Who is really looking out for coexistence between Jews and Arabs?

The Beduin community voting for the nationalist camp parties represents a long-standing partnership of ideologies and shared fates.

PEOPLE HOLD up peace signs. But who wants peace more – Israel or the Palestinians? (photo credit: REUTERS)
PEOPLE HOLD up peace signs. But who wants peace more – Israel or the Palestinians?
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In the recent elections, the high voter turnout for the Likud Party came from some unexpected sources. In the Beduin village of Arab al-Na’im located in the north of Israel, the Likud received 76 percent of the votes, while the Joint Arab List received only 15%. To many Israelis, the Beduin community voting for the nationalist camp parties may seem perplexing, but in fact it represents a long-standing partnership of ideologies and shared fates.
The partnership and reciprocity between the Beduin community and the Zionist enterprise began somewhere back in the ‘30s, when the bonds between the head of the “Hashomer” organization, Alexander Zaïd, and the Ka’abiyah family were forged and strengthened. This continued in the form of the Beduin and Jewish warriors who fought together in the British patrol battalions guarding Israel’s borders from Nazi invasion in the Sinai theater, and in the Palmach company founded by the Heib family from the Tuba village. Additional examples of the security relationship and shared fate between the Beduin and Zionist communities are the strong relationship between Yigal Alon and the Galilee Beduin, who assisted in forming the minorities and trackers’ unit, who open and close Israel’s borders every morning and evening, as well as the IDF’s desert reconnaissance unit, currently active.
The relationship is not merely security-military in nature, but goes much farther. The fact cannot be ignored that it was the Israeli parties who helped the Beduin community with its special needs. Arab al-Na’im was an unrecognized village until 1999, when the Likud ensured that the village’s status would be changed, bringing in infrastructure and government services. The villagers have not forgotten, and would vote for the Likud even if there were 10 Joint Arab Lists and 20 Ayman Odehs.
Another example that can’t go unmentioned is the strong relationship between prime minister Ariel Sharon and the Beduin community. Sharon, a son of the desert, strongly connected with the Beduin, and always made sure not to miss a community holiday or day of celebration. Sharon was also greatly appreciated by the community, especially by the Beduin in the south of Israel, who would receive him in a princely manner.
These are all examples of relations between the Beduin community and the State of Israel, its institutions and society. This relationship is growing deeper and tighter, despite inciting elements in Beduin and Arab society who call on the Beduin to step away from this relationship.
Today, only Zionist parties can meet the special needs of the Beduin community. Only Zionist parties can look out for the Beduin youth, because the benefits and conditions granted to discharged soldiers, or young people who want to integrate themselves into Israeli society, will never be promoted by anti-Zionist Arab parties, who may call for coexistence and integration but in reality strive to create a rift. This brings us to the situation at hand, where Arab youth have a very hard time integrating themselves into Israeli society, both in the business as well as the social aspects. If Ayman Odeh and his friends were really concerned for the Beduin and Arab youth, as they claim they are, we would see real attempts to foster tighter coexistence between the different populations in society.
An example of this is that just this past week, the Lobby for Encouraging and Promoting the Enlistment of Minorities into the IDF and the Civil Service was founded, by members of the “Im Tirtzu” movement, and headed by a Likud MK (Miki Zohar) and a Kulanu MK (Merav Ben-Ari). Needless to say, of course, the Arab MKs strenuously object to the enlistment of minorities into the IDF, thereby distancing even further the relations between Jews and Arabs, distancing even further the coexistence in whose name they are supposedly acting. And thus, the Arab MKs continue to talk, sow division and cause damage, while the nationalist camp takes action and leads a historical change, bringing minorities and wider Israeli society closer.

The author is a Beduin and a Zionist, an activist for encouraging minority enlistment in the Israel Defense Forces and for minority integration into Israeli society.