Israeli Arabs at protest in Jaffa R 390.
(photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
Thankfully, the talkback below on The Jerusalem Post’s website was not
representative of the flood of sympathetic messages following last week’s tragic
road accident in which five Palestinian schoolchildren and one of their teachers
were killed when their school bus collided with a truck on a wet road north of
Jerusalem: “ ...given the hateful indoctrination toward Jews which arab [sic]
children receive from birth, the likely result of this accident is there will be
10 fewer rock throwing, stabbing or shooting arab terrorists to endanger Jewish
On the other hand, “ge co” (the cowardly writer of this
reprehensible talkback did not have the guts to identify him/herself) was not
the only person with such racist feelings. Slogans, posted by viewers, such as
“Death to Arabs, why do we help them?” or “Can we send another truck” could be
found on the Facebook pages of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the Wallah
website and that of the Israel Police.
Within Israel and the Jewish
world, we have countless institutes set up to monitor anti-Semitism.
seems that every time a Jewish building is daubed with anti-Semitic graffiti,
either the government or some major Jewish organization is quick to condemn it
and demand an investigation.
And yet here in the Jewish state, racist
outpourings against the 20 percent of Israeli citizens who are not Jewish, or
our Palestinian neighbors, goes unnoticed and unpunished. We have media watchdog
organizations that frenetically search the Arab media for evidence of
anti-Semitism, but the hateful anti-Arab racism that can be found daily in
talkbacks on the major Hebrew-language websites and, regrettably, that of the
too, at times, is simply shrugged away.
As a child I was
taught “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me.” As
we all know, that’s not the case.
Words create an environment that can be
harmful in the extreme, and the continuous drip of racist poison into the public
arena leads to a casual acceptance of “they’re only Arabs, they deserve
I’M NOT talking here about the despicable “price tag” phenomenon in
the West Bank, which has its roots in the disastrous effects the occupation has
had on Israeli society and the lethal combination of religious fanaticism and
unbridled nationalism that typifies much of the settlement
Rather, I’m concerned about the majority’s casual acceptance of
how one-fifth of Israeli society are marked out for “special treatment” in
activities that most Israelis take for granted.
Nobody enjoys the
security questioning at airports, particularly post-9/11. But for Israeli Arabs
flying from Ben-Gurion Airport, or flying back home to Israel via El Al, the
questioning takes on a different dimension altogether. It seems the airline
security officials are unaware of Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) security
chief Yoram Cohen’s recent public lecture in which he said: “As a community,
Arab Israelis are not a target of Shin Bet. They are not a fifth column and we
do not view them as such.”
That’s not how Yara Mashour, editor of the
Nazareth-based women’s magazine Lilac, feels after her recent brush with El Al
security guards in Madrid. “As soon as they realized we were Arabs, they
immediately separated us from the other passengers.
Three security people
started asking us questions. At first, we considered it to be routine, but it
went on and on.” Then, the guards separated each member of the party and
demanded that Mashour follow the security agents to another part of the airport
for a body search.
It was at this point that Mashour gave up, and chose
to reschedule her flight and return to Israel via Istanbul and a Turkish
airline. As Mashour noted, “In Turkey we went through the usual check and
amazingly, the plane reached Israel safely and did not blow up.”
Mashour, a high-profile Israeli Arab, can be treated in this way, it’s clear
that other Israeli-Arab travelers will also suffer similar humiliations and
receive a reminder that they are second-class citizens each time they seek to
leave or travel to the country that is their home.
In his Tel Aviv
lecture, Shin Bet head Cohen noted that the involvement of Israeli-Arabs “in
terror is not great.... The problems with Arab Israelis are complex, but they
are not security problems.
They are alienation, integration, employment,
poor municipal management, crime and drugs.”
These problems are indeed
complex and will not be solved overnight. But the first step to ending the
alienation felt by Israel’s Arab citizens is to stamp out the casual racism that
is so prevalent in Israel: in the discourse on mainstream websites, in chants on
the soccer terraces and at Ben-Gurion Airport. No country can claim to be
successful if 20% of its population feels, with good reason, that they are
treated as second-class citizens by the majority.The writer is a former
The Jerusalem Post.