Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Jerusalem Post: Yalla Peace: Act like citizens, not foreigners
Yalla Peace: Act like citizens, not foreigners
By RAY HANANIA
Arab citizens of Israel are in a unique position to help their people by being advocates for change, in Israel and in the region.
Israelis always tell me that “all citizens of Israel” are treated equally. They insist that although Israel is a “Jewish state,” non-Jews are treated with respect and equality.
Of course, that isn’t true. But it sounds good on paper. When it comes to how Israel mistreats its non-Jewish citizens, most Jews have their heads buried in the sand, with a finger on the trigger.
The reality is that non-Jewish citizens are discriminated against routinely.
It bothers me that Israeli citizenship cards have special codes to separate Jews from non-Jews. That violates the whole principle of “citizenship,” although the reason is clear, to make it easier to discriminate.
The Mossawa Center, an Arab Israeli group that monitors Arab citizen rights (and whose Arabic name means “equality”), recently released another scathing report showing that non-Jews in Israel are discriminated against.
It cites the increase of racist bills introduced in the Knesset attacking “free speech,” mainly that of “Arab citizens.”
• If a citizen denies the existence of Israel, he can be imprisoned for one year.
• If a citizen violates “loyalty to Israel,” he can have his citizenship revoked. I guess in conjunction with the first bill, he would be imprisoned for a year and then kicked out of the country.
• Government money would be denied to citizen groups that act in a way that express views like the “Nakba,” the Arabic word for “catastrophe” that refers to 1948 when Israel was created and more than 400 Arab villages were erased.
With a few other examples that are purely included because of the conflict, the report makes things sound really bad.
A BIG part of the problem, though, is that Arabs and Jews are not really different. We often do not agree, but we’re in the middle of a conflict and tensions are a fact of life.
So how much responsibility do the Arab citizens of Israel share in letting this disparity in free speech and democracy take place?
A big part of the problem is the Arab citizens themselves. They don’t help matters much. Arabs claim to want to be citizens, but they act like foreigners.
More often than not, extremist Arab activists in the West and Arab world urge Arab citizens in Israel to boycott Israeli elections and not vote.
So who is to blame when extremist Jews take control? The Jewish extremists or the misguided Arab citizens who listen to the loser activists in the Arab world?
“Denial” is the reality of Palestinian life. If we just pretend something isn’t there, it might go away. What we want to go away is the fact that over the past century, Arab policy toward Palestine has been characterized by one word. Losers! Arab culture has embraced the phenomena of its own failure by blaming someone else. Being a louder victim is a better choice in these circumstances for Palestinians than to work harder to participate in Israeli society and bring about change.
The Arabs are not doing their best. They embrace stupid policies like “normalization” – a hateful code-word used by Palestinians to describe any Arab who dares treat an Israeli like a “normal person.” It’s racist, too, because it suggests that all Jews are bad.
Many Arabs criticize my moderate views, not by engaging in the facts and issues I raise, but by pointing to the fact that my wife and son are Jews.
Many Arab comedians won’t participate with me because I perform with Israelis, not just Jews. Many Arab activists exclude me because I advocate two states rather than one.
Oh. Did I forget to mention that I write for a “Zionist newspaper” like The Jerusalem Post?
I HAVE learned to ignore these moronic critics in the Palestinian and Arab world because although they dominate the “vocal landscape,” they are the demographic minority. The problem is that most Arabs fear challenging the extremist minority. It’s easier to be silent than to stand up for what is right.
What should Arabs in Israel do? Stop acting like the rest of the Arab world.
Stop listening to the failed Palestinian activists who live in Europe and the United States. Those activists live in luxury, yet are the first to tell Palestinian refugees it is better to live in squalor by rejecting compromise based on two states than to live in their own state where they can focus on improving their lives. If the conflict were ever resolved, most Palestinian rejectionists would be unemployed. So continuing the conflict is in their best interests.
If Arab citizens of Israel want their rights, they should recognize reality. Stop boycotting elections. Stop spreading hatred against Jews as an answer to Jewish discrimination against Arabs. Stop placing all the blame on a handful of Jewish racists in the Knesset. And stop exaggerating racism by including examples that are purely political, like Israelis declaring that Jerusalem is their eternal capital.
You can always find an example of hatred, if you ignore the more frequent examples of common sense.
Arab citizens of Israel are in a unique position to help their people, not by embracing the failed policies of the Arab world and the Palestinian rejectionists, but by being advocates for change, change in Israel and change in the Arab world.
Stand up and tell the activists you support compromise, two states and the sharing of Jerusalem.
The Palestinians under occupation are under siege, and not just by Israel’s military. The extremist Islamists like Hamas are growing in power. Their goal isn’t just to destroy Israel, but to also to destroy Palestinian and Arab secular life.
Start protesting on the streets, not just against the bigotry and racism that surrounds your lives in Israel. Oppose the extremism that dominates the Arab world and the fatalistic policies of the Palestinian rejectionists, who are doing everything they can to block peace.
If the Arabs of Israel stood up as one, engaged the system fully and started to think and speak for themselves, not only would they have more rights in Israel, we might also have peace.
Named Best Ethnic Columnist in America by New America Media, the writer is a Palestinian-American columnist and peace activist. He can be reached at www.YallaPeace.com