Israel’s Arab Citizens And The Jewish State
28 Feb, 2007
As another sign of the growing power of Global Jihad, Israel's Arab minority has rejected the idea of Israel as a Jewish state. In a manifesto, "The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel", drafted by 40 academics and activists under the sponsorship of the Committee of Arab Mayors in Israel and endorsed by an unprecedented range of Arab community leaders, Arab leaders have declared that Israel is a bi-national state and Arabs are an indigenous group with collective rights, not just individual rights.
- They couldn’t be wrong more.
- Blinded by their anti-Semitism, Arabs ignored the fact that neither are they an indigenous group nor is the Jewish nationhood is a new phenomenon in Palestine; the Jewish nation was born during 40 years of wandering in the Sinai more than five thousand years ago and has remained connected with Palestine ever since. “Even after the destruction of the last Jewish commonwealth in the first century, the Jewish people maintained their own autonomous political and legal institutions: the Davidic dynasty was preserved in Baghdad until the thirteenth century through the rule of the Exilarch (Resh Galuta), while the return to Zion was incorporated into the most widely practiced Jewish traditions, including the end of the Yom Kippur service and the Passover Seder, as well as in everyday prayers. Thus, Jewish historic rights were kept alive in Jewish historical consciousness.” http://www.jcpa.org/jl/vp507.htm
Palestinian Arabs, on the other hand, never had a separate identity. They always thought of themselves as Arabs rather than as Palestinians. It is a matter of record that the Arabs owe their presence in Palestine to the Ottomans who settled Muslim populations as a buffer against Bedouin attacks and Ibrahim Pasha, the Egyptian ruler who brought Egyptian colonists with his army in the 1830s. And during all those times when Arabs lived under the Ottoman rule, they never showed any desire for national independence. According to Bernard Lewis, “From the end of the Jewish state in antiquity to the beginning of British rule, the area now designated by the name Palestine was not a country and had no frontiers, only administrative boundaries; it was a group of provincial subdivisions, by no means always the same, within a larger entity.”
Lewis notes, "There had been a steady movement of Jews to the Holy Land throughout the centuries." In 135 CE Jews took part in the Bar Kochba revolt against imperial Rome and even re-established their capital in Jerusalem. Defeated by the most brutal of the Roman legions under the command of the emperor Hadrian, Jews were forbidden to reside in Jerusalem for nearly five hundred years. Once a year on the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av, they were allowed to weep at the remains of their destroyed Temple at a spot that came to be called "the Wailing Wall." In the meantime, the Roman authorities renamed Judea as Palestina in order to obliterate the memory of Jewish nationhood.
A resolution adopted by the first Congress of the Muslim Christian Association which met in Jerusalem in February 1919 underlines the Arab understanding of the situation conclusively. It said, "We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria, as it has never been separated from it at any time. We are connected with it by national, religious, linguistic, natural, economic and geographical bonds."
- Similarly, the representative of the Arab Higher Committee to the United Nations submitted a statement to the General Assembly in May 1947 that said, "Palestine was part of the Province of Syria" and that, "politically, the Arabs of Palestine were not independent in the sense of forming a separate political entity." A few years later, Ahmed Shuqeiri, later the chairman of the PLO, told the United Nations Security Council, "It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria."
Jerusalem has always remained a Jewish majority – a symbol of Jewish yearning to be an independent nation as they thrived in communities in many of Palestine’s towns. “By 1864, a clear-cut Jewish majority emerged in Jerusalem - more than half a century before the arrival of the British Empire and the League of Nations Mandate. During the years that the Jewish presence in Eretz Israel was restored, a huge Arab population influx transpired as Arab immigrants sought to take advantage of higher wages and economic opportunities that resulted from Jewish settlement in the land. President Roosevelt concluded in 1939 that "Arab immigration into Palestine since 1921 has vastly exceeded the total Jewish immigration during the whole period." http://www.jcpa.org/jl/vp507.htm
The present Arab declaration challenging the Jewish character of Israel cannot be ignored because it is not just an expression of dissatisfaction by a minority about their socio-economic situation but a reminder that Islamist radicalism and fundamentalism has now decided to challenge openly the legitimacy of the Jewish state using Arab citizens of Israel as its proxy in Israel. It must not be forgotten that the Israeli Arabs are part and parcel of the same Global Jihad that has been murdering our gallant soldiers on the war fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The international community has to act to stop these serious acts on the part of Global Jihad to undermine the only democracy in the Middle East. It is important to note that Israel is the target of Global Jihad for the same reasons as the United States of America and other open societies everywhere in the world.
Israel is the only democracy in the region
As all of the Muslim states, without any exception, are either autocracies or theocracies or both, they feel threatened by the very existence of a truly democratic state in their midst. This is a common experience of anyone who visits the region that for the oppressed populations of the Muslim countries, the Jewish state serves as a beacon of hope. During my first visit to Israel, I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of the Arabs that I had a chance to talk with preferred to live under the Jewish state.
Israel is a pluralistic society
Israel is the only pluralistic democracy, respectful of human rights, that exists in the Middle East. The evidence of Jewish pluralism is everywhere; the Arab population in Israel was freer than the populations in any Arab state. Israel’s Arab citizens had full freedom of expression and demonstration. They were enjoying full voting rights. They were free to elect their own leaders to the Knesset. They had their own political parties. Newspapers owned and managed by Arabs were thriving. In fact the Israeli Arabs had full rights to citizenship. Having been born and brought up in a Muslim society, I couldn’t believe my eyes as I saw Arab citizens of Israel having more dignity, self respect and rights than any of the Muslims living in any of the Muslim states.
