The reactions from Israeli journalists and politicians to Azmi Bishara’s Knesset resignation provides a sort of Rorschach test for Israeli attitudes toward democracy. The first lesson you must learn about the attitudes of the majority of the 75-80% of Israelis who are Jews is that both the State and its democracy exists primarily for them and only secondarily for anyone else (that is, the Arab minority which comprises 20-25% of the population). And since the State has accorded citizenship to its Arab minority while according them second (or third) class status, one cannot really call Israel a democracy. Israeli political scientists like Yoav Peled have adopted the term ethnocracy to describe Israel’s peculiar political system. That is, a system that awards superior rights to a majority ethnic group while according vastly diminished status to the ethnic minority.
For most Israeli Jews, Arabs are a royal pain in the ass. The center of the political spectrum tolerates them while the right longs for the day when they can be transferred out of Israel. Most Israelis would vastly prefer a homogeneous state composed only of Jews. A former progressive like Benny Morris is characteristic of this attitude in wishing that Ben Gurion had actually forcibly expelled a much larger proportion of Israel’s 1948 population than he did. Even some on the left adopt a profound mistrust of the Arab minority.
What all of the above neglect to understand is that an Israel shorn of its minority would no longer be a democracy since it would’ve forcibly extirpated a part of its polity. And a State which doesn’t expel this minority but continues to refuse to accord it full equality still cannot call itself a true democracy. A fragmented or not-quite democracy perhaps but not a democracy full stop.
Let’s take a look at a JTA article about Bishara’s resignation and an interview with Yossi Alpher, viewed by some as a center-left analyst of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The latter is published at no less progressive a source than the Americans for Peace Now website:
Israeli tolerance for Bishara’s views has been remarkable.
This is quite a remarkable statement considering that the Knesset has twice stripped Bishara of his parliamentary immunity in order to compel him to face criminal investigations, NONE of which resulted in a court case being filed. Remarkable too in light of the fact that the government attempted to prevent his party from running in one election for its refusal to accept the primacy of the Jewish state.
Two elections ago, the High Court of Justice reversed Electoral Commission determinations that Balad’s political platform violated the constitutional demand that all parties recognize Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, thereby allowing him to run. His frequent visits to Syria and Lebanon, including during war-time–where he met publicly with Bashar Asad and Hassan Nasrallah, praised their policies and condemned those of Israel–were also tolerated by the security community, to the extent that some Israeli Arabs concluded that Bishara must be a collaborator.
Notice that a supposedly progressive analyst has the temerity to slip in this imputed charge of “collaboration” without any proof whatsoever of the charges. And to say that Bishara was “tolerated” by a security establishment which has investigated him multiple times seems far-fetched to say the least.
In fact, all this took place in the name of Israeli pluralism and based on the assumption that it was better to have internal critics of Israel’s existence, however extreme, out in the open than to drive them underground. But there can be no mistake that Bishara has become clearly identified by the Jewish public as an enemy of the state. His association with the most reactionary and oppressive of Arab leaders in Syria and Lebanon and his readiness to level outlandish accusations against Israel–e.g., “in the entire history of mankind there have never been acts of plunder like those carried out by Israel”–clearly belie his rhetoric about democracy and equal rights.
Here Alpher has run off the rails. Bishara has identified himself with the two closest Arab neighbors to Israel’s northern Arab communities: Syria and Lebanon. But who is to say that Hezbollah and Syrian leaders are “the most reactionary and oppressive Arab leaders?” Worse than the Saudi dynasty or Egypt’s Mubarak or Iran’s mullahs or Iraq’s Hussein? This is an entirely specious argument. Bishara’s alliance with Hezbollah and Syrian is mostly geographic. And who would Alpher have him make an alliance with who would have him? Doubtless, Jordan’s King Abdullah would not be interested since he values good relations with Israel and wants to wash his hands of continuing intra-Arab strife. So who’s left for Bishara to turn to for support outside Israel?
One useful aspect of Alpher’s interview is that he further confirms information I published here from the Palestinian news agency Maan about the specific nature of the charges against Bishara:
A former associate at Bir Zeit University in Ramallah, where he taught for several years before going into politics, told me that Bishara had received large sums of money from Syria and Hezbollah for use by his political party and had apparently kept them for himself: this could explain both the criminal and the security components in suspicions against him.
