Photo: Courtesy of Haifa University
Dr. Shiftan
Photo: Courtesy of Haifa University
Photo: Ohad Keynar
Dr. Khaled Abu-Asba
Photo: Ohad Keynar

Breach of trust: Where are Israeli Arabs headed?

Arab scholar, Israeli counterpart discuss growing Arab-Jewish tensions in Israel

Recent developments on the Arab-Israeli front include the following: A massacre at a Jerusalem Jewish seminary perpetrated by an east Jerusalem resident, a near lynch of municipal parking inspectors, a call for martyrdom at a mass rally in Umm al Fahm, and repeated warnings issued by the Shin Bet director indicating that Israeli Arabs are increasingly involved in terror activities.


On the other hand, we have seen repeated discrimination against Arabs in terms of employment, education and other matters, as well as unprecedented verbal assaults by rightist politicians. Where are relations between Jews and Israeli Arab headed? Are we facing a new and critical juncture?


According to Dr. Dan Shiftan of the University Of Haifa School Of Political Science, “we are witnessing an ongoing process of radicalization in Arab society…. the stone throwing incidents we have witnessed as of late are no coincidence, and are a direct product of this radicalization, which legitimizes violence in retaliation for perceived Jewish atrocities.”


The majority of the Arab public, notes Shiftan, chooses to endorse leaders that explicitly call for the annihilation of the State of Israel. “Arabs have such an extreme, incendiary leadership today because these are the very views that get Arab leaders elected. Arab leaders that are elected these days must espouse radical views not only calling for the destruction of Israel, but also supporting all of Israel’s enemies worldwide…Any Jew-murdering terrorist is immediately embraced by the current Arab leadership.”


“If the demonstrators in Zion Square, who equated the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin with Nazi leaders, are guilty of creating an atmosphere that allowed for his murder,” said Shiftan, “then the current policy of lies and incitement by the Arab leadership is equally conducive to violence. This violence, I believe, will not end at stone throwing.”


Questionable loyalties

Dr. Khaled Abu-Asba, a professor for the sociology of education at the university of Haifa has also, like Shiftan, studied Israel's Arab population extensively for many years. Like Shiftan, he blames radicalism and incitement for the utter breach of trust between Jews and Israeli Arabs, but believes that the incitement in question stems form Israeli rightist.


“There is an onslaught of abuse these days,” says Abu-Asba. "People blame Arab leaders for instigating violence, but when a Jewish MK says ‘we’ll throw you out’ or ‘we’ll take care of you all’ no one says a word. Is this not incitement? Are there Arab MKs making similar statements?"


Abu-Asba further notes that “as Israeli Arabs we are Israeli citizens, but also members of the Palestinian people with political views befitting such….as Israeli Arabs we are hurt most by the current violence as we are caught right in the middle of the fray."


Regarding the rally in Umm al-Fahm, Abu-Absa noted “there were no particularly inflammatory statements being made…those holding signs reading Zionist-Nazis did so on their own accord. It had nothing to do with the demonstration at large.”


“As an Israeli Arab my loyalties are perpetually tested,” said Abu-Asba. "I am an Israeli citizen like any other, loyal to the State of Israel, working and paying my taxes like everyone else. Part of my rights as a citizen entail expressing my political views… but to many Jews I am a citizen only conditionally, and thus they continually bring up the notion of loyalty.”


So where do Israeli Arabs go from here? According to dr. Shiftan, things have gone downhill to an extent that they can no longer be remedied. “As such all we can do is practice effective damage control and prevent discrimination against Israeli Arabs to the greatest extent possible,” he notes.


However, Abu-Asba feels that “Israeli Arabs and Jews are not in a conflict state, there is merely tension between the two groups, tension that open and honest dialogue can readily alleviate.”


He called on both groups to promote such dialogue and not allow the radical fringe to dominate.


Both researches, however, aggree that the we are far from having another uprising on our hands.


"The rock-throwing incidents in northern Israel were sporadic, random occurrences," Abu-Asba said. "It is a shame that they made the headlines.” 


פרסום ראשון: 03.11.08, 16:55
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