The monthly peace index published by Tel Aviv University's Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research found on July 31-August 1 that 68 percent of the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel defined Israel's war in Lebanon as unjustified; 79 percent claimed that Israel's air attacks on Lebanon were unjustified; 56 percent judged Hassan Nasrallah's declarations to be credible while 53 percent found that IDF reports were not credible.
These findings correspond roughly with declarations made to the media by Israeli Arab citizens under fire in the north; only a small minority of those directly affected by Hizballah's rocket attacks spoke out against Hizballah, while most either condemned Israel or adopted the neutral pose of condemning the war and the mutual destruction and supporting an immediate ceasefire. In the Knesset, too, after an initial stunned silence, the ten representatives of Arab parties spoke out angrily against Israel's war effort and drew furious responses from Jewish politicians and the press, who here and there went so far as to advocate ways of depriving them of their citizenship.
The readiness of a sizable majority of Israeli Arabs, who are predominantly Sunni Muslims, to identify with a Lebanese Shi'ite movement that rejects Israel's right to exist and is indiscriminately bombarding the Israeli north, which is about 50 percent Arab, must give us pause. Ostensibly, these findings contradict those of more routine polls taken in recent years that indicate a growing readiness among the Palestinian citizens of Israel to come to terms, in one manner or another, with Israel and its Jewish nature. Obviously, they contradict the 80-90 percent support evinced for the Lebanon war effort by the Israeli population overall.
Indeed, the only time we heard serious and vocal Israeli Arab objections to Nasrallah was when he advised Arab residents of Haifa to leave their homes temporarily to avoid harm, implicitly admitting that he had little control over where his rockets fell. In fact, despite 17 deaths (as of August 10) and dozens of injured in Arab communities from Haifa to Nazareth and Mrar, few Israeli Arabs left their homes (unlike Jewish residents of the north, most of whom moved south if they could afford to), thereby attesting to their determination not to be displaced again as Palestinians were in 1948.
None of this behavior stopped Israeli Arab communities hit by the rockets from complaining that the government had not provided them with adequate early warning facilities and shelters. The government clearly had not taken into account just how inaccurate Hizballah's rockets were and how indiscriminate Nasrallah would be in his rocket campaign, to the extent of bombarding a population that empathized with his side.
At the end of the day, the Israeli Arab community reacted to the war more or less the way the Arab "street" elsewhere reacted, whether in Cairo or Kuwait. Israeli Arabs also had special reason for concern in view of the large number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon who were affected by Israel's bombing campaign. The Bedouin and Druze sectors, who serve in the IDF and are more closely identified with the state, here and there expressed open criticism of Hizballah and support for the Israeli war effort. The Christian minority kept its silence.
But the large Muslim majority of Palestinian citizens of Israel opposed the Israeli war effort even as Hizballah fired rockets at them and despite the fact that a number of moderate Arab governments openly took their distance from Nasrallah. This represents a palpable widening of the internal Israeli Arab-Jewish gap. While we will--and should--all no doubt hasten to get back to our diverse modes of peaceful coexistence when this war ends, this issue should not be swept under the carpet. Hizballah, with Iran's backing, has in recent years successfully recruited several Israeli Arab agents. Now we must recognize that it has also made progress in winning over the hearts and minds of the Palestinian citizens of Israel.
The gap will hardly disappear merely by increasing Israeli state budgetary allotments to the Arab population, though that is a much-needed step. It will only be exacerbated needlessly by jingoistic calls to boycott or disenfranchise leaders of the Israeli Arab community. On the other hand, it could potentially be seriously narrowed by a successful conclusion to the Palestinian conflict, which Nasrallah exploits with great skill.
The Palestinian citizens of Israel have, during the war in Lebanon, been in the worst position of all the parties involved. This is no new development because in most previous major conflicts involving Israel they were always at a disadvantage.