But I would strongly caution that this is terribly vaguely and inauthoritatively sourced. And even if it is true that Bishara accepted funds from Syria, it is quite another thing to prove in a court of law that he acted corruptly in retaining funds for personal use. That’s the Shin Bet’s job and they’ve by no means proven their case. In fact, in keeping it secret they’ve done precisely the opposite: allowed people to believe that the secrecy conceals a weak case.
Bishara’s legacy in Israeli politics is a negative one: greater polarization between Arabs and Jews and closer ideological proximity between Israel’s Arab community and the most extreme elements in the Palestinian national movement.
Now, that would depend entirely on whose viewpoint you represented. Do you think that Israel’s Arab minority agrees? It is preposterous to blame Azmi Bishara for the polarization between Arabs and Jews in Israeli society. What about the 2000 massacre of defenseless protesting Nazareth Arabs by Israeli Border Police who were never even charged for their criminal behavior? Alpher doesn’t even come close to acknowledging that the radicalization represented by Bishara might stem just as much from Israeli intransigence in the face of Israeli Arab demands for their rights and Palestinian demands for theirs. Yossi Alpher may not be a flaming leftist but he’s no fool as an analyst of Mideast politics. That’s why the blinders he wears in this exchange are very instructive regarding the utter lack of awareness even intelligent Israeli Jews have of the democratic contradictions represented by the Arab minority in their midst.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency has a mixed record of Jewish journalism. On domestic issues it publishes solid, reliable reporting. But when it comes to Israel, often it might as well have come from the AIPAC press office. That’s a wee exaggeration perhaps for effect, but not much. Let’s take Dan Baron’s article on Bishara. I tried earnestly to get JTA to write a story about Bishara’s secret Shin Bet investigation speaking with their DC correspondent for some time. Unfortunately, Baron’s article is JTA’s feeble coverage of the story. I’d call the following journalism by sloganeering:
Israeli Arab lawmaker Azmi Bishara has abruptly ended a parliamentary career built on denouncing the Jewish state from enemy capitals and then dodging charges of sedition at home.
That is the extent of Bishara’s career? Not the penetrating slogan: “A state for all its citizens,” which has resonated far beyond the Israeli Arab minority as a reasonable democratic demand.
For many mainstream Israelis, it was goodbye and good riddance.
You’ll notice the lazy man’s ‘many’ used by many to propound a questionable argument. Who are the “many?” What would’ve been far more accurate would be to say that “goodbye and good riddance” was the response of Israel’s far right politicians, one of whom even called for the Shin Bet to kidnap Bishara and return him to Israel for trial on charges of treason! How’s that for democracy??
Bishara stood out for his especially provocative antics.
To how many Jewish politicians would Baron attribute the dismissive label “antics?” And I’d like to remind you that southern Whites labeled Martin Luther King’s Montgomery bus boycott or Malcolm X’s speechifying in precisely the same terms. You dismiss what you fear and do not understand. But you do so at your peril because dismissing it will not make the issue or person go away.
Bishara overcame repeated attempts to have him tried for fraternizing with Israel’s enemies, invoking his parliamentary immunity from prosecution.
This is misleading if not downright inaccurate. Bishara’s immunity was stripped twice by the Knesset thus enabling the legal system to charge and try him. But it never did. Why not? Because they could not build a case. Why blame Bishara for shielding himself from prosecution when the state and its organs have done everything in their power to dismantle his political power?
Some moderate Israeli Arabs also sought to distance themselves from Bishara, so astounded by his temerity as to suggest it was all an elaborate cover for a role as an Israeli spy or covert diplomat.
Isn’t it interesting that we see the “Israeli spy” charge once again. But who gains from circulating such an unfounded charge? The Israeli right and Shin Bet of course. So we have to ask whose bidding are Alpher and Baron doing even if unintentionally? The forces who seek to diminish Bishara and Israeli Arab nationalism. I believe it is shameful journalism to disseminate a charge without having any credible source to back it up.
Baron leaves the most interesting and useful portion of his article for the very end of course. You wouldn’t want to include material favorable to Bishara in any other portion of the article now, would you?
Yaron London, saw in Bishara a sort of latter-day version of the Diaspora’s old political mavericks — the revolutionaries and utopianists.
