Deepening Their Marginality

Five years hence, if Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin becomes a government minister, we will be able once again to be amazed at the way his incitement against the Arabs in Israel acquired the splendor of expertise. Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter also had this magical effect on the setters of the national agenda in the Citizenship Law's "temporary measure" when he was Shin Bet head.

It is worth remembering the way the Shin Bet has, since 2003, shaken up the concept of equality by asserting that the reunification of families from either side of the Green Line endangers the country's security because this basic right is liable to grant Israeli identity cards to dangerous elements.

Later, when it was argued that this assertion was ridiculous, they transformed the demographic issue into a "security danger." And now, in the matter of "the Arabs who are endangering the security of the state," the incitement has followed the same route: from the Shin Bet to mass-circulation daily Maariv to the Knesset and the astonishing tolerance of the High Court of Justice toward this apartheid regulation, which is continuing to function and deny Arabs in Israel the elementary right that every Jew in the world can enjoy, even if only his grandfather was Jewish.

Along came a wave of condemnation to Adalah's "Vision Document" and proved that it is possible to put anything into the salad called "security" as long as it is understood that the national existence of the Arabs in Israel - i.e. every action with respect to a change in their status in the State of Israel - borders on "a danger to security." And truly, there is no area in the lives of the Arabs in Israel that does not "threaten" the Jewishness of the state, or its security or identity. After all, a protest against discrimination can only come from the direction of that minority, which can only organize in a collective way. (How many Jews have joined the Arabs' struggle for equality in this country?).

The obvious issue that attests to the taboo of rejecting the state's positions is the discussion of the intended use of land in the Galilee and Negev. How many people still remember that at the end of the War of Independence many in the Israeli establishment believed that the Arabs would return to their lands? Not only in Mapam (a precursor of today's Meretz Party), but also in Mapai (a precursor to Labor), the party of David Ben-Gurion. Moreover, before the confiscation of the million dunams in the Galilee, no one thought that land owned by Arabs endangered the existence of the state.

Even ardent Zionists objected to these confiscations (and it is worth remembering the wrathful article by the non-leftist liberal Azriel Carlebach in Maariv against that massive confiscation and the Military Government). The taboo on reversing the ownership of land is not distinct from the total blurring of the Arab national memory. The land is marked by an erasing of segments of history. How many remains of destroyed villages have really remained? How many destroyed mosques have remained? How many Israelis drink alcohol at the Caesarea mosque and recall analogies to the eating of pork in a ruined synagogue? Perhaps Yuval Diskin does not understand this, but experts on memory can teach him: National memory is not erased easily.

There has been a clear line that includes the debate in the Knesset on the Citizenship Law, from the establishment of the state to the High Court of Justice, which in 1965 disqualified a nationalist Arab party from participating in the elections. This extended to the Citizenship Law's "temporary measure" and culminated in the consensus attacks on the "vision documents." The case of Balad MK Azmi Bishara can be considered a distraction from the main issue.

The main issue is not what the Arabs are demanding, but the fact that the processes the State of Israel is undergoing are deepening their marginality - their large presence in the poor population and the intentional discrimination against them by the state. (As presented at the last Caesarea Conference - the increasing gap between investments in education for Jews and Arabs). All this is done with eyes rolled heavenwards: The establishment of a Palestinian state will solve the national problems of the Arabs in Israel. And the same consensus that decrees backwardness for the Arabs in Israel joins up with the consensus that accepts the thwarting of a Palestinian option for a real, independent state in the territories. Behind these stands only the reliance on force, be it very violent or achieved through the depiction of the Israeli Arabs as a dangerous national minority.

It is one thing to chant, "But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew" (Exodus 1:12), and another to assume that the Arab minority will strangle the human passion for freedom and equality. Does Diskin have an answer to the passion for freedom or equality?