A video clip is making the rounds, showing an Israeli Arab speaking fluent English in a setting sponsored by the right of center Gatestone Institute. Khaled Abu Toameh testifies to his pride in Israeli citizenship and is critical of Palestinians who can't bring themselves to accommodate Israel's existence and make a deal.

He also describes a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel bias of western media, and the difficulties of penetrating them with contrary views.

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The video appeals partly as man bites dog, i.e., Arab supporting Israel, but the man's professional background and presentation are credible. It's worth 25 minutes. Click here..


He provokes some thinking about the costs and benefits of Palestinian rejectionism. 

It appears prominently in the incapacity or unwillingness of Yassir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas to accept deals with Israel offered by Prime Minister Ehud Barak (with the participation of President Bill Clinton) in 2000, and by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008. 

During several years without any formal arena of discussion between leading Palestinians and Israelis, there continues to be Palestinian pronouncements demanding a turning back of history and a number of other points long on their agenda: a capital in Jerusalem and rights of refugees and their descendants. 

There's also a widespread refusal of East Jerusalem Arabs to accept opportunities of Israeli citizenship and to exercise the right of non-citizen residents to vote in municipal elections. 

Among Arabs who are Israeli citizens, there is strong support of extremist opposition parties, who avoid alliance with whatever is the governing coalition. 

A Muslim social scientist has surveyed Israeli Arabs and finds that a majority would fight in behalf of Israel. He has not sought to publish the findings, and notes that he cannot discuss them with most members of his family.

The head of a prominent Palestinian family, has asserted his support for the creation of a Palestinian State, and his preference for living in Israel.

What appears to explain this cluster of phenomenon are traits in the political culture of Palestinians, Israeli Arabs, and perhaps Arabs/Muslims generally that put an emphasis on collective unity and discourage dispute. The contrast is especially sharp with Israeli Jews, whose culture for more than two millennia has tolerated or encouraged dispute on a wide range of issues, including sensitive matters of religious law.

There are both benefits and costs as a result Arab insistence on unity and opposition to Israel.

Arabs may benefit from good feelings of unity and having a narrative of history that justifies assertions of rights and being oppressed,  while Israeli Jews suffer spiritual losses from widespread enmity, including from numerous Jews.

And Arabs suffer material costs while Jews benefit materially from Arab rejectionism.

Material losses to Arabs are considerable. They appear in significantly lower quality of services, both in Arab villages and towns of Israel and the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. Explanations from Arabs and their supporters emphasize the meanness and inequality of Israelis. A more neutral explanation is that the Arabs give up the political leverage available to them by refusing to vote in Jerusalem municipal elections, and by Arab citizens voting heavily for parties that are extreme in their rejection of opportunities to align with largely Jewish political parties.

Benefits come from voting and political alliances. The Arabs of East Jerusalem and Israel forfeit their potential leverage over a larger share of what governments can provide.

There may be spiritual benefits for Arabs in their unity behind rejection of Israel, and pride in being steadfast together in support of an Arab narrative. That the narrative may be severely flawed is of secondary importance to the good feeling it may provide to those purveying it. Major problems are its denial of a Jewish historic presence in Jerusalem, and ignoring the contribution of Arab violence to the results of the 1948 and 1967 wars.

Israeli Jews benefit materially from Arab rejectionism. It's easier to govern when there are no representatives of some 20 percent of the electorate participating in decisions, or--in the case of the Jerusalem Municipality--30 percent or more who see their right to vote as going against a narrative of conquest and oppression. 

And there are budgetary savings associated with residents who stay away from the table where the pie is being distributed. That means more for largely Jewish localities.

There are some spiritual costs associated with international condemnations of inequality and campaigns against alleged Apartheid and in behalf of BDS. So far, however, the material costs of BDS have been negligible. While there are people who accept the Palestinian mantra of oppression, there are many who are indifferent, view this as someone else's fight, or see it as fabrication or gross exaggeration.

None of those spiritual costs have deflected a continued improvement in Israel's economy and the living standards of its citizens (Arabs as well as Jews). While Israelis argue as to how secure they are in the context of Iranian, Hezbollah, Hamas, and other sources of enmity, along with individual attacks from West Bank Palestinians, there are contrary indications of improved relations, including political and military cooperation with Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Israeli Jews can wonder if their degree of suffering from the Palestinian narrative and being on the outs of what is politically correct in various segments of world opinion is anywhere close to Jews' historic problems with the goyim, or if they provide yet another reason for Jews to cry on the way to the bank.

Israeli Arabs may recognize the quality of their services and political opportunities, generally greater than those of cousins in Muslim-ruled societies, even while they accept some or all of the narrative describing them as an underprivileged minority in their own land.

There's been an increase in Palestinian violence since Trump's announcement about Jerusalem. However, it was an Arab surgeon who operated on the Air Force pilot injured as part of a recent attack on Syria. And it was an Arab journalist who reported on the pilot's condition on a prime time news program.

Comments welcome
 
-- 
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem


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