“I once said to Azmi Bishara that he is more Jewish than I,” London said. “The heart of a Jew, even one who lives among Jews in their state, is the heart of a minority figure, but a Christian Arab who is a citizen of the Jewish state is an island within an island, a minority within a minority.”
“Bishara, a brilliant and arrogant intellectual, bossy and stormy, charming and easily offended, has no time to waste. He realized that the Jews would not accept his vision unless they were greatly weakened — and therefore they must be weakened.”
This is one of the truest and most incisive characterizations I have read in all my research on Bishara over the past two weeks. It is a statement that should be taken to heart by Israelis especially Bishara’s enemies in the Shin Bet and government. Think of all the political insurgents who were hated in their day only to return to glory leading their country or at the least playing a significant role in its political future.
I do not make a judgment on Bishara’s political views one way or the other except to say that they must be grappled with. And to those who falsely believe they have seen the end of Azmi Bishara, I say to you: “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” Think of DeGaulle in exile, Washington sulking in the snow at Valley Forge, Martin Luther King in the Birmingham jail, Mandela on Robben Island. The list goes on. Their causes eventually triumphed.
Finally, let’s explore the responses of the Israeli right to Bishara’s resignation. Predictably, they are overjoyed. I wrote that Yuval Steinitz wants the Shin Bet to forcibly return Bishara to Israel to face proper justice. What we should learn from all these responses is that the right cares not a whit for democracy. All that matters for them is that Israel is a Jewish State. Israel could be a Jewish version of Putin’s Russia, the People’s Republic of China or Mugabe’s Zimbabwe for all they care. When they talk of rights they are talking of Jewish rights. No other rights matter. Is this the model of a Jewish state which we wish to embrace? Many would say no. But if you take the logic of the Baron’s and Alpher’s to their end point they take you perilously close to the Israeli right. For our two journalists, the only acceptable Israeli minority is one that is quiescent, that accepts its subordinate role, that doesn’t grasp too insistently or aggressively for its rights. But is this a reasonable expectation? No, of course not. And once we accept that Israeli Arabs will no longer be quiescent isn’t the logical end point a Lieberman-Kahane like forced transfer, thus ridding Israel of its “fifth column” and creating a homogeneous Jewish state?
I hope and believe this will not happen. But the only thing to prevent it will be for well-meaning Israelis to realize that the Israeli Arab minority and its rights cannot be dismissed or swept under the rug.
That’s true, but part of the issue is the corollary – if you take the logic that Israeli Arabs deserve full and equal rights to its end point, it takes you “perilously” close to Bishara’s formulation of “A state for all its citizens”. While that might seem to some like a reasonable attribute of democracy, to the vast majority of Israelis promoting this goal is tantamount to treason. It shakes the very core of the Zionist ethos.
Like you said, “once we accept that Israeli Arabs will no longer be quiescent” there aren’t a lot of options. There’s an inherent contradiction in the concept of a Jewish, Democratic state. It has to swing one way or the other, and I believe the Israeli Jewish population has long ago picked which of the two is more important (as long as some lip service can be paid to the other one).
Richard Silverstein says
I agree. This is very delicate balancing act which could end with people falling off the rope & into the abyss.
I don’t believe, if understood correctly and very differently than at present, a state of all its citizens has to negate the core of the Zionist ethos. Why can’t Israel also be a state for both peoples that enshrines basic rights into a Constitution that protects those rights in perpetuity? Hebrew language, Jewish religion & history could be accorded special status along with Arabic & Islam. Why can’t a state have 2 state religions? I freely admit that this is an alien concept for most Israeli Jews. But it doesn’t have to remain alien for long. I believe that the current system will end in stalemate. My suggestion is a viable, though currently unpopular, alternative.
Zhu Bajie says
“…a Lieberman-Kahane like forced transfer, thus ridding Israel of its ‘fifth column’ and creating a homogeneous Jewish state?” might be appealing to some, but is not likely to solve any problems. The previous one didn’t work, and this is no more likely to work. Probably it would make things worse, make even more enemies for Israel and Jews around the world.
samuel burke says
if i were bishara i deffinitely would not be flattered by being compared to herzl, from what i have learned mr herzl wasnt so well received among the practicing religious jews of his day, he was a hero to zionism, not necessarily judaism. After the events of world war two however the mood changed among the mainstream judaic community and they embraced zionism and it became associated with being judaic, prior to that there was enmity between the religious and the zionist.
this quote below defining israels peculiar political system is another way of saying that israels political system is a racist system that separates its citizens by ethnicity. ethnocracy indeed.
