Most Jews support the “loyalty oath.” I am part of the minority that doesn’t. However, I can understand why many of the Jews who support full civil equality ended up endorsing the pledge of allegiance. My view is that Arab community leaders hold part of the blame.
The loyalty oath is a sort of “proper Jewish response” to Hanin Zoabi, Azmi Bishara, the Islamic Movement, and the “identity documents” drafted by the Arab Israeli leadership. These moves, which were perceived as a challenge to the State’s Jewish character, were met with exaggerated emphasis of this character.
I shall attempt to express the voices emerging from the average Jew: Israel is conflicted with most Arab states. Its Arab citizens are closely linked to their fellow Arabs in the occupied territories and in the Palestinian Diaspora. They are part of the large Arab nation, which has yet to decide on the meaning of the attachment linking its various parts.
This attachment is not consensual even among Israel’s Arab intellectuals. For example, escaped suspect Dr. Azmi Bishara admitted that the “Palestinian people” is to a large extent an invention meant to adapt the demands of Arab residents of Israel to the customary global language, yet that in effect he is no more than a “southern Syrian.”
So why do “southern Syrians” have a right to take part in the discourse on the State’s identity, and what kind of rights can Islamic Movement supporters seek when they view the world of all faithful as one political region?
This region is poor and angry, ruled by dictatorial regimes, oppresses minorities, and shows contempt to human rights. Its religious zeal is immense and it faces plethora of ethnic and religious conflicts. Anti-Semitism is very prevalent throughout. In recent years, we have seen several horrifying examples attesting to the attitude shown by Arab and Muslim societies to those who are not Arab, or who are simply disliked by other Arabs and Muslims: Iran, Sudan Mauritania, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Relations among the Palestinians themselves also provoke fear among the Jews.
Meanwhile, the Arab and Muslim world comprises intellectuals who lack introspection abilities: They blame everyone for the region’s sorry state, except for the locals and the civilizations they created.
Arab Israelis tend to ask: What does all of this have to do with us? And the average Jew, as Jews tend to do, responds with a question: Is it possible that Israel’s Arab citizens, a tiny part of the large Arab nation, are wholly different than their Arab brethren in respect to mood, culture, and attitude to democracy?
The average Jew asks himself some more questions: Our Arab citizens demand that Israel act towards them in line with the noblest human criteria, while at the same time they barely criticize the injustices prevalent in the Arab world. These Arab citizens have nothing to say about the attitude to the Coptic minority in Egypt, or about the attitude to the Shiites in Sunny Gulf states, or about the Alawite tyranny in Syria.
“If you are unwilling to criticize your fellow Arabs,” the average Jew thinks, “It means your values are no different than the values prevalent among your people. You cannot conveniently assume two roles: Voice your demands as Israel’s citizens, yet at the same time announce that you are Israeli citizens involuntarily, and that your emotional solidarity lies with a world that despises Israel and is home to numerous outright anti-Semites.
“And by the way,” the average Jew shall conclude, “I have yet to hear a local Arab response to Ahmadinejad’s recent Lebanon speech, where he accused the Zionists of causing climate changes.”
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