Palestinian citizens of Israel are an odd part of a state that defines itself as "Jewish", and their political leanings and opinions often contradict the official behavior of the country. Politically, they support and understand the cause Hizballah is fighting for, something that has reflected negatively on their relations with the rest of Israeli society and increased the negative attitude of most Jewish Israelis toward them.
As a result, the war in Lebanon will probably increase the different problems Palestinians in Israel already face vis-a-vis the state and Israeli public opinion. They have always been accused of lacking loyalty, and it is something they have not necessarily denied because most of them hold positions that contradict the state's.
The Palestinian community in Israel has always complained of Israeli discrimination against them based on race. This war has exposed one aspect of this discrimination, with the casualties from that community proportionally higher than among the non-Palestinians of Israel.
A recent report explained that phenomenon as a result of a lack of shelters and safety provisions for the Palestinian community. This invited much criticism from the spokespeople of the community who accused Israel of leaving its own citizens without adequate protection.
The Israeli government did not deny the accusation. Official spokespeople instead explained the phenomenon away by saying this was the situation for all lower strata of Israeli society. It is important here to point out that systematic Israeli policies since the establishment of the State of Israel are responsible for leaving the Palestinian community at the lowest rung of society.
Yet, in spite of their difficult circumstances during the war, and in spite of many Israeli media invitations for them to translate these difficulties into political frustration against Hizballah, Palestinian citizens of Israel, almost to a man, maintained their principled positions against Israeli aggression and occupation of neighboring Arab land, including in Lebanon.
That added strain to the already tense relations on political and non-political levels between them and many Israeli right-wingers who again took the opportunity to criticize their "lack of loyalty".
The Palestinian community in Israel always did and always will suffer when tensions between Israel and its neighbors, especially the Palestinians of the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza, are high. But at the same time, they can potentially play a crucial and constructive role when there is space for peace and negotiations and reconciliation between Israel and the Arabs.
One example was during the early 1990s when the contacts between Israel and the Palestinian leadership and Israel and some Arab states were still in their infancy. Many Palestinian citizens of Israel played an important role in facilitating such contacts and sometimes in mediating between the sides.
The war in Lebanon has again exposed the disadvantaged position of Palestinians in Israel, and the biases of official Israeli government policy regarding this community. The near total consensus among Palestinians in Israel regarding the war in Lebanon is evidence of this. The only incident in which Palestinian citizens of Israel exhibited any doubt was regarding Hizballah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah's call for them to leave Haifa in particular, perhaps the north of Israel in general.
That was difficult to accept and understand for the community because it struck at an integral part of the identity of these Palestinians who suffered so much because they insisted on remaining in their homes and homeland in spite of the suffering inflicted upon Palestinians during and since the creation of Israel.
The community always believed its steadfastness and refusal to leave was perceived positively by all Palestinians and Arabs. Asking them to leave thus contradicted their traditional position and role.
The Palestinian community in Israel will continue to suffer politically and otherwise as long as there is no peace between Israel and its neighbors. But when such a peace prevails, they will be in a relatively advantageous position. Until then, they will continue to play a leading role in trying to make Israelis understand how dangerous and self-destructive their policies and practices regarding their neighbors are, and will also provide insight for other Arabs to understand the dynamics of the Israeli polity and society.- Published 14/8/2006 © bitterlemons.org
Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications. He is the former Palestinian Authority minister of planning, and has been a political analyst and media contact for many years.
VIEW OF A PALESTINIAN CITIZEN OF ISRAEL|
Israel was the aggressor
an interview with Ahmed Tibi
bitterlemons: What caused a prominent political commentator for Maariv daily newspaper, Ben Caspit, to invite you to leave Israel at the height of the war in Lebanon?