Israel is truly an open society
Israel is the only state in the whole Middle East where women had total freedom of pursuing happiness. I saw Muslim women going to schools, colleges and universities without any restriction or inhibition. I noted with interest that right along with hijab and veil-wearing Arab female students there were many who were wearing jeans. Such an open society is definitely a threat to the traditional Arab society in which women cannot be allowed any kind of freedom – as free and independent women in a traditional Muslim culture is a sign of diminishing male authority and respect.
From a strict Islamist fundamentalist point of view, a society that allows its women to operate freely and independently is a society representing Jahiliya – the era of darkness, of ignorance and shamelessness. Islam, in an Islamist’s view had come to destroy the pillars of shamelessness that supported the era of jahilya. For Global Jihad representing the strictest and manipulated version of Islam the Judeo-Christian culture today is a symbol of all that was Jahilya. And Israel’s Jewish heritage and foundations are a direct threat to the domination and continuance of Islamist obscurantism.
I saw Arab businesses thriving in Israel. To my amazement, most of my Jewish friends were recommending, supporting and promoting them. Such an Israeli tolerance for a people who have never stopped from aiding their enemies was unbelievable. I visited a number of Arab institutions and found them flourishing. This again explains why the Arabs do not want Israel to exist; it is setting an example for a just society that respects human beings irrespective of their color, creed or ethnicity and above all without stopping to think for a moment that they are potentially an enemy.
It is now a common experience in Israel that the Arabs living under Muslim Arab authorities want to be treated in Israeli hospitals, when suffering from life threatening illnesses. And there never have been an instance when any Israeli hospital has ever refused treatment to any Muslim Arab, even in cases when the person who came for treatment was suspected of being a potential terrorist. The world knows that some of the Arabs who received treatments in the Israeli medical facilities did in fact come back as homicide bombers causing death and destruction to the innocent citizens of Israel.
It is a real experience to be in Israel. Just like in the U.S., the Jewish state has citizens who have come from more than hundred countries and represent diverse ethnic, religious, and racial groups. All of the continents, Asia, Africa, Australia, the Americas and Europe are represented there and everyone enjoys equal rights. One cannot find even a shade of discrimination in any form.
It is a model for the region
“Israel's economic, political, scientific and social success have the potential to become a model for the region. The more sensible Arabs in Gaza or the Palestinian Authority, when comparing the miserable life imposed upon them by the bullies of al Fatah, Hamas or Hezbollah with the very superior lifestyle of their Arab-Israeli brothers inevitably conclude that liberty and rationality bring dividends.
Israel, which comprises some 10,000 square miles, compared with Arab countries that total over five million square miles — not including Iran — has shown itself to be a model of democracy and decency. Over one million Arabs live in Israel with full rights of citizenship. They vote and serve in Israel’s parliament. And yet, bereft of oil, Israel’s per capita gross domestic product tops 24,000 dollars (compared with the oil-rich Saudi Arabia whose per capita GDP hovers at 13,000 dollars), and it remains a thriving bastion of democratic liberalism in an ocean of oligarchies and dictatorships.”
Consequently the Jewish state has already become a magnet for the Arabs living in the neighboring Muslim states, explaining the fast growing population of Arabs in the Jewish state; the fast growth is not just because of the birth rate but is also because of the immigration on many pretexts of Arabs from neighboring countries.
The rejection of Israel as a Jewish state by Israel's Arab minority has underlined the level of threat to Israel’s security which has never been so pronounced. It seems as if all the dark forces determined to undermine and overwhelm democracy and pluralism have joined hands; Hezbollah has convinced the world that Israel is not invincible; Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and other Muslim states have arguably proved their effectiveness in convincing Washington that without validating Palestinian terrorism, it cannot win its war on Islamist fascism; Iran is on its way to gain the second Islamist nuclear bomb; and the international assaults on Israel’s character are gaining in momentum.
The Islamists’ demand to redefine the foundations of Israel is part of the same campaign that has been working not so discreetly in the US to replace the Jeffersonian civic religion by Islamist fascists. It is in the US interest to watch how Israeli Arabs’ move to dismantle the Jewish state is shaping up. Just like the manner in which Islamist organizations in the US are taking advantage of our openness to destroy our Judeo-Christian foundations, Israeli Arabs are also taking advantage of a democratic constitution to subvert an open and pluralistic way of life.
Israeli Arabs’ rejection of Israel as a Jewish state is an extension of their demand for the return of refugees to Israel. They have kept the refugee issue alive for so many decades only because they knew that what they cannot win in the battlefield, they can gain by using the Jewish state’s commitment to remain a democracy.
It is an historical fact that fighting an internal enemy is much more difficult than defending against an external threat. Israel and the US both have fought off external enemies with success but now both are facing an enemy that has entrenched itself deep within their democracies. This onslaught on our freedoms from within has to be dealt with forthwith before it gets out of hand.
Tashbih Sayyed is the Editor in Chief of The Muslim World Today, President of Council for Democracy and Tolerance, an adjunct fellow of Hudson Institute, and a regular columnist for newspapers across the world. He is the author of eight books, including: History Of The World, Left Of The Center, Pakistan - An Unfinished Agenda, Mohammad - A secularist's View, Foreign Policy Of Pakistan, and Shadow Warriors - Afghanistan, Pakistan, Taliban.