Yoav Peled have adopted the term ethnocracy to describe Israel’s peculiar political system. That is, a system that awards superior rights to a majority ethnic group while according vastly diminished status to the ethnic minority.
One of the interesting things about Israeli society is the complete and utter transparency of Israeli Arabs to the majority Jewish population. It used to be that watching Israeli TV you’d stumble upon an Arabic language news broadcast, some studio show or the mythological Arabic movie on Friday evenings. You used to see Palestinians doing all kinds of jobs that are usually associated with cheap labor, but still, they were around.
These days the vast majority of these jobs are filled by foreign workers. If you’re up north you definitely run into Israeli Arabs, and if you’re down south you run into bedouins, but pretty much anywhere in the Gush-Dan area, you can spend your days without running into a Palestinian or hearing any Arabic (even in Tel Aviv, so close to Jaffa) . They may be 20% of the population, but they might as well be on the other side of the barrier wall.
Melvin Schnell says
I think it would be better to compare Bishara to the Sudeten German leader Konrad Henlein
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konrad_Henlein, who stirred up pro-German nationalism and conflict with Nazi Germany in order to further his political career. There are many similarities between Israeli Arabs and Sudeten Germans. First, geographic proximity to enemy countries. Second, close political ties with leaders of those countries, ie Henlein-Hitler and Bishara-Assad. Third, a carefully cultivated sense of grievance even when their living standards exceeded those in surrounding countries. Bishara should note the fate of the Sudeten Germans after WWII. The Czechs expelled the Sudeten Germans back to Germany. Ultimately, Israeli Arabs are responsible for the conduct of their elected leaders
Richard Silverstein says
I’m so sick & tired of this utter stupidity. Israeli Arabs do not have to “cultivate” their sense of grievance. They have 60 years or real oppression & injustice to choose from anytime they need to remember their inferior status in Israeli society.
As for living standards, as usual rightists like you make the wrong comparison. You should be comparing Israeli Arab living standards not to their fellow Arabs in foreign countries but to those of their fellow Jewish citizens living in their own country. By every measure Israeli Arabs come out on the extreme low end of the stick. I simply don’t understand how people like you can bury your head in the sand. You clap yourself & Israel on the back because Israeli Arabs manage to pick up a few crumbs from the Jewish “table” & so are a cut above the living standards of other Arab countries, when what you & they should wonder is why a significant portion of their fellow Israeli citizens live in abject misery.
Comparing Israeli Arabs to Arabs from surrounding countries is legitimate as is comparing them to Israeli Jews. The question is, what comparison is being made. You cannot expect Israeli Jews and Arabs to achieve the same standard of living, even in a completely discrimination free society, when there are so many cultural difference. For example, the average Arab family has 4.6 children while the average Jewish family has 2.4 children. At the same time only 15% of adult Arab women are in the workforce while 65% of adult Jewish women are. Higher education is not as highly valued in Arab culture especially for women; many of whom mary and begin having children in their late teens. These cultural differences are not a result of discrimination. It is perfectly legitimate to look at neighboring Arab countries and to ask, what kind of economy and standard of living can this culture sustain. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that the added standard of living, is at least to some degree, a result of the added value the Jewish population adds to society.
W Dean says
Israel spends much less on education for Israeli Arabs than it does for it’s Jewish citizens. Furthermore, you don’t have to look very far to discover that Israeli Arab access to further education or work is severely restricted: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/israel2/. Israeli Arabs ARE treated like second class citizens
Now, this sounds to me a lot more plausible as an explanation for the difference in living standards than some racist ‘zionist’ claptrap about arabs not valuing Higher Education.
Melvin Schnell says
[ed., Comment edited: do not compare Azmi Bishara to Nazis, I will not publish such trash]
Better Arab integration inot Israel will not be accomplished throug calls by Bishara and other Arab politicians for Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran to attack Israel. Without Bishara there would be no Lieberman
Richard Silverstein says
Amir’s statements are as usual specious. They only begin to get at the real problems. The reason why more Arabs drop out of the educational system is 2 fold: because the Arab communities are woefully underfunded; school facilities are not as good, there are fewer schools, teachers are not as well-trained and there is a tendency to place children in vocational rather than academic tracks. Second, because of abject poverty many Arab families do not have the luxury of allowing their children to finish secondary school & pursue higher education. Blaming the failures of Israeli society in addressing the needs of its Arab citizens on the Arabs themselves is yet another example of blaming the victim.
