They can yell the exact same cliché at each other, and in our ears: We told you so—they’re all fascists, terrorists, racists. “They” refers to either Jews or Arabs, depending on who’s doing the yelling.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman added fuel to the fire Sunday, when he called on Israeli citizens to boycott the villages in the Wadi Ara area and said the Arabs there should be handled by the Palestinian Authority’s security services.
Moving the border and annexing Arab communities to the Palestinian state, if and when it is established, is definitely an issue that can be discussed. But the resistance to the move indicates that the Wadi Ara residents favor Israel with its national insurance and improved economic conditions. But there is one thing that should be indisputable: Several dozen or hundred violent protesters shouldn’t dictate the relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel.
I should mention the identity of the person behind the Islamist violence, which is occasionally stirred in the Arab sector. I’m talking about Sheik Raed Salah, who in recent years has been following the footsteps of the mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini. The Islamist Nazi who invented the “Al-Aqsa is in danger” libel. And his followers from Umm al-Fahm were the ones who carried out the recent attack at the Temple Mount. In the past decade, Salah has been barred from entering countries like Morocco and Jordan. Turkey, on the other hand, is nurturing this evil man.
Lieberman should be reminded that a boycott against the residents of Wadi Ara would be the biggest victory for Raed Salah’s supporters, because that’s exactly what they want: More animosity and more hostility between Jews and Arabs. According to every survey, including polls conducted in the past year, most Israeli Arabs are in the midst of an Israelization process. They’re not becoming Zionist. They’re not abandoning Islam. But only a few dozen of them, tiny fractions of a percent, have actually joined hostile activity in the past two decades.
A very particular part of the Israeli Left, it should be mentioned, is turning Israel into a fascist apartheid state just because it includes the La Familia and Lehava thugs (who are almost the same people) and other hooligans—not just from the territories—who protest and chant “Death to the Arabs.” They are Israelis, but they don’t represent Israel. The dozens or hundreds who manage to block the Wadi Ara road are Arabs. They don’t represent all Israeli Arabs either.
With all due disrespect to the riots on the Wadi Ara road, it should be noted that despite the deep-rooted political disagreements, and despite the serious political conflict, most Israeli Arabs have been and still are loyal citizens to the state, even without a declaration of loyalty. Political events like US President Donald Trump’s announcement send the Islamists and the nationalists—Salah’s supporters and Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi’s supporters—to the streets. They represent something. They must not be ignored. But they must not be turned into the exclusive representatives of Israel’s Arabs.
While the latest Israel Democracy Institute poll doesn’t point to harmony and satisfaction, it does point to a desire to integrate and indicates that 52 percent of Israel’s Arabs live in peace with Israel’s definition as a Jewish and democratic state, even if they’re not in love with it.
Among Arabs who have worked together with Jews, 95 percent define their relations with Jews as “good” or “very good.” They represent the Arabs much more than the stone throwers. Education Minister Naftali Bennett represented this approach too on Sunday, when he expressed his reservations over Lieberman’s comments.
The hooligans must be handled with a firm hand. But if we want to turn the moderates into the dominant voice, there’s no need to add fuel to the fire of hooligans.