Israelis demonstrate against Assad 390.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In recent weeks, the Israeli media has been posing the challenging question of
why we are not hearing any condemnations from the leadership of the Israeli
Arabs in general, and the Arab MKs in particular, of the massacre that is being
carried out by Syrian President Bashar Assad against his own people.
question is usually accompanied by the statement that while Israeli Arabs
protested vehemently about the killing of 13 Israeli Arabs by Israeli security
forces during the “Land Day” demonstration of October 2000, they apparently have
nothing to say about over 6,000 Syrians killed in Syria – most of them civilians
killed by forces loyal to Assad.
This whole issue is not as
straightforward as it might seem at first sight. In the first place, it is not
fair to compare someone’s reaction to his own sons being killed by the security
forces of the state of which they are citizens – “the only democracy in the
Middle East” – to the killing of hundred and even thousands of citizens in
neighboring states, none of which are democracies.
Arab-language media in Israel have been dealing with the issue extensively ever
since the demonstrations in Syria began, and most of the Israeli Arab leaders
have expressed – in Arabic – support for the uprising of the Syrian people, and
have condemned what they refer to openly as a massacre, for which they blame
Assad, who they say must go. Most of the Arab leadership has strongly condemned
Russia for supporting Assad, supports the position of the Arab League, and is
opposed to any direct foreign military intervention in Syria.
not mean that the whole Israeli Arab community has condemned Assad, or supports
the opposition. One Arab MK very candidly told me last week that especially
among the older generation of Israeli Arabs, there are many who are not
committed to human rights as a basic value, and prefer stability to the unknown,
which leads them to sympathize with Assad.
Part of the blame for the
Israeli media not being informed about the positions of the Arab MKs on the
issue is that the latter have generally declined to participate in talk shows,
or to be interviewed live on what is going on in Syria. The reason for this is
that they are sick and tired of being placed in these shows and interviews in
the position of defendants, and not being given an honest chance to express
In general, the Arab MKs have distanced themselves in
recent years from the Hebrew media to the extent of issuing most of their press
releases in Arabic. They have reached this decision on the basis of their
perception that the Israeli media is simply not interested in reporting
objectively on what is going on within the Arab sector, and prefer to
concentrate on their Arab-speaking constituents – those who vote for
Their feeling is not unsubstantiated. It has been noted that the
Hebrew media has gradually limited the scope of reporting on Israeli Arab
affairs (including Druse affairs), and that many reporters in this field have
simply moved on elsewhere. The media in general is mostly interested in negative
stories on the Arab sector, such as increasing violence and growing number of
murders in Arab towns and villages.
All this should be seen within the
context of the growing radicalization of large sections of the Israeli Arab
population and leadership in the past two decades. The origin of this
radicalization is not only the result of continued discrimination in almost all
walks of life (education, housing, employment etc.), and deliberate exclusion
from the Israeli mainstream, but also a reaction to their changing national
self-perceptions following the first intifada and Israel’s increasingly
oppressive policy against the Palestinians in the West Bank, and to social and
political trends within Jewish society.
It is quite amazing that the
situation hasn’t exploded, though this does not exclude a future explosion. What
can be done about the situation, given the fact that a solution of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict appears to be more distant than ever, and an
ever-growing number of Israeli Jews do not believe that Israel’s Arabs should
have equal rights or should be integrated into the Israeli society (unless they
turn into Zionists), is a question that has no clear answer.
realistic solution is to offer every Palestinian family west of the River Jordan
(there are around one million of them) $250,000 or $350,000 to leave the
country. But that is already another issue altogether.The writer
teaches at the Max Stern Jezreel Valley College and was a Knesset employee for