Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Irrational Terror Requires Rational Response

Compare the lives of Israel's Arabs with the lives of Arabs in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority, and what you will find may startle you: Israeli Arabs, an uncomfortable, distrusted and admittedly unofficially discriminated-against minority living amongst a Jewish majority, are still far better off in Israel than their brethren in neighboring countries. Israel's Arabs, as an Arab minority amongst a Jewish majority, are freer - religiously, physically, culturally and politically - than Arabs living in Arab-majority states.

In the wake of the latest terrorist atrocity perpetrated in Jerusalem by an Arab holding Israeli residency, there are once again calls to expel Arabs from Israel en masse . While it is undeniably the case that such a position is born of justifiable anger, it is completely and utterly without reason that such an opinion - such a suggestion - is ever seriously propagated. No liberal democracy worthy of being called such should countenance any form of ethnic cleansing.

Wednesday's attack was wholly unpredictable, at least with regards to its timing. Anyone who assumes that the Arabs of Jerusalem's eastern neighborhoods - brought under Israeli sovereignty in June 1967 both against the will of Israel and by the fault of an intransigent, adventurous but later wise King of Jordan - are in love with their position in the region deludes themselves.

Still, when one compares the situation of Arabs in Israel with Arabs in Arab-majority states, one would be forgiven for thinking resident Arabs slightly less of a threat than foreign Arabs.


Looking around at the world today, there are relatively few "ethnically pure" states. Notably, the members of the Arab League by and large conspicuously hold to policies restricting or prohibiting immigration by non-Arabs. Saudi Arabia, amongst other countries, is intolerant of the practice of any religion within the kingdom's boundaries but Islam.

Given the threat Israel faces, several minds hold to the notion that an expulsion of Arabs from the Jewish state would solve the tiny country's problems.

How they can believe such a thing, cognizant as they must be of all of the problems/accusations beleaguering Israel still today thanks to the departure of hundreds of thousands of Arabs from Israel's territory in the War of Independence - because of fighting as well as exhortations and reassurances victory from Arab leaders - is vexing. Israel, the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, has enough existentially-significant image problems already.

Besides, why would Israelis wish to emulate their Arab foes, who expelled (or persecuted-until-they-left) from their lands about as many - 800,000 - Jews as Arabs who departed what was once the Palestine Mandate following the establishment of the State of Israel? There is no moral precedent for even the mildest form of ethnic cleansing, that which merely consists of mass deportation.

Thus, it is for these reasons that I cannot seriously entertain the idea of ridding the Jewish state of its sometimes all-too-willing potential Fifth Column citizens and residents of Arab and Muslim ethnicity.

Me? I feel that preemptive strikes, police raids, human intelligence, and yes, home demolitions and even the freezing of bank accounts/assets of Israeli Arabs or Arab families supporting or carrying out terrorist activities should suffice. And going a step further, I would dare to suggest that calling on Israel's Arabs to be better citizens in their democracy, and calling out their hypocrisy whenever necessary, is a far more preferable alternative to expulsion.


Writing to a New England synagogue in the 1790s, the first President of the United States, George Washington, said, "For happily the government of the United States which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support."

Since Arabs in Israel - whatever their trials and disadvantages as a minority - receive more protection and support from the Israeli government than they would under any sort of Arab/Muslim government now existing, is it too much to ask that they who live under a Jewish government's protection, "should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support"?

No, it is not too much to ask.


In fact, I think such a "requirement", such a demand on Israel's Arabs, is quite reasonable given the circumstances, since they who seek respect, recognition and protection from the State should be willing to give respect, recognition and protection to the State in return. Banal hypocrisy in this regard, on the part of the Israeli Arab community, sows bitter seeds and reaps bitter fruit. As it has in the past, it does in the present; as it does in the present, it will in the future.

See, within Israel's declaration of independence of 1948 is contained an extraordinary passage: WE APPEAL - in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months - to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.

It is not too much, of course, to ask that Israel's Arab population respect the State's Jewish underpinnings, majority culture, and institutions, in exchange for guarantees of their "full and equal" rights of Israeli citizenship. In return, Arabs can vote for who they wish, maintain their own free press, speak their mind and travel throughout the country - along with their fellow Jewish citizens.

Sure, the family of the perpetrator of Wednesday's horrific bulldozer rampage through central Jerusalem was brought under Israeli rule against their will. But given Israel's request to King Hussein of Jordan not to enter the fighting in 1967, Israel is less at fault than the Arab states. And while Israel could easily do more to accommodate and care for Jerusalem's Arab residents, their lot is far more to their benefit than it would be under any sort of Palestinian rule.

Wednesday's senseless attack once again brought into the spotlight the contentious history and position of Jerusalem. But simply expelling Arabs en masse from the State of Israel will never be the answer. Such a "solution" is akin to sweeping dust under the rug, and then believing it to be forever gone.

No...the most proper solution I can see at present is time and again calling on Israel's Arabs to acknowledge and appreciate their lot - all the while, fulfilling our end of responsibilities to them, whilst holding the door wide open for them if they feel they might be happier elsewhere. If out of stubborn, idiotic pride born of ethnicity they wish to live as a majority under Arab dictators rather than Jewish (and Arab) democrats as a minority, in countries where their lives and opinions belong more to the government than to themselves, let them.


"After all, life inside Israel is much better than the West Bank." - Ibrahim Barakat, businessman from Beit Hanina


No comments: