Breaking point

Because Israel by definition is the state of the Jews, I am condemned to being a perpetual outsider.

Demonstrators protest against the wedding of Mahmoud Mansour, a Muslim, and Moral Malka, who converted from Judaism to Islam, in Rishon Lezion, August 17. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Demonstrators protest against the wedding of Mahmoud Mansour, a Muslim, and Moral Malka, who converted from Judaism to Islam, in Rishon Lezion, August 17.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
THE LATEST war between Israel and Gaza, it seems, is over. But my private war will probably go on indefinitely.
No one will deal with it the way they deal with conventional wars.
There are no manuals for my kind of war in the theories of warfare – the war against exclusion, alienation, persecution and incitement.
The moment the fighting started in Gaza, war was declared on me. I immediately became an enemy of the people, an Israel- hater, a fifth column, despised and outcast.
I, the undersigned, am an Israeli citizen. I was born here and imbibed Israeli culture.
Ambitious and highly motivated, I always wanted to do well. From my earliest childhood I understood the importance of excellence as a condition for breaking through the barriers.
I became a success story in a society that is virtually closed to people like me. I am, after all, a Palestinian Arab. For this, along with my professional success as a journalist and broadcaster, I paid a heavy price. For the most part, however, I was able to cope.
Until this cruel and accursed war, and its tragic consequences for both sides. The Palestinians, part of my people, suffered huge casualties, most of whom had nothing to do with the fighting. Their only crime was being on the Hamas side of the border. In my book: innocents – babies, children, women, ordinary people.
On the other side, Israeli civilians, especially in the south, took rocket hits. Their only crime was living in range of the rockets and mortars. They faced inhuman conditions with only 15 seconds to take cover.
Given these humanitarian horrors, the Arab population in Israel, myself among them, expressed our opposition to the war. We argued that there is no military solution and that a political process would be preferable to war. We also declared our pain at the tragic number of victims, especially children. I added my identification with the suffering of the citizens in the south and my support for Israel’s right to defend itself.
It didn’t help. Large numbers of Jewish Israelis launched an unmitigated attack against me and my people in Israel. It included racist slogans and boycott calls. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman took the lead with a call to boycott Arab businesses because of a solidarity strike with our innocent Palestinian brothers. This was a declaration of war with echoes of apartheid South Africa and European anti-Semitism.
The social media poured fuel on the flames. It was venomous, fascist and racist, with calls for “death to the Arabs” and “Arabs to the gas chambers.”
Some people were fired from their jobs; others had their movements followed.
Bottom line: What the Gaza war showed is that most Israeli Jews don’t want us here. Calls for the “transfer” of Arabs from Israel, once the preserve of the political fringes, moved toward the mainstream.
Since the establishment of the state in 1948, we, Arab-Palestinian- Israelis, have maintained a highly disciplined citizenship. It is hard to imagine a national minority that, under the same circumstances, would have behaved as well. Around 99 percent of us never did anything that could harm the security of the state.
We wanted to integrate, to become part and parcel of mainstream Israeli society. All we demanded was equality. And we dreamt of peace. We never subordinated our identification or sense of belonging to our Palestinian component. We never betrayed our Israeliness, despite being rejected again and again.
My war will probably never end. This is because Israel by definition is the state of the Jews, and I, therefore, am condemned to being a perpetual outsider.
It doesn’t matter what I do or how I conduct myself. In the eyes of the Israeli majority I will always remain an enemy: I, who always speak about Israel’s compassion, morality, justice and democracy; I, who am horrified by the dark chapter the Jews experienced at the hands of the Nazis during World War II.
I always expected they would treat me with humanity – not demonization.
Instead, they are waging a cruel war against us, from which morality is totally divorced.
Zouheir Bahloul is a veteran broadcaster in Hebrew and Arabic, and director of the sports department of the Arabic A-Shams Radio.