The so-called Arab Spring unleashed forces that have been dormant for a century.
Like their counterparts throughout the region, Israel’s Arabic-speaking
minorities are changing in profound ways. But our leaders fail to grasp the
implications of what is happening.
Consider the Christian
Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth,
has become the symbol of this new period. Nadaf is the spiritual leader of an
Israeli Christian movement calling for Israeli Christian youth to serve in the
IDF. He is responsible for the 300 percent rise in Christian Arab enlistment in
the IDF in the past year.
Nadaf does not hide his goal or his
His seeks the full integration of Israel’s 130,000 Christians
into Israeli society. He views military service as the key to that
Nadaf is motivated to act by the massive persecution of
Christians throughout the Arab world since the onset of the Arab revolutionary
wave in December 2010.
As he explained in a recent interview with Channel
1, it is “in light of what we see happening to Christians in Arab countries, how
they are slaughtered and persecuted on a daily basis, killed and raped just
because they are Christians.
Does this happen in the State of Israel? No,
Shahdi Halul, a reserve captain in the Paratroopers who
works with Nadaf, declared, “Every Christian in the State of Israel should join
the army and defend this country so it will exist forever. Because if, God
forbid, the government is overthrown here, as it was in other places, we will be
the first to suffer.”
These men, and their supporters, are the natural
result of the most significant revolutionary development of the so-called Arab
Spring: the demise of Arab nationalism.
As Ofir Haivry, vice president of
the Herzl Institute, explained in an important article in the Mosaic online
magazine, Arab nationalism was born in pan-Arabism – an invention of European
powers during World War I that sought to endow the post-Ottoman Middle East with
a new identity.
The core of the new identity was the Arabic language. The
religious, tribal, ethnic and nationalist aspirations of the peoples of the
Arabic- speaking region were to be smothered and replaced by a new pan-Arab
For the Christians of the former Ottoman Empire, pan-Arabism
was a welcome means of getting out from under the jackboot of the Islamic Laws
of Omar, which reduce non-Muslims living under Muslim rule to the status of
powerless dhimmis, who survive at the pleasure of their Islamic
But now pan-Arabism lies in ruins from North Africa to the
Arabian Peninsula. The people of the region have gone back to identifying
themselves by tribe, religion, ethnicity, and in the case of the Kurds and the
Berbers, non-Arab national identity. In this new era, Christians find themselves
imperiled, with few if any protectors or allies to be found.
notes, Israel’s central strategic challenge has always been contending with
pan-Arabism, which was invented at the same time that the nations of the world
embraced modern Zionism.
Since its inception, pan-Arab leaders always saw
Israel as the scapegoat on which to pin their failure to deliver on
pan-Arabism’s promise of global Arab power and influence.
its position on pan-Arabism drastically over the years. Once, Israel could see
the dangers in pan-Arabism and Arab nationalism.
But since 1993, says
Haivri, Israel’s national strategy has been based on appeasing the secular
authoritarian pan-Arab leaders by offering land for peace to Syria and the
Haivry notes that Shimon Peres is the political godfather of
Israel’s accommodationist strategy, which is rooted in a mix of perceived
powerlessness on the one hand, and utopianism on the other.
The sense of
powerlessness owes to the conviction that Israel cannot influence its
That the Arabs will never change. Israel’s neighbors will
always see themselves primarily as Arabs, and they will always want, more than
anything else, Arab states.
At the same time, the accommodationists hold
the utopian belief that Israeli appeasement of Palestinian Arab nationalism will
break through the wall of pan-Arab rejection, end hatred for the Jewish state,
and even lead the Arabs to invite Israel to join the Arab League.
so-called Arab Spring has put paid to every one of the accommodationists’
beliefs. From Egypt to Tunisia to Iraq to Syria, Israel’s neighbors are fighting
each other as Sunnis, Shi’ites and Salafists, or as members of clans and tribes,
without a thought for the alleged primacy of their Arab identity. What Israel’s
Palestinian-state-obsessed Left has failed to realize is that many of Israel’s
neighbors do not share the pan-Arab scapegoating of the Jewish state. So bribing
the now largely irrelevant Arabs nationalists with another Arab state may do
little more than create the newest victim of the Arab revolutions.
because they see what is happening to their co-religionists in the post-pan-Arab
Middle East that more and more Israeli Christians realize they will lead safer,
more prosperous and more fulfilling lives as Christian citizens in the Middle East’s only democracy than as pan-Arabs battling the Zionist menace.
old habits die hard. Most of Israel’s elected Arab leaders owe their positions
to their embrace of pan-Arabism. This embrace has brought them the support of
the PLO and Europe, and since 1993, of the Israeli Left.
