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Guy Bechor Photo: Yariv Katz
Guy Bechor Photo: Yariv Katz
 
 

Time for Arabs to face truth

For first time in 60 years, Arabs must ask themselves tough questions about Israel

Guy Bechor
Published: 04.25.09, 15:51 / Israel Opinion

As strange as it may sound, despite dozens of years of Israeli "peace" with states such as Egypt and Jordan, Arab societies in the Middle East didn't quite bother with the following question: What's Israel all about?

 

Many people never bothered to find out what is this Israel and who comprises it; besides, peace with it was perceived as a matter for the kingdom and governments. The kind of peace that is irrelevant for the masses. It was seen as a sort of financial agreement between the ruler and some kind of dark and imaginary kingdom, a shadowy fortress whose outrageous existence can only be seen on television channels.

 

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This is also why it's so easy to hate it, as it is easy to hate anonymous terms or people.

 

However, the new position of the Israeli government, which demands recognition of both parts of the "two-state" slogan, is placing a mirror before Arab societies for the first time. This is an important development that must be insisted on at any price.

 

The need to recognize Israel as a Jewish state or as the Jewish people's state will force the Arabs to make a decision, look at Israel, and understand what it's all about. Is there a Jewish people? Most Arab community leaders would say: Not at all, just like Mahmoud Abbas or Saeb Erekat believe; at most, there is a Jewish religion, and perhaps Jewish culture. However, in order to get their own state, they will have to recognize this people, its identity, and its national movement – that is, Zionism. They will have to start to truly take interest in it, in reality and not in the world of illusions.

 

These are tasks that were never required of the society around us, and therefore we had a cold and sterile peace, vis-à-vis the regime only, along with a limited economic elite made up of those who enjoyed personal perks as result of the peace.

 

In the Arab online community at least, the first discussion since Israel's establishment is taking place at this time on the question of whether Israel exists, and whether it should exist –as a Jewish state no less. This is what the slogan "two states for two peoples" is all about. Yes, the Jewish people is also a nation, and the Arabs will have to accept it, without the compromises of the failed Oslo Accord. For that reason, Israel must insist at any price on both sides of the equation, as Prime Minister Netanyahu is wisely doing at this time.

 

No shortcuts

Placing a mirror in front of someone is a moral thing to do. In my view, this is the only way for the Arabs to understand that they have not approached Israel properly to this day, assuming they looked at it at all.

 

If such demand is made, and they rejected it to this day, what does it say about them? That they're racist? Unwilling to recognize the other? Living in an imaginary reality? They claimed that Israel is imaginary, but perhaps they are the ones who are imaginary and unrealistic? After all, up until now they claimed that Israel is the racist one, yet by rejecting the existence of a Jewish people they are in fact being exposed as racist. It's not easy for them.

 

The new formula requires them to see Israel in a realistic light. It has a right to exist, it is home to 7.5 million people, and it has an economy, life, culture, and existence. This isn't easy for those who grew up with blatant anti-Semitic norms or with cold disregard for this Israel. The mirror placed before them teaches them about themselves.

 

They are not looking at Israel now, but rather, at themselves. And they don't like what they see. Yet they have no choice: Without this, there would be no Palestinian state and no agreement.

 

It's about time that after more than 60 years, the educational process of peace with the Arab world is underway. It will be long and difficult, as real educational processes tend to be, but there is no escaping it. There are no shortcuts here; it's unavoidable.

 

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