Jewish, Arab conflict not symmetrical, but both sides need to douse flames

Most important these days is that all those – from both sides – who want to prevent the situation from deteriorating into a full-scale civil war, should act within their own side to lower the flames.

POLICE OFFICERS clash with protesters during a demonstration in Ramle last week.  (photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
POLICE OFFICERS clash with protesters during a demonstration in Ramle last week.
(photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
The other day I bumped into a right-wing-religious acquaintance, who without any provocation on my part shot a barrage of arguments at me: about the total error in trying to paint a symmetrical picture of the current violent attacks by Israeli-Arabs against Jews, and by Israeli-Jews against Arabs, against the background of the fierce and relentless fighting going on by means of rockets and mortars, on the one hand, and aerial and ground attacks, on the other, between Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza, and Israel.
He argued that while the lynch of an innocent Arab driver in Bat Yam last Wednesday evening by Jewish hooligans (apparently not residents of the city) was certainly a shameful event to be condemned by all of us (and indeed, the event was strongly condemned even by Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich), there is no comparison between the scope and intensity of Arab attacks on Jews, Jewish property and synagogues in mixed cities, which, according to him, are motivated by a general Arab desire to wipe us out of Eretz Yisrael, and local and sporadic Jewish reactions in both mixed cities, and Jewish cities, which are frequented by Arabs.
I protested that I do not argue that a symmetry exists, because the situation is not symmetrical in any sense of the term, and that what is most important these days is that all those – from both sides – who want to prevent the situation from deteriorating into a full-scale civil war, should act within their own side to lower the flames, and act as judicially and sensitively as possible, while the police, with reinforcements from the Border Police, should intervene in the violence and bring those responsible – from both sides – to justice. 
My acquaintance replied that I am naïve, and that the situation requires the intervention of the IDF, which should use its full force against the bastards, because they constitute a real danger to the security of the State of Israel. 
It was only after this verbal confrontation took place that I discovered that my favorite right-wing TV reporter – Amit Segal – was actively promoting this narrative. Segal argues that the internal violence is not a civil struggle between the members of two nations or two religions, Belfast style. “From the beginning of Zionism,” he wrote, “Jews recognized the Arab presence, but Arabs did not recognize the Jewish presence... No Jewish lynch was ever committed, just so, for no reason, against the residents of Arab Haifa, Arab Jaffa, or Arab Ramle. Jews never rioted at the Western Wall against the Arabs on the Temple Mount, only the other way round. And they still dare say that al-Aqsa [Mosque] is in danger. 
“This distorted portrayal of symmetry could draw a toll in human lives: as long as the State of Israel refuses to recognize the situation, it will tarry in the expedition of the army to mixed cities, just as the imposition of the curfew in Lod was tarried. Some time it might be worthwhile to devote some thought to the psychological need for self-reproachment under fire. But not now, there is no time, and there is no symmetry.”
I beg to differ with this presentation of history. In fact, most Jews in Mandatory Palestine did their best to ignore, as much as possible, the presence of the Arabs, even though they were the vast majority of the population in the country. The Arabs, on their part, did not ignore the presence of the Jews and their ambitions, rejected the Zionist endeavor out of hand, and fought against it. It was our good fortune that they made every conceivable mistake along the way, so that we managed to emerge victorious from the bloody struggle.
In the early days of the state, we imposed a draconian military administration on the Arabs that remained in the confines of the State of Israel - those who did not escape or were not expelled by us (as occurred in Lod and Ramle). The military administration lasted until 1966.
Though the situation of Israel’s Arab population, who constitute 20%, has improved since then, and pockets of authentic coexistence have developed in various locations, much too frequently discrimination and inequality are still the name of the game. The Nation-State Law has provided a statutory basis for this approach. In addition, we have delegitimized the Arab-Palestinian Nakba narrative, which describes their memory of what happened to them following our War of Independence, which admittedly they were largely responsible for, but which would not have taken place if we had not insisted on settling and establishing our state here (with the approval of the UN, by force of international law and/or God’s blessing).
TODAY THE overwhelming majority of Israel’s Arab-Palestinian citizens are prepared to accept the reality (they don’t really have any other choice), though they continue to insist on their being given equal civil rights and being allowed to hold on to their Nakba narrative. We are not very cooperative.
At the same time in recent years the Arab society has become extremely violent, and Arab crime organizations seem to have taken over real control of it. Until the current situation, the violence was largely (though not exclusively) directed inwardly, while we have done very little, if anything, to fight the phenomenon. It was just a matter of time that the violence would spill out in our direction. 
Who is involved in the violence? Mostly marginal sections of the younger population. The vast majority of the Arab community is not involved, but just as it is unable to cope with the internal violence, it is finding it difficult to cope with the violence directed against Jews, while Israel’s clumsy and insensitive activities on the Temple Mount, and with regards of the rights of the Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem, simply poured additional fuel into the fire.
As to Jewish violence. I am sure that Amit Segal is not oblivious to the fact that his own father – Hagai Segal – was a member of the erstwhile Jewish Underground of the late 1970s and early 1980s, which engaged in terror against Palestinians, and was planning to blow up the mosques on the Temple Mount (Hagai received a prison sentence for his activities in the organization), so that he should be wary of announcing complete Jewish innocence with regards to planned violence against Arabs-Palestinians.
Though there is no doubt that the number of Jews involved in wanton violence against Arabs is significantly lower than that of Arabs involved in wanton violence against Jews, the identity of the Jews involved is well known, and includes such bodies and groups like La Familia, hilltop youth and Lehava. The activity is openly supported by MK Itamar Ben-Gvir and members of his part. The ideology and activities of all these groups and their supporters is no secret. Is Segal saying that condemning these groups and taking effective measures to stop them should be put off until “sometime” in the future? 
No, we are not speaking of symmetry. We are speaking of a very worrying situation, which must be put an end to as rapidly as possible, by both the Jewish and Arab populations and leadership of this country – preferably in cooperation with each other, and if that is not possible – each one separately.
One thing is certain: neither side is going anywhere, and the choice is between coexistence and constant civil strife. 
 The writer was a researcher in the Knesset Research and Information Center until her retirement, and recently published a book in Hebrew, The Job of the Knesset Member – An Undefined Job, soon to appear in English.