Some Jewish students protested that the national anthem, Hatikvah, was not sung at the recent graduation ceremony of the Faculty of Law at Haifa University, as is customary (a Hebrew news item is here).
“Even at kindergarten graduations they sing Hatikvah,” a student said. “We were asked to stand to release balloons, but not to sing the national anthem,” he added.
The University has only said they are investigating the matter, but students suggest that the increased enrollment of Arab students is the reason. Many Arab citizens of Israel find the national anthem, the flag, and indeed the idea that Israel is a “Jewish state” objectionable.
These attitudes are reflected in the statements and actions of Arab members of the Knesset. Some, like Haneen Zouabi, are simply anti-state. In other countries, their actions might result in prosecution for treason. We could call Zouabi an ‘extremist’, but unfortunately her extremism is shared by a majority of Israeli Arabs (most prefer to call themselves ‘Palestinian citizens of Israel’ today):
According to a new survey by Haifa University, nearly two thirds of the Arab citizens of Israel believe Jews are a foreign imprint on the Middle East and are destined to be replaced by Palestinians. A similar number believes that Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish state. The 2010 Arab Jewish Relations Survey, compiled by Professor Sami Smoocha in collaboration with the Jewish-Arab Center at the University of Haifa, presents what its authors describe as a worrying decline in relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel over the past decade…
Among Arabs, 71 percent said they blamed Jews for the hardships suffered by Palestinians during and after the ‘Nakba’ in 1948. The survey also found that the percentage of Arabs taking part in ‘Nakba Day’ commemorations rose from 13 percent in 2003 to 36 percent in 2010. In addition, 38 percent of Arabs polled in the survey said they did not believe that millions of Jews had been victims in the Holocaust.
Arabs constitute about 20% of Israeli citizens. Note that this does not include residents of Judea, Samaria, eastern Jerusalem and the Golan (residents of the latter two had the option to accept Israeli citizenship but most declined).
Advocates for Israeli Arabs often claim that they do not have full civil rights. Although there are some benefits that they do not receive (for example, veterans’ benefits, since most do not serve in the army), they have full rights to vote and elect people like Zouabi to the Knesset, to employment and government-supported education, etc. It’s often pointed out that there is massive tax evasion in the Arab community, as well as mismanagement and corruption by local officials in Arab towns.
The question, however, is not one of civil rights. Even if every bit of ‘discrimination’ were removed from Israeli society — and I hate to use this word, reminiscent as it is of the civil rights movement in America which in no way resembles the situation in Israel — there would still be the ‘problem’ that Israel is a Jewish state with a Jewish flag and national anthem, as well as a Law of Return for Jews and not for Arabs.
There is simply no solution for Palestinian Arab nationalism within a Jewish state. And since nationalist feelings are growing, the conflict will get worse, not better.
There are those who are prepared to give up the idea of a Jewish state in favor of some kind of ‘democratic’ or binational state. There is no such successful state in the Middle East. The only officially multinational state in the region, Lebanon, has been a disaster — in my opinion because of Arab culture and Muslim ideology.
These options are even less practical for Israel, and I believe that their proponents are either disingenuous or incredibly naive. Such a state would be unstable, resulting either in another Arab state or a bloody civil war (or both). Even if it could be viable, it would be a tragedy, signifying the end of Zionism, and probably the end of the Jews as a distinct people.
Israel’s Jews need to face this issue head on. In the long run, this issue is potentially more dangerous to Jewish survival than an Iranian bomb.