I have been writing for a very long time about the need for Prime Minister Netanyahu to have that spine of steel in order to stand strong for our rights. And the way I have been seeing it over the last ten days, he’s been doing a good job of it.
Yesterday, Wednesday, by phone (the fourth call since hostilities with Hamas began) Biden said to our prime minister that he expects “a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire.” (A New York Sun editorial thought Biden’s tone “obnoxious.”) Netanyahu responded that he was “determined to continue this operation” against Hamas until “peace and security” were restored.
Right On!! I thought; I am eager to see maximum damage done to Hamas. But pressure on us was coming from around the world. And so we began to calculate when it would be prudent to terminate. As I write, the fighting continues with a major barrage of Hamas rockets on the south and elsewhere. Yet we are in the process of shutting down. Is this enough?? My gut says no. But what matters is not only how much damage has been done to Hamas, but what the terms of the ceasefire will be and what sort of recovery will be permitted. I will be watching this closely.
Right now I want to look at another, related phenomenon that I believe in the end is more serious than the Hamas attack: The violence from an Arab fifth column inside of Israel.
Let us begin with this video:
The voice you hear in this video is that of the deputy mayor of Lod, Yosi Harush, as he reviews the horrendous damage done to his son’s classroom by Arabs on May 10. He chokes up as he asks how he can explain it to his son. A pogrom, in Israel.
I wept. Just as I wept when I saw the pictures of Torah scrolls being brought out of a synagogue that had been torched by Arabs, inside of Israel.
The violence was most intense in Lod, but it was bad also in Ramle. And there was serious trouble in other mixed cities in Israel such as Acre and Yaffo.
In Yaffo someone threw a firebomb into the window of an Arab home and seriously injured a 12-year old who is now suffering burns over his face. The preliminary assumption was that it was a Jew who had done it, but in the end it turned out to be an Arab who had thought he was throwing the Molotov cocktail into a Jewish home.
I see on the Internet claims that “Jewish-Arab” violence had broken out. But those claims — which once again aim at giving an impression of moral equivalency – must be refuted. The violence was fomented by Arab Israelis, and the vast majority of incidents were promoted by them. When there was Jewish violence, it was a response to what preceded it.
President Ruby Rivlin, who has been a major promoter of inter-ethnic coexistence in Israel, must have wept as well when this situation erupted. This is what he said (emphasis added):
“The sight of the pogrom in Lod and the disturbances across the country by an incited and bloodthirsty Arab mob, injuring people, damaging property and even attacking sacred Jewish spaces is unforgiveable.
“The silence of the Arab leadership about these disturbances is shameful, giving support to terrorism and rioting and encouraging the rupture of the society in which we live and in which we will continue to live once all this has passed.”
I would take issue with one thing Rivlin seems to imply in his statement: that when it’s all over, we can go back to the way it was. I think not. I think we must be wiser now, and more cautious, and better prepared to protect our rights. There is a way in which politically correct thinking has permitted us to hide from some bitter realities – realities that were starring us in the face all along if only we had allowed ourselves to see them.
The question hangs over us: How did we get here?
In 1948-49, during the War of Independence, some Arabs who lived within Israel left. The myth that has been fostered is that they were expelled by Jews. In point of fact, most of those who left did so of their own volition, or at the behest of their leaders, as they expected to be able to return in a short time once the Jews were defeated.
The Jewish leadership put out the word that Arabs who were prepared to be peaceful were welcome to stay. On October 2, 1947, the Assembly of Palestine Jewry issued an appeal: “We will do everything in our power to maintain peace, and establish cooperation gainful to both [Jews and Arabs].”
The Proclamation of Independence, which was issued on May 14, 1948, and read by David Ben Gurion, declared:
“In the midst of wanton aggression, we yet call upon the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve the ways of peace and play their part in the development of the State, on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its bodies and institutions…”
This plea for coexistence is itself extraordinary. Had – Heaven forbid – the Jews lost the war, the Arabs would have banished or murdered every single one of us.
Today, roughly 20% of Israeli citizens are Arab, most of these Muslim. They are in the main those who remained in 1948 and their descendants.
Additionally, there are Arabs living in eastern Jerusalem who — after 1967 when Jerusalem was united – received the status of Jerusalem residency. They were provided with the opportunity to become full citizens, but most opted not to for political reasons. In recent years, more have opted for citizenship and last year the process was simplified.
It must be emphasized – in order to fully refute the horrendous charges of “apartheid” that are leveled against us by our enemies – that the Arabs have full citizenship, full rights. They receive all benefits of the State – unemployment, healthcare, pension, etc. There is no distinction. They vote and have representatives in the Knesset. They are free to go anywhere they wish in the country – to museums, public parks, shopping malls, theaters.
They have access to all institutions of higher learning (and do study in these institutions in considerable numbers) and all hospitals.
The situation of hospitals should be particularly noted, for many of us over the years have observed that inside the hospitals we can see true co-existence. Jewish and Arab doctors and nurses work together to care for Arab and Jewish patients, who sometimes share the same room.
Arab Israelis also have full civil rights with regard to freedom of speech, right to petition the courts, etc. There are no Arabs in any of the surrounding 22 Arab nations that receive remotely the degree of civil rights that Israeli Arabs enjoy.