Poverty isn’t caused merely by the fact that ARab families do not have a second income. It is caused by the fact that Arab men cannot find any jobs at all; and if they can they tend to be menial low-paying jobs. There is no attempt to train or educate these individuals for higher-skilled, higher paying jobs. In fact, the government does not want Arab men to hold such jobs. It would prefer them to continue in the menial jobs they’ve held for generations if they’ve held a job at all.
This is racist bullshit. The limits of Israeli Arab prosperity are not bound by cultural issues, but by the prejudice and structural injustice built into Israeli society.
Israeli Arabs should be able to achieve economic and social parity with their Jewish brethren. If they can’t it’s not their fault; not the fault of their culture; not the fault of anything other than Israeli racism.
Your reasoning is ridiculous, SIlverstein. Amir is absolutely right.Why are you dismissing his comments. I am very familar with the culture he describes and it is true. Women in Islamic societies are not encouraged to pursue higher education. It is a fact. Deal with it. Amir deals with reality, no lala land PC thinking like some of your fans.
By blaming racism, you only get to feel good about yourself but you don’t address the underlying cultural reasons. The Palestinian Chrisian population does very well in Israel. Care to ask why? American Blacks make less money than other groups. Can it be blamed on racism only? Same shit in Israel. But of course you are blind to anything that does not mesh with your views
In addition to the points mentioned bay various commentators, to Amir’s problematic statements, i’d like to point out an additional fact which always appears to be taken for granted.
According to law Hebrew and Arabic have the same status in Israel. The country is bi-lingual, officially. However, this principle has not been translated into practice: there is not one university in which students can study in Arabic. There is one, small, low level, college with a few tracks. There are very few vocational training programs in Arabic.
Were Jewish students to study in Arabic, 99% wouldn’t be able to do so. Arab students have no choice, they can ONLY study in Hebrew. And for those coming from Israel’s non mixed Arab cities and villages (the majority) , it implies studying in a language other than their mother-tongue and at which they are less proficient than their Jewish counterparts. As a result there is a rather high drop-out rate during the first weeks/months of the academic year amongst Arab students.
Over the years there have been attempts to start an Arabic speaking university, however these attempts have ALWAYS been curtailed by Israel’s Ministry of Education.
Many Arab students have major trouble finding living quarters in Jewish towns and cities, while they are at university, Haifa being the exception, and Tel Aviv, with a relatively VERY low number of Arab students being an example. When they have to travel long distances in public transport (which, by the way is not very good in many Arab villages) to the university, they have less time to work. (Many Israeli students work in order to pay for their university studies) , thus, studies become less available due to financial reasons. Raising tuition fees hits poor students harder, and especially amongst the Arab community, the students are poorer and there are fewer scholarships available.
Another problem is that highly educated Arabs have problems finding jobs in their fields. This is especially true for people with a technical/science training. As many companies in Israel’s high tech industry provide services to the security forces, they prefer to employ “army graduates” only (and guess what that means).
Funny enough this IS having an effect on some of the better Arab high schools: Many of the science teachers in Arab high schools have M.A.s in their fields, unlike their Jewish counterparts who often do not have much more than (rather mediocre) teachers colleges training.
Many of the highly educated Arabs leave the country to follow PhD studies or work in jobs abroad as they are unable to find employment in their field.
Richard Silverstein says
At least you credit me with reasonsing. I can’t be so kind with your comment I’m afraid since it has none.
Since you don’t tell us how you are so “very familiar” with Arab culture I’ll have to doubt yr bona fides till you establish them. Are you an Israeli Arab? No. Are you even an Israeli? Perhaps though you live in the States. Perhaps you have graduate degree and have done some research in Arab towns? Do you know Arabic?
Because he’s a smooth-talking apologist for a particular smug Israeli perspective I object to.
