A Difficult Identity: Arab Citizens of Israel
Published on: July 11, 2012
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  • ahad ha’amoratsim

    Palestinians may not have been responsible for the Holocaust in Europe. But they enthusiastically oppressed and slaughtered Jews throughout the middle east, both before and during the British Mandate. The Muslim Brotherhood was inspired and trained by the Nazis and launched numerous pogroms in the 1930s and 1940s. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who incited pogroms within Mandatory Palestine, was an honored guest of Hitler during the war, and personally helped organise a Muslim SS unit to slaughter Jews in Europe. These are facts, not opinions, and not myth.

    Another inconvenient fact is that most of the Arabs who fled in 1947 or 1948 were not forced out by the Jews, but left before the war even started, at the urging of the Arab states who promised that they could return and share in the spoils after the victorious Arabs had wiped out the last of the Jews. Unfortunately for the Arabs, it did not work out that way.

    It is high time to abandon the myth of Naqba as the unfair burdening of the innocent Arab nation with the consequences of Europe’s genocide, and recognize it for what it is — a lament that the Arabs were not able to complete their own plans to commit genocide.

  • ahad ha’amoratsim

    Correction – it was Arabs, not specifically Palestinians, who enthusiastically oppressed and slaughtered Jews throughout the middle east. It was Palestinian Arabs who enthusiastically oppressed and slaughtered Jews throughout the Palestine Mandate.

  • Wayne Lusvardi

    What a poignant story of someone caught between two worlds. I believe Dr. Berger’s comments are focused on transcending blame for past atrocities and looking at the human story of someone who apparently “nursed no hatred” despite perhaps growing up under Israeli domination and symbols of power. Everett Stonequist’s classic book “The Marginal Man” (1937) perhaps needs updated with this story of a marginal Arab woman who is a person without a country or a homeland merely aspiring to be a TV anchor person.

  • I agree largely with ahad ha’amoratsim, but would add that of course the Arabs (including Palestinians) have in no way grappled with their own history of persecution of Jews, and Hitler’s mufti enjoyed various official positions until the end of his life. His views remain popular: in one of his regular Al Jazeera programs in January 2009, Qaradawi, one of the most influential Islamic leaders, described Hitler as an instrument of Allah and expressed his hope that the “believers” will one day be able to finish the job Hitler didn’t get quite done: http://www.memritv.org/clip_transcript/en/2005.htm

    But I also think anyone who wants to understand the problems of Palestinian identity would do well to read the “Palestinian Declaration of Independence” from 1988. It was written by the renowned Palestinian poet Mahmod Darwish –and I’m sorry to say that it’s a real atrocity: hard to imagine worse kitsch. See for yourself here:

    But let me highlight one sentence:

    “The State of Palestine is an Arab state, an integral and indivisible part of the Arab nation, at one with that nation in heritage and civilisation”

    Together with the pathetic fake history of the “Palestinians” presented by Darwish, I think that goes some way towards explaining why being Palestinian is “a difficult identity”.

    But let us also not forget that there are lots of Israeli Arabs/Palestinians, who wouldn’t really get a story in the media, because day in and day out, they just work alongside their Jewish colleagues — as you can e.g. see in Israeli hospitals (no time there to fuss about identity).

  • Arthur Melmed

    Yep. Israeli Jews have no place to go; Palestinian Arabs have no place to go. The two had better get their act together before something both unplanned and unexpected happens that either side or both will sorely regret.

  • sylvie Schapira

    The Israelis have built ‘strongholds’ because they cannot trust the Palestinian Arabs who live so closely to them. The young Palestinian woman gets to realise her dream working in television inside Israel. How many Jews can even visit Arab countries if they have an Israeli stamp in their passports? And Mahmoud Abbas has sworn to not have one Jew on the West Bank when it is officially Palestine…

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  • Dubi Yarden

    Many countries have the word “Islamic” in their titles. Some have the word “Arab” in their names. Even more use Sharia law for inspiration if not as a source for their civil and criminal laws.

    The main difference between Israeli Arabs, particularly Muslims, and minorities in these other jurisdictions is that the co-ethnics/religionists of Israel Arab Muslims are trying to wipe their home country off the map, and the minorities in Muslim/Arab countries are not trying to destroy their home countries. A second difference is that Israeli Arabs are living in a true democracy that is largely respectful of minority rights, whereas minorities in Islamic/Arab countries are not. I think Dr. Berger should concentrate his attention on these other, far-more-oppressed minorities.