Tibi: I think that the general atmosphere of the Israeli state during the war was radical fear, frustration and an attempt to try to find the closest "enemy" that could easily be caught. This was done by targeting the Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel, mainly their leadership. Caspit did it by publishing this McCarthy-like article asking me to accommodate myself to his position, to support the war and the army, or to leave just because I said from the very beginning, "stop the war, I'm against it."
bitterlemons: How do you explain the seeming sympathy of the Arab citizens of Israel for Hizballah in this war, given that it is a Shi'ite movement and its rockets killed Israeli Arabs as well as Jews?
Tibi: The overwhelming Arab view in Israel was against the war. The Arabs perceived Israel as the aggressive side and all of Lebanon as the victim of this huge military machine destroying infrastructure and killing hundreds of civilians--women, children and the aged. It was just natural that we would express empathy for the victim, saying at the same time that we are against targeting civilians, whether in Beirut, Haifa or Gaza.
bitterlemons: What is your personal view of Hizballah, its ideology and the way this war started?
Tibi: From the beginning, Hizballah said they would try to kidnap Israeli soldiers to exchange for Lebanese prisoners. It was obvious. I think that not to release Samir Kuntar [the most veteran and prominent Lebanese prisoner in Israel] at the last minute in 2004 [the last prisoner exchange] was a political mistake. When you leave an occupied land, you close the entire portfolio by releasing the prisoners also. The same mistake is being made by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Obviously, from a socio-religious point of view we differ with Hizballah, but this is not the point at all. We are talking about supporting the war in Lebanon or not, supporting the destruction of Lebanon or not.
When [Iranian leader Mahmoud] Ahmadinezhad said some months ago that Israel should be destroyed, I criticized this statement. The two-state solution is the best. We are in an era of constructing a state, not destroying a state.
bitterlemons: Initially, for example when PM Olmert first spoke to the Knesset on July 17 about the war, the Arab members of Knesset did not criticize the Israeli war effort. What changed your minds?
Tibi: Nothing. Just 15 minutes before Olmert's speech I proposed a motion of no confidence in this government, attacked it and opposed the war. Being silent during one speech should not be interpreted in an extreme way.
bitterlemons: How do you assess the overall effect on Arab-Jewish relations in Israel of the Israeli Arab position in this war?
Tibi: We say definitely that we are against sending rockets to Haifa and Nahariya. And we have empathy for the families killed and injured. I think the war itself, which was initiated against the most liberal and civilized Arab country in the area, with the destruction [it involved] and the positions of the [Israeli] political leadership and the press, enlarged the split between the Jewish majority and the Arab minority that was there already. The attempt to dictate to us opinions and positions by some journalists and leaders was a kind of fascist attempt to intimidate us because of our opposition to the war. These articles and positions were a clear cut fascist expression of an overwhelmingly bellicose spirit sweeping the country.
But as usual, deja vu, we were there in 1982 when the consensus supported the war then was split and broken. Today we are in the same position, with consensus support for the war already starting to crumble. Meretz is changing its view, and the right wing is attacking the government and claiming poor management of the war. We were alone in the beginning, but now we are not. Yet no one will tell us after two or three months, "you were right," because we are Arabs and not part of the consensus. I am not sure that Ben Caspit will write, "Ahmed, I apologize."
bitterlemons: How do you assess the stability of the Olmert government now that there is a ceasefire?
Tibi: As a physician, I can say "bad prognosis" from the personal and political aspect. Personally, [PM Ehud] Olmert has lost enormous points as a leader, [Defense Minister] Amir Peretz has lost a lot and is being attacked even in his Labor party, and [IDF Chief of Staff] Dan Halutz should be happy if he remains chief of staff, as should other generals of the general staff. Israel lost politically, militarily and socio-economically. The Israeli economy was devastated, with at least $4 billion in losses in markets. We said from the very beginning that this would happen.
bitterlemons: How do you assess the ceasefire agreement?