What Israeli Arabs do not have are national rights, however. Their rights in this country are as individual citizens, protected fully by the law as such – not rights as a people.
For some, this is sufficient. I want to make this point because I do not want to paint all Israeli Arabs with the same brush. Some are glad to be citizens in the Jewish State, with all of the many benefits that accrue. And some number (I have no statistics but know that it’s a small number) proudly identify as Zionists – support the right of Jews to have their state.
Sarah Zoabi and her son Mahmoud come immediately to mind. They have suffered for their opinions:
And there are others: Israeli Arabs who have thoroughly integrated into Israeli society. They are diplomats and journalists and scientists.
But for many Israeli Arabs, their status is not sufficient.
They identify as Israeli with regard to citizenship, but Palestinian with regard to peoplehood. For them, Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, is the Nakba, the catastrophe.
Although 73 years have passed, they have not let go of the sense of loss, and their sense of bitterness that Jews are in control in what is, to their thinking, properly Muslim land.
I doubt that there were many Israeli Jews who were unaware of this Israeli Arab resentment, in general terms. Anyone who tracks the news knows of Nakba observance.
And likely most Israelis were also aware of the fact that the MKs in the Arab parties are not supportive of the Jewish State and would happily undermine it – and on occasion have undermined it. There was, for example, former Knesset member Basel Ghattas of the United Arab party who was convicted of breach of trust, providing means to carry out acts of terrorism, smuggling electronic devices into prisons and transferring encrypted messages between security prisoners, and spent two years in prison. There have been other instances of disloyalty to the State as well. Ahmed Tibi, a member of our Knesset, was once an advisor to Arafat, who sought to destroy us. This has always made me crazy.
Why did this not ring bells?
Ring bells? We were going backwards. For simple political expediency (couched as a great democratic step forward), Yair Lapid was prepared to bring a jihadist party – the Ra’am party of Mansour Abbas – into the government. Abbas made this easier because he spoke nicely, providing a convenient cover for his jihadist affiliation.
And Bezalel Smotrich, who tried to ring those bells, was accused of being a radical rightist, a trouble-maker, a racist, and more.
Another disturbing sign of the underlying feelings/intentions of many Israeli Arabs can be found in the Israeli NGOs, largely funded internationally, that work to weaken the Jewish nature of Israel – NGOs such as Adalah. They want to remove the Jewish star from the flag, and cancel Hatikvah, which speaks of the Jewish soul, as the national anthem.
This situation is “unfair” to Arab Israelis, they say; Israel should be a state of all its citizens equally.
But hey, Israel is a democracy, and various opinions of great diversity are acceptable and welcome. The question is what is unacceptable. And when.
What certainly seems to be the case is that even those who were not comfortable with some of the anti-Zionist attitudes of Israeli Arabs never, ever imagined it could come to the riots of ten days ago.
What brought about that violence was, unquestionably, Hamas incitement. That they were able to accomplish this was, if truth be told, a considerable victory for them. I found it terrifying.
A jihad inside Israel.
This is beyond the pale, as are the attitudes that fomented the violence.
In my last posting I cited portions of the Hamas Charter, including this: “The day the enemies usurp part of Moslem land, Jihad becomes the individual duty of every Moslem.”
And there it is. Muslim Arabs who are citizens of Israel and resent Israel were called upon to do their individual duty of Jihad.
I read some apologetics about why the Arabs in Lod rioted as they did, and some of the reasons turned my stomach. A group of Jews came into Lod (a garin, a seed of a new Jewish neighborhood), and you know what? They had nicer houses than the Arabs who lived in Lod for a long time.
Low level resentment, perhaps. A smoldering feeling of social inequities, also possible. They do exist – although I know that the young members of that Lod garin were eager to work for genuine coexistence, prided themselves on this.
But to burn the synagogues and trash the schools? Such righteous fury. Terrifying.
How can there be trust after this? Israel will need to do a great deal of soul-searching and seek viable solutions.
I close with an assessment from Dr. Mordechai Kedar (emphasis added):
“The jihad within Israel”
“The explosion of mass violence by Israeli Arabs against their fellow Jewish citizens is nothing short of a religious war…
“When synagogues and religious seminaries are torched, it is a religious war.
“When Torah scrolls are desecrated, it is a religious war…
“And it is a religious war when rioters in the Israeli cities of Jerusalem, Lod, Jaffa and Acre, among many other localities, unite around such jihadist slogans as, ‘Khyber, Khyber, Oh Jews, the army of Muhammad will return,’ evoking the slaughter of all men of this ancient Jewish community and the enslavement of their women by Islam’s founder.
“There are, of course, legions of commentators who will ascribe the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in general, and the ongoing explosion of violence by Israel’s Arab citizens in particular, to territorial, national, economic, civil or legal causes. Yet they overlook the conflict’s deepest and most intractable cause: Islam’s absolute rejection of the Jewish right to statehood…
“Only a powerful, well-organized, highly determined and militarily invincible Israel can stand a chance of surviving in its violent and merciless neighborhood.”
As I said, We ALL need spines of steel. Weakening Hamas to the maximum is also important because of how it affects perceptions of jihadi Israeli Arabs.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.