Arabs need new leaders
Op-ed: Arab Israeli slams sector’s leadership for neglecting local issues, endorsing tyrants
I wish the elections
were held this year. I wish that we were headed to the polling stations, yet Shaul Mofaz
confirmed the old joke about lawyers, which is also applicable to politicians: If you ask anyone what’s one plus one, they would say “two,” except for the lawyer and the politician. They would close the door and shut the window, turn off the lights in the room, get closer, look into your eyes, and whisper in your ear: “How much do you want it to be?”
And now, welcome to earth. Welcome to the most complex part of our planet, the State of Israel, and to the wonderland in its midst: The Arab sector. This sector, which I belong to, has been maligned by an identity crisis, a grave economic situation, a low level of culture and education, and to my great regret failed leadership as well.
The identity crisis is reflected in the question of self-definition. When an Arab goes to Jordan he will settle for “1948 Arab” or a “Palestinian Arab.” When he’s in Tel Aviv he’ll present himself as an “Arab Israeli,” and when in Europe he’ll dump the title “Arab” and declare in a loud voice: “I’m Israeli!” Indeed, this is odd and illogical, but that’s reality.
The state of the economy and education is easy to describe and the numbers speak for themselves: Unemployment is skyrocketing, our contribution to the national product is below 10%, our exports our minor, the number of Arabs at universities and colleges is much lower than our share in the population, and the failure to graduate high school is breaking new records. Graduates of universities and colleges do not seek employment in the Arab sector. They have nothing to look for there. Instead, they send out piles of CVs in every direction in the hope that someone grants them a spot in the Jewish space.
Yet our problems are not summed up by what I described above, ladies and gentlemen. The Arab sector is bleeding. The role models for our youths are mobsters. Trivial disputes about loud music, forbidden love and small debts end with murder. In our sector, police work isn’t too sophisticated and one should not expect police and Shin Bet elites to get involved. Around here we often find the gun and are aware of the crime family behind the killing, but it seems that even if they find a PowerPoint presentation pointing to the killer’s identity, police won’t e able to resolve the crime.
I know that my leadership is not the main culprit here. There are many others to blame first, but where are our leaders in the midst of all this? They are preoccupied with entirely different matters!
A sophisticated, strong minority is one whose leadership is united and aims to promote it in every positive way. Yet here, it doesn’t happen for some reason. Here, the revolution in Syria is more important, Syrian blood is more precious than our blood and the Gaza blockade is a top priority, a sacred cow one must not discuss. Yet I’m turning to my sector’s leaders with the most rational question in the world: If I have a sinking ship, what must be a top priority? Is it the sailing course, or the hole at the bottom of the ship that must be repaired?
A few months ago, President Peres visited Nazareth and read a story to the children of a city school. Next to him sat Nazareth’s mayor, on the floor. Balad party activists and other political forces in the Arab sector protested: “Why did the mayor do that? How can he do that with the murderer of children in Lebanon?” (Peres served as prime minister during operation Grapes of Wrath, in which some 100 refugees were killed in Lebanon’s Qana.)
Even if we assume that Shimon Peres is a bad man, we must not ignore the fact that the same people who protested forgot that their own leadership made sure to seek photo opportunities with Muammar Gaddafi, the tyrant who threatened his people with civil war and hunted them like mice. Indeed, our leadership is that disastrous.
Each one of these leaders only cares about justifying himself and smearing the others. If Balad errs, Hadash and the Islamic Movement bombard it with criticism, and if Hadash errs the others attack it. And what do they care about? Rating. Or in other words, anything that grants them publicity. Arab sector leaders look to the left and to the right, try to understand what the most important thing is on stage, and launch their show.
You should not think that the general or social interest prompts them into action. The truth is that their motives are personal interests, salaries, jobs, and certainly the attention. During the events of the Marmara there was a rumor that Ra’ad Salah, the Islamic Movement leader who was aboard the vessel, sustained grave wounds. This prompted many residents of Umm al-Fahm and Islamic Movement supports to protest. The movement left information about the incident vague for the entire day only to draw some attention, even though it was possible to disprove the rumors within minutes.
For this leadership, Nakba Day marked last week is yet another sacred cow to hide behind. The various parties quarreled even over the ways to exploit the day in their favor. Eventually, only six people declared a general strike in the Arab sector on behalf of the “Supreme Monitoring Committee.” Yet the first to be absent were the Knesset members who were screaming and wailing the whole week: Mohammad Barakeh, Hanna Swaid, Hanin Zoabi, Dr. Jamal Zahalka, and most local council heads. The only Knesset member who arrived was Masud Ghnaim.
One of these days, the Arab Spring will arrive here too, and the Arab sector will slaughter the sacred cows which our leadership hides behind. Yet the arrival of this day is only dependent on us. We must get rid of the current leadership and make sure to bring in new leaders who will first and foremost care for us, and only then for others. Should a different leadership fail to emerge by 2013, I will cast my ballot for a party that cares for its voters and not give my support to people who merely sit on the Knesset’s benches and promote themselves – because one thing we have very little of in our sector is leaders.
Amar Jara is an Accounting and Communication graduate at Hebrew University