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The Domestication of Arabs Failed

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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The northern Israeli Arab town of Arara
The northern Israeli Arab town of AraraCredit: Amir Levy
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

In recent years, we have been witness to the blossoming of a grandiose project – the domestication of the Arab citizens of Israel – to get them to toe the line of establishment policy in several fields. Arab citizens interfered with the project of redeeming the land from their own hands and from the hands of their brethren in the occupied territories, and not only because of their national identity but also because the cry they raised was heard around the world, grating on the ears of racists. The goal of the project was to create the kind of Arab who would express gratitude for being allowed to remain in the land of the forefathers – of the Jews of course – at all.

Two approaches were taken by the Israeli establishment in its undertaking. The first was summarized in 1956 in Moshe Dayan’s eulogy for Roi Rotberg, a kibbutz security officer killed near the Gaza Strip. From his remarks, Dayan apparently understood what the Arabs were feeling, seeing their land stolen and not reconciling themselves to the bitter fate forced upon them. In practice, however, that portion of his remarks was directed at Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett, who was seeking a bridge between the two peoples. Dayan ended by saying that there was no alternative to continued all-out war against the Arabs.

David Ben-Gurion offered another angle of the same approach. He viewed any Palestinian who was prepared to speak with the leadership of the Jewish community as a traitor to his people – and it was only nine years after Israel’s establishment that he was even willing to meet with Arab Knesset members from his own satellite party. A drawn sworn rather than dialogue.

The second approach was to create a domesticated Arab, an Arab without Palestine, without his refugee camp brothers; an Arab devoid of national and human aspirations. A money trail was created for that purpose.

“When you feed the mouth, the eye becomes shy,” the Arabs say. Following the most recent elections, Arab hopes shot sky-high. Here we had the Arabs busy looking for the money, which was to flow like a mighty river – and bye-bye Palestine. There were those who predicted that the largely Arab Joint List, symbolizing the opposite of this approach, would disappear.

The truth is that this project was actually born many years ago, but every time it seemed like the domesticated Arab was taking on flesh and bones, some kind of attack on the Palestinians or terrorist attack against Israelis came along and everything collapsed. The Arabs closed ranks on the side of their suffering brothers while public opinion in Israel deemed them supporters of terrorism.

In this way, things moved backwards and forwards until Benjamin Netanyahu came along. And behold the wonder and absurdity of it all. Here was the guru of factionalism who split Jewish society creating a consensus that superseded the consensus that followed the June 1967 war – a new consensus of sympathy for United Arab List leader Mansour Abbas.

All of Israel, the Old Israel and the New Israel, left and right, fascist and pro-democratic, absolutely everyone, from kindergarteners to university students united around the new Arab who was adopting the Zionist narrative. Everything was going well until the racial purists jumped into the extreme right and foiled the historic process of Arab domestication.

The Two Musketeers, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, declared that the revolution was over, ruining everything. During the period of the Age of Ignorance, they created gods from dates and ate them the moment they felt hungry. That’s what Netanyahu’s Likud party did to a man who just a second before had found favor from the party, but then it turned out that, through no fault of his own, he was joining Likud’s rival. He became hell incarnate. He wasn’t only a “supporter of terror” but was also stealing the crust of bread from the Jewish newborn.

The paradox reached its peak when there were those who wondered how it was that Hadash party, that standard-bearer of Jewish-Arab brotherhood, was not welcoming United Arab List’s membership in the Bennett-led coalition government. Folks, you have turned the principle of brotherhood on its head.

Instead of identifying with the occupied, you’ve demanded that the Arabs identify with the occupiers and support increased benefits for retiring Israeli army soldiers, the drafting of the ultra-Orthodox, privileged laws for the settlers and military law for the Palestinians, barring the unification of Palestinian families, providing full electricity service to settler lawbreakers – but just dribs and drabs to the Arabs.

The project had to fail. I imagine that you agree with me that the transition from “Jewish-Arab brotherhood" to "settler-Arab brotherhood" runs counter to the laws of nature.

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