'Hezbollah Doesn't Know There Are Lots of Arabs in This Country'

On Sunday, too, the sounds of news broadcasts came from all of the businesses. Groups of inhabitants, men only, clustered in front of the screen. That morning, the Home Front Command announced the range of threat had enlarged. This time, the televisions were tuned to Channel 2. The voice of Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson Miri Regev, speaking to the "home front," was heard. As long as the war was not threatening them directly, the inhabitants of Fureidis chose a channel in accordance with their Arab identity; when the danger approached their doorsteps, they became Israelis who needed the services of the Israeli channel. Only in the grocery shop in the village center did the sales clerk explain that it didn't matter what they watched, as all you saw on all the channels was death.

At the "parliament", a local coffee house, on the backdrop of the Channel 2 broadcasts, the men batted around the issue of what the instruction "to be alert" meant. The jokes about the subject were spiced with a lot of anger of people who once again had found themselves in the midst of a war that was not theirs. After all, Nasrallah's rockets were carrying a "Jewish" address but were also falling on the heads of Arabs in the mixed cities, in Haifa and in Acre, and in Arab locales, among them Peqi'in, Majdal Krum and Horfeish.

The anger at the Israelis is explicit. "You don't go to war over three abducted soldiers; for this you enter negotiations," they said. The anger at Hezbollah is far more implicit and they hesitate to talk about it. "Hezbollah doesn't know that there are lots of Arabs in this country," says Ibrahim Hader evasively. Hussein Meri, a woodcutter and fisherman, takes command of the discussion: "They won't tell you. But yes, I'm angry at Nasrallah. He doesn't understand the reality here. If he were to see us now, Jews and Arabs at one table, he wouldn't understand. He only sees Gaza in his mind's eye. I have spent most of my life among Jews. For 30 years I worked in the market in Hadera. The Palestinians would think that I was a Jew, the Jews saw me as an Arab. Everything is reversed."

And then the conversation becomes so very Israeli, as all of them complain about the local council and the Home Front Command, which hadn't prepared shelters and protected spaces for them, and they sum up by saying that the rockets are color blind - they don't distinguish between Jews and Arabs. From time to time they mention their "Israeliness," speaking from their experience in wars and terror attacks, in which the Jews identify them with the enemy, when they too are the victim.

Acre, identity

MK Abas Zkoor (Ra'am-Ta'al) of the Islamic Movement is enraged. Enraged as someone watching the scenes of war, as a politician suggesting alternative solutions to war, as a resident of Acre, which had been hit by a number of rockets over the last few days. He is enraged also as an Arab citizen of Israel, the issue of whose identity is sharpened in every period like this. Zkoor's family lives in an apartment building close to the municipality - 20 Jewish families, four Arab families. The rocket attack has only intensified their sense of good neighborliness. "At the human level, there is a complete sense of shared fate," says Zkoor. Now he is making use of his good connections with representatives of the Islamic Movement in the municipality to accelerate attention to the shelters. For everyone, both Arabs and Jews. In contrast to terror attacks, the rockets have indeed created a sense of a common fate. "When there were terror attacks, the Arabs had to apologize all the time," says Zkoor, distinguishing between the situations. "Now, the reaction is one of togetherness."

Yet nevertheless, he acknowledges that this situation - of rockets aimed at Jews and falling on Arabs - is hard for him. "The truth is that it's very hard," he sighs. "The Arabs in Israel are a victim from a thousand angles, and this is just another one of them. When I went to Saudi Arabia, there were people who asked me whether I'm a Muslim-Jew - they couldn't understand that I'm an Arab-Israeli; however, when I wanted to address Gilad Shalit's abductors in Arabic from the Knesset podium, MK Moshe Sharoni from the Pensioners cried out that I shouldn't dare speak Arabic. From every angle, we get screwed."

Zkoor would like to leverage all of this complexity into something useful, into a statement to both sides. He relates that at a mosque in Acre, the only place where people gathered in the ghost city, he prayed for the safety of the civilians on both sides. As a politician, he would like to do more. For example, to call upon all of the peace-seekers in the world to exert pressure on Israel; and at the same time to call upon the Islamic people to exert pressure on Lebanon. "Not everything that Nasrallah does is right, not everything that he does is a mistake," is how Zkoor formulates his position.

"However, we need to decide where we are going in this unnecessary war." By "we," Zkoor means the government of Israel.

Kiryat Eliezer, neighborliness

At his home in Kiryat Eliezer, Wadia Abu Nasser, a political advisor to embassies and churches in Israel, is upset, concerned mainly with the effort to calm his three young daughters. The rockets landed not far from their home, and the sound of the explosion was heard clearly. The explanation that he provides about the situation is more complex than the one required by a Jewish father, who can simplify the explanation to little girls aged 8 and 5, to "bad Arabs and good Jews." The baby is still exempt from the need to hear an explanation.

In his neighborhood, where most of the residents are immigrants from the Confederation of Independent States, Abu Nasser is a minority within a minority. The block where his family lives is a mixed microcosm of the neighborhood. Together, the neighbors went down to take shelter below, together they joked that the dusty shelters were more dangerous than the rockets, because they could die from choking. For the neighbors who don't speak Hebrew, his wife, Rim, drew a picture with an arrow showing them where to go in the case of a rocket attack. "There is no doubt the fact that this is not my war makes things very hard," admits Abu Nasser. "This is our fate. Because of the geography, since 1948 the Arabs in Israel are also a target. However, this particular time, as a Christian, it's easier for me. I don't identify with the Hezbollah, which has an Islamic and not a pan-Arab agenda. I've already been in more complex situations. At the moment I'm simply a human being and an Israeli whose heart is breaking, who doesn't want his country to be hurt, but also doesn't agree with its arrogant policy that is causing the destruction of Lebanon."

Jerusalem, victim?

Dr. Adel Manaa, a sociologist and researcher at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, does not like the idea of taking interest in Arab-Israelis as victims of this war. "The real story is what is happening on the other side," he scolds. "There, there really are many innocent victims." Therefore, he speaks sparingly about the rockets that fell on Majdal Krum, his birthplace and the place where his mother, his brother and his large family live, and has a lot to say about what he sees as Israel's wrong and bullying policy. He sums up the distinction between Jews and Arabs in Israel with the statement: "If a rocket hits you, you are indeed an innocent civilian, but also part of a collective that has elected this government, which is carrying out the policy of occupation and is conducting the war in Lebanon. But on both sides there are people who did not vote for the Hezbollah or for this government, and they are being hurt by its policy. Nevertheless, there is a difference: In Israel they change a government in democratic elections, and it is possible to blame the people who elected it, but it is not possible to blame a Sunni, a Druze or a Christian in Lebanon, who certainly aren't connected to Hezbollah but also don't have any way of dealing with it. How is it possible at all to compare the small price that is being paid for this war by the Arabs in Israel to the terrible price that is being paid by innocent civilians in Lebanon?" During the course of conversation, rockets fell on Kfar Yassif and Abu Snan, where of course there are no shelters because after all, seemingly, the Arabs are not part of this story.