As are women in haredi societies. But just as not every Israeli women are haredi, not every Israeli Arab woman is a devout Muslim. The reasons why Arab men & women don’t have the opportunity to pursue higher education has little to do cultural reasons & much to do with Israeli discrimination. It’s a fact. Deal with it. Oh no, you won’t deal with it. You’re too blind to see a reality that is closed off from you. You claim you know Arab culture when you know next to nothing about it. Your “knowledge” is based on prejudice.
Do they now? That must be why Azmi Bishara is such a happy Christian Arab singing Hatikvah all night long with his friends Ehud & Amir. If Palestinian Christians are so successful & content why is Bishara so angry? Yr feeble logic falls like a house of cards.
What else can it be blamed on? That Blacks have a natural affinity for poverty, illiteracy and low-skilled jobs? That they’re indolent, drug-addicted & criminally-prone? YOu tell me in yr infinite wisdom what other causes are there for this disparity?
No, I see Israel good and bad, vices and virtues. You are the one who is blind. But maybe Amir can lead you since they say the blind lead the blind.
Of course you provide nothing to back up your argument. We’re just supposed to believe its racist, because, well it is. You still have not explained how 115 wage providers are supposed to support 545 non-working dependants as well as 165 wage providers can support 275 non-working dependants. Anyway, W Dean also called me a racist, which is just as well since the definition of a racist is anyone who is winning an argument with a liberal.
And yes, Jews do place a high value on higher education. Anyone who spent more than half an hour at almost any American University would know that.
And I neverclaimed that there was no discrimination in Israel. Implicit in my post is an acknowledgment that discrimination does play a factor “You cannot expect Israeli Jews and Arabs to achieve the same standard of living, even in a completely discrimination free society, when there are so many cultural difference.” But the role of discrimination is exagerrated and other explanations, like the one I gave, and there are more, are ignored.
Ruth makes a very good point about Christain Arabs. I would have made it myself but I couldn’t find any data on the subject. But anyone attending an Israeli University would notice that among Arab students, there are proportionally far more Christians then Muslims. Not surprisingly, many more Christain women work and the average Christian Arab family has 1.9 children (fewer than Jews) though I have never heard the claim that Jews discriminate more against Moslems than Christian Arabs.
Talk about racist comments.
Many of the other comments by yuyume are true but do not contradict what I said. Notice that there is a contradiction between Silverstein’s claim that Arab schools have less qualified teachers,yuyumes assertion that Arab teachers are better educated than Jewish ones.
Thank you for strenghthening my position. The Haredi community is Israel is dirt poor, for many of the same reasons.
There you go strenghthening my position, again. Radicalization is increased with higher education and a greater standard of living. This is well known. That’s why Raleb Majadele with no education beyond high school, a Muslim from Baka al-Garbiayah is a minister in the Israeli government while Christain Bashara with a PhD in philosophy is on the run suspected of treason and money londering.
Just one more thing,for now. The reason you (Silverstein) is wrong about Bashara is because Israeli Arabs don’t need a Mandela or MLK, because Israel doesn’t have Nuremberg laws, Apartheid or Jim Crow laws. What Israeli Arabs need (imo) is a lot of little advances. More budgets, more representation etc. A lot of small steps forward. In this sense, a man like Majadele can bring a lot more progress (if he wants to) than a megalomaniac like Bashara.
Here we go (source: http://www1.cbs.gov.il/shnaton56/st08_21.pdf). 51.7% of Israeli Christian 12th graders met university entrance requirements as compared to 40.5%-54.2% of Israeli Jews. This is almost double the number of Moslems and Druze. 63.9% of Israeli Christian 12th graders qualified for a high school matriculation certificate which is higher than Israeli Jews (54.3% – 61.8%).
So much for racism against Arabs explaining everything.
Richard Silverstein says
Since you’re so good with facts Amir, come up with these. What is the avg. wage for an Israeli Jewish male and Israeli Arab male? Are they remotely comparable? Of course not. Not even close. Why? Is it because Israeli Arab males would rather sit at home smoking their hookahs? Is it because Israeli Arab males don’t want to learn skills and secure high paying jobs?
And in that figure I’d like you to include those in both categories who are unemployed. If you can’t do that I’d like you to provide stats for how many Israeli Jewish males are unemployed and how many Arab males are unemployed. Then I’d like to provide a reason why the numbers are so disproportionate on the Arab side? Why is it that Arab men cannot find jobs while most Jewish men can?