Tibi: First, there will be a cessation of the air war and missile attacks, but there will be confrontations in southern Lebanon; we are far from silence. Israel should withdraw from the Shebaa Farms and leave no excuse for anyone to say it controls Lebanese land. It shouldn't penetrate Lebanese airspace and coastal waters; Lebanon and Hizballah should do the same, respecting Israeli sovereignty. An exchange of prisoners will definitely take place. I said this from the beginning.
bitterlemons: You have traveled several times to Lebanon and know the leadership well. Are you a candidate to help mediate a prisoner exchange?
Tibi: I don't think this is a task for someone like me from the Israeli Arab community. The Germans and other Europeans or the UN are best at this.- Published 14/8/2006 © bitterlemons.org
MK Ahmed Tibi is the deputy speaker of the Knesset, and has headed the Arab Movement for Change party since 1999.
VIEW OF A PALESTINIAN CITIZEN OF ISRAEL
Swallowing men and their dreams
by Khaled Jubran
"The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. " Ecclesiastes. 1/6
"The East has it's own ways of swallowing men with their dreams." This phrase originally summarized the vanity of Alexander the Great's "life project". Two thousand five hundred years later the East is invaded again, neither by the Greeks, Romans nor even by lunatic medieval crusaders seeking redemption for their miserable souls. It is being targeted by the mightiest power ever known to this planet. By pushing a few buttons, this modern Caesar can reverse the whole process of Creation. Breastfed with centuries of suppressing its original native Indians, saturated with centuries of slavery, America has now decided to lighten our eastern existence with the flames of blessed "democracy'. In other words: "Pax Americana".
I can't think of another culture--undemocratic, cynical and savage as it may be--that would name a four ton atom bomb "little boy" and praise it for eliminating 100,000 souls in Hiroshima as "the greatest thing in history" (Harry Truman). "Evil" must have lived in Hiroshima then. It must have had slanted Japanese eyes and "yellowish" skin. It was the "other". That elusive evil has been switching places, names and faces ever since, moving from Moscow and Cuba to Vietnam through every state in the third world that aspired for independence and yet wasn't eager to worship the American god.
But the East seems to have it's own ways of provoking western greed. Once communism started aging and loosing its sex appeal, the Orient was back on the hot list as an ultimate target: dark skin, black turbans and different beliefs. It is an awesome "other". Above all, there are indefinite amounts of oil under the "infidel" feet there.
"Let's get 'em," the Klu Klux Klan instinct roared.
"Patience! It's not the time yet," diplomacy mumbled.
Finally, on 9/11 it happened. At last Mr. Democracy could proudly unveil his shiny crusader's helmet and cry out his Invocatia. But wait, he is much more profound and sophisticated this time, making no discrimination between dark, bright, yellow or short. It is a whole "evil axis" against which he is waging his divine war. Armed with the Bible in one hand and incredibly smart "little boys" in the other, he unleashed America's good ol' regional hit man.
Israel, with a quite impressive and unquestionably proven portfolio of destroying native cultures since the second week of Genesis, was the natural candidate to promote and even initiate the "re-planning of the Middle East" process. Well, for the Israelis it's not a big deal, they "re-plan" nations, regions, towns, houses and families on a daily basis following the proverb: " If you can't join them... eliminate them." They too are godly mandated. They know God in a very personal and intimate manner. They contrived Him and in return He chose them. No matter how furious and disappointed He may be by the children of Israel, never will He need a second thought before destroying their rivals, be those the Jebusites, Canaanites, Egyptians, Palestinians, you name it.
Taking the Bible a bit too seriously, Mr. Democracy and his partners were sometimes tempted to copy God's schemes and sometimes play His role. After all, collective punishment is an ancient divine hobby: "And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet. Thou shalt speak all that I command thee... unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land. And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments!" (Exodus 7).
Who is this jealous, greedy, cruel, blood thirsty, gentile-hating God of the American crusaders and their Israeli enforcers?
Who are those willing to fulfil the kinky desires of that god as it is presented by Washington?
Not me, and I live among them.- Published 14/8/2006 © bitterlemons.org
Khaled Jubran is a musician and composer. His latest album, "Psalms", was released in 2005.
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