And so, since he
first appeared on the scene, Father Nadaf’s life has been constantly
Everyone from Arab members of Knesset to the Communist head
of the Greek Orthodox Council has incited against him, calling him and his
followers traitors to the Palestinian Arab nation.
He also threatens the
Israeli Left. For its view of Israel’s strategic powerlessness and consequent
need to appease its neighbors to remain relevant, the pan-Arab forces in the
Arab world must be perceived as still dominant, even invincible.
the Israeli Left refuses to consider the larger strategic implications of the
regional upheaval from which Nadaf’s initiative emerged.
Even worse, the
official policy of the Netanyahu government appears based on this irrelevant
Leftist view of the region. This is the implication of Foreign Minister Avigdor
Liberman’s defeatist speech at the Foreign Ministry’s annual conference of
ambassadors on Sunday.
Liberman’s speech has been rightly viewed as the
supposedly right-wing politician’s formal break with his ideological camp and
his embrace of the Left. In his remarks Liberman let it be known, that like the
Left, he now bases his positions on a complete denial or avoidance of
For this, he was congratulated for his “maturity” by Peres who
was sitting on the stage with him.
In his speech, Liberman acknowledged
that the Obama administration’s peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians is
horrible for Israel. But, he said, it is better than the European Union’s peace
Never considering the possibility of saying no to both, Liberman
said he thinks we should accept the bad American deal. His only condition is
that he insists that the PLO accept towns in the Galilee and their 300,000
Israeli Arab residents.
Liberman’s surrender of the Galilee is a key
component to his population swap plan. Under his plan, Israel would retain
control over the fraction of Judea and Samaria in which large numbers of Israeli
Jews live, in exchange for the area of the Galilee that is home to 300,000
Israeli Arabs. This plan has reportedly been presented to US Secretary of State
John Kerry as an official Israeli position.
In other words, the Netanyahu
government has failed to recognize the implications of the death of pan-Arabism.
In maintaining their slavish devotion to the two-state formula, and viewing the
Arabs in the Galilee, Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and surrounding states as an
impenetrable bloc, they are placing Israel’s future in the hands of actors who
have already disappeared or will soon disappear. Instead of building alliances
with non-Jewish citizens of Israel, such as Druse and Christians, who are more
than happy to defend Israel against Islamists and other regional fanatics, the
Netanyahu government insists on placing the state’s future in the hands of
pan-Arabs whose grip on power is slipping and who would never willingly coexist
with Israel anyway.
Nadaf and his followers respond to the allegation –
uttered by MKs like Haneen Zoabi and Basel Ghattas, among others – that they are
traitors to the Palestinian Arab nation, with contempt.
tells me, ‘We’re all Arabs,’ I tell him, ‘No, we’re not all Arabs. You’re an
Arab. I’m not,’” Halul told Channel 1.
Samer Jozin, whose daughter
Jennifer opted for IDF service instead of medical school,
“Telling me I’m a Palestinian is a curse. I’m, thank God, an
Israeli Christian and proud of it. And I thank God I was born in the Land
of Israel,” he said.
The message couldn’t be clearer. We are basing our
national strategy on a world that no longer exists.
Today our longtime
allies the Kurds have carved out virtually independent states for themselves in
Iraq and Syria.
Christians throughout the region are on the run. The
Druse of Syria and Lebanon are exposed, without protection, and looking for
As for the Muslims, as Haivry notes, they are fragmented along
sectarian and political lines, and at war with one another in battlefields
throughout the region. While so engaged, they have little time to devote to
blaming Israel for their failures.
This state of affairs has implications
for Israel’s Arab Muslim minority. None of the regional warring Muslim camps are
natural homes for Israel’s Muslim community. A community that has lived in an
open, free society for 65 years does not naturally turn to Salafism. Israel is a
much easier fit for most Israeli Muslims.
At a minimum, no one is better
off if Israel forces them to cast their lot with any of the warring factions in
Syria or Lebanon, or the increasingly irrelevant forces in the Palestinian
There may very well be hundreds of Muslim versions of Father
Nadaf just waiting for a signal from our government that we want them to lead
their community into our society.
The post-pan-Arab Middle East exposes
the truth that has been obscured for a century. The Jews and their Jewish state
are a natural component of our diverse neighborhood, just like the Kurds, the
Christians, the Druse, the various Muslim sects, and the Arabs. The demise of
pan-Arabism is our great opportunity, at home and regionally, to build the
alliances we need to survive and prosper. But so long as our leaders insist on
clinging to the now irrelevant dream of appeasing the defunct pan-Arabists, we
will lose these opportunities and convince our allies that we are treacherous,
disloyal and temporary.
Caroline Glick’s new book, The Israeli Solution:
A One State Plan for Peace in the Middle East
, is due out on March 4.
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