Israel-Arab society undergoing Islamization, expert says

“The phenomenon of Arabs joining Islamic State represents the outcome of several causes, with the first being the strengthening of the northern faction of the Islamic Movement,” says scholar.

March 23, 2016 07:20
3 minute read.
An Israeli Arab demonstrator holds a Palestinian flag during a protest in Nazareth

An Israeli Arab demonstrator holds a Palestinian flag during a protest in Nazareth, Israel's largest Arab town. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Radicalization is having an increasing impact on Israeli Arabs who more and more are identifying themselves as Palestinians, according to experts speaking at a conference organized by the Konrad Adenauer program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation in Israel.

“The phenomenon of Arabs joining Islamic State represents the outcome of several causes, with the first being the strengthening of the northern faction of the Islamic Movement,” Elie Rekhess, a top scholar of Arabs in Israel and the current crown visiting professor in Israel Studies at Northwestern University, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday evening.

“The northern faction of the movement is a dogmatic one and the distance to becoming militant is short,” he said.

“It also reflects the frustration and disenchantment of the younger generation with government policies toward the Arab sector, inequality and what they see as discrimination,” added Rekhess, who formerly was a research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University and head of the Konrad Adenauer program.

Thirdly, he attributes the radicalization of some Arab youth to the wider global wave of radical Islam, which is partly a response to the ailments of the present day Muslim and Arab world.

Arik Rudnitzky, the current project manager of the Konrad Adenauer Program, discussed the Palestinian nationalist discourse and its ideological trends, citing data from Prof.

Sammy Smooha of the University of Haifa that the Arab sector’s Palestinian identity has been growing in recent years.

In 2015, nearly 26 percent identified as Palestinian compared to just over 5.5% in 2003.

Thirty-six percent identified as Israeli Arab and 37% as Palestinians in Israel.

Rehkess pointed out that it is difficult for Israel to block radicalization online and in social media, and asked about the radical behavior by some Arab parties, he asserted that Balad was behaving most radically.

During his lecture, he noted the Palestinization of the Arab community over time and how Arab politicians are seeking to internationalize the conflict, such as by traveling to lobby in Washington and at the UN in Switzerland.

Nohad Ali, a sociologist from the University of Haifa and Western Galilee College who is an expert on Israeli-Arab affairs, said Arabs in Israel feel threatened by Jews, but added that Islamic State, is also the Arab community’s enemy.

Shlomo Daskal, a researcher of Arab media in Israel, said internal criticism of Arab MKs and other aspects of society can be found on the AShams Israeli- Arab radio station.

The station tells the Arab narrative, emphasizing, “We are Palestinians,” and does not use the term “Israeli Arab,” though many of those calling into the program do.

Twenty percent of the interviews on the station are in Hebrew, and Dascal noted that the interview of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2014 on the station was promoted heavily, signifying that there was some sense of satisfaction in the achievement.

Ali also cited data from a study he carried out on the number of Arabs in Israeli universities, that determined that their numbers are very low when it comes students studying for advanced degrees or in faculty and administrative staff.

For example, at the University of Haifa in 2014, just 4% of the faculty was Arab, as were 1% at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in the northern city and 3% at Bar- Ilan University in Ramat Gan.

He also indicated that approximately half of Arab university students study outside of the country, stating that a year’s tuition in Jordan is the equivalent of NUS 111.

Zionist Union MKs Tzipi Livni and Zouheir Bahloul also attended the event at Tel Aviv University, with Bahloul, saying Islamic State would view him as an infidel because he considers himself secular.

“There is a need to unite” to defeat Islamic State, he said.

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