Is Our Proud Jewish State Descending Into Chaos?
We are quickly sliding down a slippery slope and we are losing our grip on this country. In the past month we have seen two major events that, if they go unheeded, will be followed by more events that will lead us to absolute chaos in what should be our proud Jewish state. The kind of phenomenon about which I am writing here is not really new to us, but it should be the last straw. Let me first set out the two events and then follow this up with a response by a young Arab Israeli citizen living in a town in central Israel.
The first major warning sign that things are spiraling out of control was when Ahmed Tibi, in his post-election meeting with President Rivlin (September 22), made this appalling declaration (video in Hebrew):
. . . we are not guests here, we are the owners of this land. We are not citizens of this land, we did not migrate here, Mr President. We were born here. We are the indigenous population.
And how did our honourable president respond to this statement? With silence.
Where was his self-respect? Was he too shocked to be quick on the uptake? Or does his silence show that he, himself, wonders whether or not that may be true? The president of Israel’s silence seems to endorse questioning the legitimacy of the Jewish state. His silence in the face of such gall set a dangerous precedent. We must acknowledge that the foundation for that gall was laid a long time ago as we repeatedly ignore Arab behaviours showing disloyalty to Israel.
The second major warning sign was the shock of the road deaths of two children on Yom Kippur, the drivers in both cases apparently Arabs.
Yom Kippur has a special feel to it, it is different from every other day of the year. Something special is in the air as radio and television stations close down, the airport empties and closes and a quiet comes over the land. Before the days of Internet, the silence was absolute as the secular population had no other means of electronic communications. It is so quiet that if a rare phone rings somewhere in the distance in the neighbourhood, everyone can hear it. Children take to the streets on bicycles, roller skates and walking in groups in the middle of the road. Twenty years ago, ten years ago, it was safe to do that.
But as the years pass, respect for the holy day wanes. Each year a few more cars ply the roads. How many of these are driven by Jews and how many by Arabs is hard to know. But once upon a time, the Arabs respected this holy day and largely stayed within the bounds of their own villages and neighbourhoods. Perhaps part of it was because fewer people had cars, but I am sure that is not the only reason. Israel was strong. Jews were strong.
But Israel’s social fabric seems to be unraveling, our morale waning in a way. As those on the political left justify demonstrations of Arab disloyalty to Israel and those on the right do not fight the phenomenon, our Arab citizens are watching. When leftist Jews accuse right-wing Jews of racism while accepting Arab political leadership support for terrorists (such as Ahmad Tibi, Heba Yazbak and Raja Za’atara), our Arab citizens are watching. When Jews fight having Jewish symbolism and Jewish nationality enshrined in law as if the Nation State Law denies non-Jewish citizens of Israel their civil rights, our Arab citizens are watching.
When Jews show no respect for themselves in the Jewish state, the Arabs have no reason to respect us.
Nobody wants to back a loser when the stakes are high. And we are starting to lose. The real winner of the September election was the Joint Arab List because our Zionist political leaders, especially Netanyahu, do not distinguish between the Arab party leaders and the Arab citizens of Israel who have been growing more and more proud of being Israelis. However, not wanting to associate with the loser, they may soon do an about-face and agree with the Arab party leaders who want to see Israel wiped from the map.
With these concerns on my mind, I turned to Sayid (not his real name), a young Arab man I interviewed for a previous article. He loves Israel and wishes he could declare so openly within his own community. I asked him to tell me what thoughts came to him as he read the piece above.
Unfortunately, over the years, and as a result of court decisions and left-wing organization activities, the Arabs got the feeling that their narrative is discriminated against. They concluded that, because they live in a democracy and because they are a minority, they are entitled to say anything and to change historical facts, to deny that the land belongs to the State of Israel and the people of Israel from well before the days of Islam.
The Arab members of Knesset that incite constantly against the state and her institutions planned the provocation in the President’s House, firstly so that the world would hear them and secondly they knew that in that particular situation, a meeting concerning building the new government, the President would not respond to them because he would not want to be pulled into superfluous live discussions. They also knew that he holds views that support the Arab MKs. In my opinion, the president should have responded to them immediately and the prime minister should have as well.
What happened on Yom Kippur is very painful and every year part of the Arab population, especially in mixed cities, make such provocations. The Arabs were not raised on tolerance of the other but rather on one-sided acceptance: the other has to honour Islam and the Arabs, while they are not obligated to honour others. It is true that one of the reasons [for growing disrespect of Yom Kippur] is the distancing of the Jews from religion and tradition. Arab MKs did not condemn what happened and did not work to calm things down and that is a form of silent agreement. Arab MKs must come out against disrespecting the Jewish holidays and also to not engage in provocation as they did at the President’s House.
In my opinion, it is imperative to demand loyalty from Arab MKs. If this demand is not upheld, some of the Arabs who are loyal to Israel will not necessarily be disappointed, but they will not struggle among their Arab peers to persuade them to be loyal to the state.
Israeli Arabs think that even if the state becomes a bi-national state, it will not affect the peace and standard of living here because they think there is no connection between these things. The majority are opposed to the Assad regime and against radical Islam there, and also against Lebanon, that they believe is racist towards the residents of the Palestinian refugee camps and Syrian refugees who moved to Lebanon during the Syrian war. In spite of this, they are not grateful to the State of Israel for the quiet here, and they do not think that the State of Israel is doing them a favour when they get civil rights and a good life while their brothers in Syria are at war. They do not like the comparison with the Syrians, statements asking them to compare the situation of the Arabs in Syria with those in Israel. For them, they were born here and they are the landowners and there is no room for such comparisons.
So I ask you all: when are we going to start acting as if we really are the sovereign nation in this land and demand loyalty of all those elected to the Knesset? When are we going to learn how to debate issues central to the development of a healthy society that respects our Jewish roots and tradition together with respect for modernity and for the minorities among us without undermining the foundations of our Jewish state?