MK YItzhak Levy
Photo: Herzel Yosef
The Association for Civil Rights’ poll, which showed a high incidence of racism within Israeli society, accurately reflects the attitude of the majority of the public to Israel’s Arabs. However, the reason for it does not stem from a racist attitude on the part of the Jews, but rather, it stems from security-based hostility and political disagreements. When Arabs convey the message that they do not accept us here as a majority in a Jewish state and in control of the Land of Israel, this is the result.
In order to understand why we, the Jews, are no friends of the Arabs, we can look into several examples of Arab conduct: For example, Israeli Arab annually mark Nakba Day – for them, Israel’s Independence Day is a catastrophe, which leads us to understand that in their view we are unwanted here, and if we go away they’ll be satisfied.
A document recently published by leading Arab Israeli groups also proved that they do not accept the Jewish character of the country and do not recognize it. Meanwhile, the Arab decision to refrain from performing national service instead of military service stems from a desire for separatism, rather than a wish to constitute a part of Israeli society.
The Arab political leadership here completely identifies with the Palestinians and their objectives. It is not fully clear whether this leadership represents the entire Arab Israeli community, but if we assume it does, the fact that they travel to enemy states and take part in Palestinian events premised on anti-Israel hatred leads the Jewish public to perceive them as supporters of the Palestinian cause even at a time of conflict.
The phenomenon that today only applies to very few in the Arab community – engaging in ties and partnerships with terror groups, and offering assistance in arms smuggling and the driving of terrorists – may or may not grow. There are also Jews who have done that. Yet the public Arab attitude conveys a message of “we don’t accept you here; we identify with our neighboring countries, but not with you.”
In my view, in recent years efforts have been made to invest in Arab communities, as opposed to the days of the military rule imposed during the country’s early days. Indeed, there is still a large gap between the services the State provides to Arabs compared to Jews, yet the Knesset is legislating affirmative action laws. For example, we have a law that requires Arab representation in government jobs and companies, as well as in municipal governments. Clearly, the Knesset has recognized the Arabs as a community that requires affirmative action.
Arabs boycotted Knesset ceremonyWe must understand that this “racism” is in fact an Israeli reaction to developments and perceptions conveyed by the Arabs, as well as their conduct. Had Israeli Arabs accepted their minority status and refrained from cooperating with the Palestinians and with enemy countries, the situation would be completely different. The solution to the problem also has to do with the conduct of the Arabs. They must clearly declare that they are truly interested in cooperating with us and openly accept Israel as a Jewish state.
However, it appears the road ahead is still long. Even when it came to the recent ceremony to mark the United Nation’s Partition Plan decision, Arab Knesset members chose to boycott it. I am not too happy about the Partition Plan myself, yet I arrived at the Knesset nonetheless. They, on the other hand, boycotted this session just like they do every session that has to do with Zionism.
Arab Knesset members also pushed themselves out when they boycotted Knesset sessions called to discuss the drafting of a constitution. Nobody expects them to be Zionist, but fundamental respect is required. This is how minority representatives conduct themselves in other countries.
We may not be doing enough to achieve equality between the Jewish and Arab communities, but at least we can see a desire for change, as well as awareness and an attempt to correct the problem. Meanwhile, the Arabs have not changed a thing when it comes to their policy of rejection. As such, the mood expressed by the poll could certainly be understood.
Former Education Minister Yitzhak Levy serves as a Knesset member on behalf of the National Union-NRP