Saturday, April 28, 2007

I take it back

Yet again, I find myself learning a lot by trying to listen to the people behind the comments posted on my blog.

A few days ago I tried to answer a question raised by Nizo: "What do Israeli Arabs need to do in order for them not to be perceived as a threat?"

I thought that Israeli Arabs understand the fears of the Israeli Jews, and can become a bridge between Israel and the Arab world. I thought they could explain the rationale of Zionism to the Arab world, something that would cause Israeli Jews to see them as partners, rather than a threat.

I suspect I was way way off with this suggestion.

I now think that Israeli Arabs have too many bad feelings against Israel. If I try to put myself in their shoes, I can see why this would be so. They are citizens in a country that does not let them identify with it. How can someone be a "proud Israeli Arab"? What symbols of this country can they identify with? They are citizens in a country that does not make it easy for them to contribute to it, and treats them as second grade citizens.

I don't know if the statistics that Khaled quoted are accurate - but I suspect that they represent how Israeli Arabs feel.

So it seems we have another vicious cycle here:Boy, are things here complicated!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What do Israeli Arabs need to do in order for them not to be perceived as a threat?

UPDATE 28/4/07 - Everything I suggested here: I take it back. It can't happen - at least not in the foreseeable future. But I'm glad I wrote this post. I learned much from the Arab response to it. [end of update]

The Azmi Bishara videos inspired Nizo to raise several very interesting questions regarding the pervasiveness of the perception that Arabs are a demographic time bomb.

His 8th question was "What do Israeli Arabs need to do in order for them not to be perceived as a threat?"

I'd like to suggest an unusual answer to Nizo's question. I don't know if what I'm suggesting can ever happen, but hey - if the idea is never raised, it certainly won't happen.

I think that Israeli Arabs can undo this "threat perception" by adopting the role of the ambassadors of Zionism to the Arab world. [correction: I was extremely naive in suggesting this. I agree with NC's comment on this post: Arabs can do a great service to humanity if they simply explain to the Arab world that Zionism doesn't aim to destroy the Arabs[.

In that role, they can explain to the Arab world that Jews have no other country. They can explain that Jews all over the world fear persecution, and feel that without a Jewish homeland, they will never be truly safe anywhere in the world. They can also explain to the Arab world that Israel wants to live with them in peace.

If they do that openly and sincerely - and accept this role as a primary part of their identity as Israeli Arabs - then Israeli Jews will stop fearing them.

Amongst Arabs in general, Israeli Arabs are in the best position to understand Israeli Jews. They are Israeli citizens. They can travel freely to any part of Israel. They speak Hebrew. Many of them study in Israeli colleges. Some of them work in Jewish Israeli companies. If they choose, they can become interested in how Israeli Jews feel.

They can understand our fears.

If Israeli Arabs understand the Zionist cause, they can support it. And if they support it, Israeli Jews will no longer fear that Israeli Arabs will undermine that cause.

Of course, this is not simple. Many Israeli Arabs feel they are neglected by the country. Some feel that their nationality is betrayed. They see the Israeli Army mistreating their Arab kin. It is much more natural for them to adopt the nationalistic views represented by Bishara. But these nationalistic views only increase the tension and fear.

It will take true greatness of Israeli Arabs to actively supportexplain Zionism in this atmosphere - but if they can amass such courage, they will gain a great deal (as will the entire region).

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Israel: evil or moral?

I read an interesting article an Ha'aretz today. Here's the Hebrew version, and here's the English translation. - didn't find an English version yet (anyone who finds it - please let me know).(Thanks Lisa)

The article says that the IDF has appointed an officer to investigate why the a major Hebron street (the Shuhada street) is closed to Palestinian pedestrians since 2000. It is open to Jewish (i.e., settler) traffic, by the way. The IDF has claimed this is a mistake that will be rectified, but so far this hasn't happened.

I think that the title of the article reveals much about the Israeli state of mind regarding Palestinians. The article says "The street was closed to Palestinians". If the Israeli grasp of Palestinians was "humans of equal rights", I suspect that the article would have talked about "Palestinians being barred from entering the street".

To all Israelis who think Israel is pure, just and moral: think about this.

So if Israel isn't pure, just and moral - is Israel evil? Of course not. If Israel was evil, this article would not have appeared in Ha'aretz. Organizations like the "movement for civil rights" would not have approached the courts, the courts would have not summoned the IDF to respond, and the IDF would never have considered lifting the restrictions.

So why do Israelis grasp Palestinians as lesser humans? Is it because of the many years of bloody conflict? Is it because Palestinian society is so far behind Israeli society? Does it have to do with most Palestinians blaming Israel for everything that's wrong with their condition instead of taking some responsibility? Is it because the interaction between Israelis and Palestinians is limited to Israelis hiring Palestinians for jobs Israelis wouldn't do? Is it something else?

Is there a way out?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Azmi Bishara videos

Dr. Azmi Bishara is an Arab Israeli member of the Israeli parliament (Knesset).

The Israeli media has lately been publishing very incoherent and non-informative articles about Dr. Bishara's intentions (or non-intentions) to resign (or not resign) from the Israeli Knesset, due to his being persecuted (or not being persecuted) by various government security agencies (or not). It seems there is a court order barring the media from discussing whatever is going on (or not going on), so they are discussing the issue without actually discussing it. Go figure.

Anyways, Halemo has contemplated on his hebrew blog that these agencies are after Dr. Bishara because of a 6-part video on YouTube. Halemo claims that in the video Dr. Bishara "eloquently explains, in well versed English, his anti-Israeli views" and his "support of Hizballa".

I took the time to watch the videos. I suspect Halemo didn't, because in those videos I heard the exact opposite of Halemo's claims.

Yes, in this video, Dr. Bishara says many things Israelis don't like to hear about Israel. But he also says:

1. That he recognizes Israel as an existing country, and that the entire discussion of "historic rights" is totally irrelevant. Israel exists and that's it.
2. That most Arabs recognize Israel (something I personally don't think is true - but Dr. Bishara is obviously more connected to the Arab world than I am)
3. That he fully recognizes the horrors of the Holocaust. Unlike others, he doesn't deny it occured.
4. That Hizballa is no longer a legitimate movement. He says it used to be a legitimate resistance movement - as long as Israel occupied Lebanon - but it is no longer so.

Dr. Bishara explains that he sees 2 possible solutions to the conflict: either that Israel annex the Palestinian territories and make Palestinians equal citizens of Israel, or agree on a 2 state solution based on the June 4 1967 borders.

If only the majority of Arabs held the opinions that Dr. Bishara's expresses in those videos, I think the conflict would have long been over.

Halemo - if you're reading my words: can you please explain what you meant when you said "Anti Israeli Views"? Perhaps you are referring to things he said that are not shown in the video?