Portrait of a State Sliding Toward Racism

The Arab Israeli leadership must adopt an alternative language and different course of action so as to put the brakes on the dangerous slide toward violent subversion that is spreading ever wider through the Arab street.

At the end of last week Balad - the National Democratic Alliance - published a statement, which had MK Azmi Bishara's fingerprints all over it, warning Israel of a regression toward an apartheid regime. The proclamation came in response to recent government decisions - such as the intention of Interior Minister Eli Yishai to strip Israeli Arabs found guilty of terror activities of their citizenship, or a series of legislative initiatives in the Knesset designed to restrict the freedom of expression or field of action of Arab lawmakers - so as to argue that Israeli society is slipping into a racial hysteria, the victims of which are the Arab citizens of Israel.

Bishara's observations and especially the evidence he provides, pack a significantly persuasive punch. He shows that the public discourse, the tone of which is dictated by the government, discusses the Israeli Arabs in general and derogatory terms. He points to a series of government decisions and laws intended to discriminate against the Arab community. He mentions statements by ministers that pejoratively unite the Arab populations, and he points out the humiliation of Israeli Arabs in their dealings with state institutions and government companies - El Al, for just one example.

Balad's declaration also comes out against the attitude of the Hebrew media toward the Arab minority, accusing them of being dragged into the standpoints voiced by the government and spreading the blackening label.

Azmi Bishara is no fool. He is addressing the Jewish public, particularly the left that is edging rightward, and is seeking its support. Therefore, he does not suffice with mere accusations. He outlines his version of the circumstances in which the racist trend he observes has developed, so as to anchor it in the reality of the past two years and to offer explanations for it in accordance with his view of what should be the desired image of the state.

To convince the reader, Bishara adopts a language that is entirely politically correct. He makes use of arguments taken from the world of democratic and liberal values to which Israel purports to belong. Basing himself on this yardstick, he judges the attitude of the Jewish majority toward the Arab minority, and proves the measure he uses. Israel, as reflected in the mirror held up by Bishara, is a state that sweeps its Arab citizens into its back yard and is currently caught up in a racial hysteria that is leading it to commit serious actions against them.

The element missing from Balad's crying voice is a mention of the goings-on that are dragging Israeli society toward anti-Arab racism. He does not ignore the involvement of Arab Israelis in acts of terror, but he discusses such in sterile terms drawn from the Arabic lexicon for political correctitude.

In such a manner, for example, while analyzing the catch in which the Arab population finds itself - a conflict between its identification with its people and its obligations toward the state - he says that under the current circumstances, the Arab community cannot be blamed "for adopting patterns of behavior defined as extreme and ultra-militant."

Referring to the terror activities of Israeli Arabs, he says: "A small number of them have crossed red lines from the point of view of the rule of law." He doesn't forget to denounce such a phenomenon, but hurries to add: "Despite the fact that it is marginal and should be opposed, it is only encouraged by the campaign of incitement and anti-Arab policy of the government."

Bishara is an authentic voice of the Arab public, certainly of its younger generation, and his choice of words in expressing his standpoint is a fine representation of the attitude of the entire political leadership of the Arab community. The Arab lawmakers do not shy away from their accepted language of political correctitude so as to raise heaven and earth, and to shake to its very foundations the entire Arab public, warning it of the danger in consistently slipping back into acts of terror.

The Jewish majority has indeed been guilty for many years of supporting discriminatory policies against the Arab community, and of backing the government's rantings against it for the past two years. But the Jewish majority cannot disregard the dangerous slide toward violent subversion that is spreading ever wider through the Arab street. The Israeli Arab leadership must adopt an alternative language and different course of action so as to put the brakes on such a development.