Recently I mentioned some Israeli Arab organizations (funded by the New Israel Fund among other foreign sources) which espoused Palestinian nationalist aims in the guise of civil rights.
This is sometimes hard for Americans to understand, who immediately think of the civil rights movement of the 1960’s in the US. But African American demands were (mostly) for civil rights within the framework of the United States of America. The groups I mentioned — and many Arab citizens of Israel — believe that their civil rights are precluded by living in a Jewish state. They have elided the difference between civil rights and national aspirations.
They see the flag and the national anthem as not only “not belonging to them” but a limitation of their rights — which they believe include full self-determination for the Arab minority within Israel, even though it is a minority.
It’s instructive to compare their feelings with those of Diaspora Jews living in countries which were explicitly Christian. There is no doubt that they had a feeling of “not belonging” at the times of religious holidays, etc. — even when these weren’t associated with pogroms! But the Jewish nationalists — i.e., Zionists — felt the need for a Jewish state, not a desire to change their host countries into non-Christian nations.
Palestinian nationalists claim that their situation is different — that they are the original ‘owners’ of the land and therefore need special treatment, like a veto power over all Knesset decisions, etc. This is not a demand for ‘civil rights’: it implies that Israel is not a legitimate state and should be replaced by an Arab state.
Arab Member of the Israeli Knesset Ahmed Tibi, speaking to the Fatah convention in Bethlehem this week, expressed the point of view clearly:
Speaking of Arabs like himself who have Israeli citizenship, Tibi said: “We are an inseparable part of the Palestinian people, we are the original residents of the place and we will never leave it. We are the owners of these lands and we are not guests… Let he who arrived last leave first.”
Israel, he said must not only freeze the settlements in Judea and Samaria but dismantle them. There will be no peace “as long as there are settlers,” he said. “The land must be clean of settlers,” he then proclaimed, “because the settlements are a cancerous growth on the body of the Palestinians.” He received loud applause as he added: “Get out of the Palestinian lands, get out of our souls!” — IsraelNN
This is a good example of what I call the “two (Arab) state solution”: a racist apartheid state of Palestine in which Jews are not permitted to live, next door to an ‘Israel’ with an Arab — but not a Jewish — right of return, an ‘equal’ distribution of power between Jews and Arabs, and national symbols suitable for a ‘state of its citizens’.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, often referred to in the Western press as an extremist or worse, responded sharply:
“Our central problem is not the Palestinians but Ahmed Tibi and ilk – they are more dangerous than Hamas and [Islamic] Jihad combined,” Lieberman said…
Lieberman said that whoever listened to the Fatah conference understood that the problem was not the words of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but rather Tibi’s speech.
“Tibi’s speech is in total contradiction to the Declaration of Independence that talks about the renewal of the Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael. Ahmed Tibi and his ilk are Israel’s true problem. The country has to decide whether it is a democracy that will defend itself, or a suicidal one.” — Jerusalem Post
Unfortunately, Lieberman — who proposed the controversial ‘loyalty oath’ for Israeli citizens — is not extreme in worrying about the radicalization of the Arab minority. Americans need to understand that their analogies to African-American civil rights do not work here. At some point, one of the following must occur:
- The Arab citizens of Israel will accept the idea of living in a Jewish state
- The state of Israel will stop being a Jewish state — and soon become an Arab one
- There will be a civil war, and one side will kick the other out amid great bloodshed
The compromises suggested by the Left and the Right — that there is a solution in the framework of civil rights that will satisfy the Arabs without ending the state’s Jewish character, or that the Arabs can be paid to migrate to the soon-to-be-created state of ‘Palestine’ — are unrealistic.
So which will it be?