Fanni
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Yisrael Beiteinu MK Faina Kirshenbaum and party chairman Avigdor Lieberman at the Knesset, November 2013.
Yisrael Beiteinu MK Faina Kirshenbaum and party chairman Avigdor Lieberman at the Knesset, November 2013.Credit: Emil Salman
Saja Abu Fanni

A man seeking a favor from the village priest flattered him: “”Your beard drips honey, Father.” And the canny priest replied: “A lot of honey isn’t for the sake of heaven.”

I have always been suspicious of the swelling patriotism among the leaders of Yisrael Beiteinu. During the day they attack Arabs and at night they run businesses embracing all the government ministries.

According to the charges, the lords of the party seem to have sworn to paint every grain of government in the color of corruption. So far more than 30 patriots have been arrested, and we are still counting.

If the deputy minister of the interior had a large clan, the way Arabs do, one could suppose the name Kirshenbaum would be the most common in the corridors of power.

And after all this, the leaders of Yisrael Beiteinu castigate the Arabs for not being loyal to the state.

What can be said to this brazen lot? If their loyalty drips with corruption, prima facie, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can sleep the sleep of the just.

The hatred of Arabs by Yisrael Beiteinu’s leaders is an electoral need. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s racism is part of a cold and dangerous strategy.

But that racism isn’t rooted in the experience of immigrants from Russia, who came here without any manifestations of hatred toward Arabs or foreigners.

The Russian community is largely educated and modest in its conduct, and many of its members have good neighborly relations with the Arab public. Both populations also share some characteristics: the style of socializing, with the extended family and friends, hospitality — and feelings of being discriminated against and excluded.

A Jewish friend draws my attention to an interesting fact: At times of crisis, immigrants from Russia do not stay away from the Arab towns and villages, unlike other parts of the Jewish population. Going by their behavior, I assume they feel more at home in Arab society than in other places.

Moreover, Arab business owners have only good things to say about customers from Russia. There are those who talk about their loyalty to a place where they are treated well and find good service.

Moreover, the immigrants from Russia are former inhabitants of a country that in its glory days came to the aid of Arab society in Israel, warmly accepting young Arab men and women for studies at Russian universities.

All this happened at a time when the governments of Israel piled obstacles in the way of young people who wanted to enter a university here.

These hundreds of academics brought about a revolution in the Arab population – in the course of a few years, hundreds of doctors, engineers and pharmacists flowed here, enriching the community’s life.

This beautiful outcome, of Russian solidarity with the peoples of the East, including those who lived in the nation state of the Jews, can be seen in all its glory when an Arab doctor speaks freely in Russian with a doctor who has immigrated here from Russia, or when an Arab doctor listens to the troubles of an elderly immigrant from Russia who clings to that wonderful language.

What people who have come from Russia and Arabs have in common in the hospitals and many other places is great, as compared to other population groups.

For many Arab academics and their families, Russia is a source of spiritual, cultural and social inspiration. For them, an encounter with people from Russia is like a meeting with a fellow villager who has shown up again in the big, alienated city.

Perhaps the exposure of Yisrael Beiteinu, which is a manifestation of despicable racism exploited for the sake of corruption, will cause the people who have come here from Russia to shake off those leeches, for whom only personal interests count.

The time has come to take a different path, one that will accord with the glorious Russian heritage, which has always been characterized by a warm attitude toward the East.

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