lieberman zoabi 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Israel Democracy Institute’s annual survey of sentiments toward democracy
among Israelis, released this week, revealed disturbing levels of Jewish
intolerance toward Arab Israelis.
For instance, 53 percent of the Jewish
public said that the state was entitled to encourage Arabs to emigrate from
Israel; 55% said that Jewish municipalities should receive more state funding
than Arab municipalities; 46% admitted to being bothered by the possibility of
having Arabs as neighbors.
Prof. Tamar Herman, a senior research fellow
at IDI, noted that the Arab-Jewish conflict is the most problematic cultural
divide in society, which “casts a shadow on Israel’s democratic
Knesset Deputy Speaker and former cabinet minister Ghaleb
Majadle (Labor), a Muslim Arab, said the survey results “should be a warning
light for the leaders and opinion makers in Israel.”
Arab Israelis cannot
be absolved from their share of responsibility for Jews’ negative attitudes. As
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman pointed out, leading Arab figures such as
fugitive former MK Azmi Bishara and Union of Arab Community-Based Associations
director Amir Mahoul have reportedly spied for Hizbullah, while MK Haneen Zoabi
helped support Hamas by participating in the Mari Marmara’s attempt to break
Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
Indeed, Arab Israelis’ potential political
power is often squandered on demagogic Israel-bashing and support for
Palestinian extremism instead of focused on the practical improvement of Israeli
Arabs’ standing in society. The three Arab parties and their 11 MKs are
increasingly situated beyond the ideological pale, and thus have ever less
effective political influence.
In addition, a series of political
initiatives – such as A Future Vision, A Democratic Constitution, The Haifa
Declaration, and An Egalitarian Constitution – launched in recent years by the
Arab-Israeli intellectual elites to end discrimination, have made
unrealistically radical demands on Israel such as the repeal of the Law of
Return, the demotion of Hebrew from the official language to an official
language alongside Arabic, and the revising of practically every aspect of
Israeli existence – starting, on the “symbolic level,” with the name “Israel”
itself, the national anthem Hatikva, and the Israeli flag with its Star of
David, and ending, on the “practical level,” with the return of Arabs to
villages deserted by their families in 1948 and the restitution of lands
expropriated for Jewish use.
Even the positive rise in Arab Israelis
volunteering for National Service – 1,517 this year and even more expected next
year – has been stymied, sometimes with threats, by Sheikh Raed Salah and others
affiliated with his wing of the Islamic Movement. All of this anti-Zionist
activism by some in the Arab Israeli minority comes against the backdrop of
Israel’s ongoing conflict with the Arab states and hundreds of millions of Arab
and Muslim neighbors.
DESPITE THIS state of affairs, the IDI survey found
that most Jews still adhered to liberal views on issues such as freedom of
speech. Fifty-four percent of the Jewish public oppose legislation that would
penalize anyone who speaks out against Zionism and 50% agree that it is
important to allow non-Zionist political parties to participate in elections.
And Israel endeavors to foster equality, at least in areas of policy that are
regulated by legislation, such as health insurance, child allotments and social
Undoubtedly, there is plenty of room for
State funding still discriminates against the Arab
municipalities and the Arab school system, though it has improved significantly
in recent years.
And Arab Israelis are underrepresented in the public
sector, not just because of security concerns.
But Arab Israelis must
also change their attitude toward Israel. They cannot expected to become Zionist
patriots. But it should still be possible to strike a democratic bargain – one
whereby Israel would undertake to carry out a wide range of anti-discrimination
programs to make up for years of neglect, and Israeli Arabs, for their part,
would choose leaders willing to accept minority status and work within the
framework of a Jewish, democratic state rather than seek to overthrow it. If
such an arrangement could be reached, the vast majority of Jewish Israelis would
be significantly more tolerant of their fellow Arab citizens.
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