  • Micha

    I have a problem with the assumption that the presence of an ethnic/national/cultural minority in a nation-state precludes it from continuing to be a nation-state for the members of the majority nationality.

    If that were the case, wouldn’t it mean that nation-states that tolerate the presence of other minorities have no choice except either:

    1) Shed completely their national identity for some completely abstract form of citizenship.

    2) Assimilate completely the minority so they stop being a group with a separate identity.

    This assumption is even more jarring in the Israeli case, considering Israel is surrounded by many states with very strong national identities, ethnic and religious, and that it was founded by people who came from Europe where nation-states are the norm.

    Could Israel do more to make its Palestinian-Israei citizens feel part of the country? Definitely, much more, even considering the reality of continued conflict between the Jewish and Palestinian national movements. Certainly, if Israel were to pursue, as it should, the two states solution, then it could offer the Israeli-Palestinian minority personal legal equality, a place in an emerging Israeli identity, the ability to retain their own distinct ethnic/cultural identity, and a neighboring Palestinian nation-state. But it should not be required to also give up the role of Israel as the nation-state for the Jewish people.

    Yet that seems to be the objective of all those who question the legitimacy of Israel being a Jewish state — including many Israeli-Palestinian intellectuals. Moreover, I fear that the result of this push will be counterproductive. Rather than improving relations between majority and minority and cresting an inclusive Israeli identity, it will cause (and is already causing) many Israeli-Jews to see the Palestinian-Israelis as agents seeking its ultimate destruction, wishing to take away the Jewish nation-state that they have built with so much effort.

    I hope there can be a better way.

  • Thanks for this well-written and balanced piece. On my visits to Israel I too have been struck by the visible reminders of Israeli domination which are everywhere in the occupied territory, but most strikingly I think (leaving aside the armed soliders) when an Israeli settlement and a Palestinian town abut. No one can look at that contrast and have any doubt about which population dominates the other–economically, militarily and culturally. And then there is the Wall, which is like an ugly scar across the land.
    But in my experience, admittedly antecdotal, most Israelis want peace and just coexistence. They seem far less strident and bigoted than their American supporters (I am excluding the ultra-Orthodox, of course. Their bigotry and sexism is revolting and hard to believe in the 21st Century).
    Let us hope the day will soon arrive when Areen will be as welcome in Tel Aviv as she is in Nazareth and when there will be no good reason for the people of Palestine, whether Jews, Muslims or Chrisitian, Israeli or Palestinian, to hate, fear or distrust one another.

  • Bebe

    Your commentary called to mind a moment when I was in Toledo, Spain near the end of Franco’s life. One evening I walked by the beautiful Santa Maria la Blanca Synagogue, and noticed some Sufi dervishes near the entrance. One of them told me that they were gathering to perform a dance. Apparently this happenstance was a bit unusual for those years (hence the “entertainment” rather than “prayer” description), but I was happy to have chanced upon it. In a wonderfully moving atmosphere of period music, horseshoe arches, Hebrew, Arabic and Latin inscriptions, candle light, and the shuffling of the dervishes’ feet, one could imagine being sent far from the dust of the world to a high spiritual realm. The perfection of the event for me lay in its occurrence in this Synagogue built by Almohad builders for Jews in Christian Spain (and no need for Luther’s “Ein feste burg”). Of course, such moments probably exist only in memory.

  • elixelx

    This is not an unusual phenomenon: just ask the Anglo-Indians in Calcutta how easy life is in Hindu-dominated India; ask the Mestizos in Colombia how well they are getting on; ask the Jews in Iraq (oops…sorry…there ARE no more Jews in Iraq!)
    She didn’t know a Jew until she left Nazareth! Whose fault was that? The muslims in Nazareth would kill Jews who went to live there. Muslim Palestinians (I use the term advisedly; there are also Druze, Christian, Bahai, and Jewish Palestinians) Muslim Palestinian are encouraged not to pay their Arnona (Council taxes); not to teach Hebrew in their schools; not to renew drivers’ licenses or pay road taxes. I say encouraged, and it is often at thepoint of a gun pointed at a child’s or a grandmother’s head.
    Suspicious that she spoke Hebrew with an Arab accent? Of course they were. Speaking any kind of Hebrew is an advantage for putative suicide bombers.
    That said one should compare her situation to that of the Barry-boy, POTUS, who never realized, or acted, or spoke black until he reached Chicago…
    Telling us that she came to self-realisation of her true identity only after living with the enemy is telling me nothing at all; except that this girl was remarkably un-self aware and regarded those from whom she required employment and money as her enemies, which they would have remained whether or not she worked among them.

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