And do you think that those Arab women who are not working are all not working because their religion or culture tells them not to? Ridiculous. If their men can’t find work or at best find menial jobs, how are the women supposed to do any better? If there were more & better opportunities there would be more Arab men AND women in the workforce.
You, winning an argument? In yr. dreams.
You’re beyond low. If Arabs had as much access to higher education as Jews do, they would earn advanced degrees in proportion to their numbers in the population. But the question is where would all these skilled, educated Arabs work in Israel? They’d have to emigrate probably. So I guess Israel is right to deny them such education since it would be a waste of the nation’s money.
“Implicit?” Where is it even “implicit?” How is the quoted passage an acknowledgement that discrimination does play a factor? It’s more of the same bullshit claiming Arabs fare worse in Israel because of the limitations of their culture. It says nothing of the discrimination built into a system created by and largely for Jews.
I do so enjoy tearing apart yr comments here and you make it so easy. You say Ruth’s point is good yet you can’t find any data to support it. I’d say that statement speaks for itself. You commend her making statements that even you can’t find any support for. Why should we believe you OR her?
You’re so full of shit it’s unbelievable. Yuyume makes a clearly accurate statement that almost no Israeli Jews know Arabic & would not be able to study at a university whose courses were in Arabic & you say this is “racist????!!” It’s true. Again, since you’re so good at statistics tell us how many Israeli Jewish secondary school students study Arabic as partr of their curriculum and what percentage they are of all students. I’m guessing it might be something like 1%. If it was as high as 10% I’d be shocked. And then even those might not be proficient enough to pursue university studies in Arabic.
Well know my ass. Do you mean to tell me that every Israeli Arab nationalist has a university education and high standard of living. You know this is false.
But by yr logic, you should be in favor of denying Arabs the right to higher education or well paying jobs since this will radicalize them & turn them against the Jewish state.
Again, you mean to tell me that there are no nationalists who are Muslim, poor and uneducated? Pathetic.
Eyes have you but you do not see. It’s really hopeless to argue with you plus you have logorrhea & I have other things to do than reply to yr drivel. Give it a rest. I’m turning off yr privilege to comment here since you don’t seem to know how or when to stop arguing.
This entire thread has laid out scores of inequities in the Israeli social and economic fabric which are at least equal in their restrictiveness to Jim Crow. The fact that you bury your head in the sand speaks volumes to how ignorant you are about life for over 20% of your fellow Israelis.
Just what the white incrementalists said in their harsh opposition to the “radical” positions of MLK & Malcom X.
And btw, can you explain to me the racist hatred that Majadele faced fr. within his own party and other Knesset members when Peretz announced he intended to appoint him to the cabinet? Why would Knesset members feel that a mild-mannered “good” Arab (or so you find him) has no right to serve as a minister. Why would a Knesset member have said that a poorly educated Arab had no right to oversee the science & technology portfolio as if no Jewish minister had ever overseen a portfolio about which he knew next to nothing? That wouldn’t be racist now would it?
a. Hizballah is Israel’s enemy. An Israeli Member of Knesset, who has sworn to uphold the Law of the Land, meeting with him is comparable to a US senator meeting with Adolf Hitler in 1943. Both are acts of treason. Moreover, calling to Israel’s enemies for a continuation of violence and aggression against Israel and Israeli citizens is also an act of treason.
People in democratic countries go to prison for repeatedly calling on the enemies of their countries to destroy them and murder their citizens, especially during wartime, regardless of the color of their skin, their religion, ethnic background, or choice of morning cereal.
There is plenty of evidence that Mr. Bshara committed these acts. Repeatedly. The reason he was not indicted for these crimes in the past is a mystery to me, but it could be due to the political attitudes of the judicial system in this country. It’s certainly not because they couldn’t build a case. Probably just didn’t want the media circus.
b. W. Dean – State expenditure on education is only part of the education budget in Israel. The rest of the budget is the responsibility of the local authorities. Many of the Arab local authorities in Israel are bankrupt, as are many of the smaller Jewish authorities in the periphery, mainly as a result of corruption, nepotism, and failing to collect local rates from the citizens. The state refuses to cover for these local authorities, by paying the local authorities’ part of the education budgets, until they clean up their acts. To my knowledge, this is the cause of the apparent inequality in education budgeting you point to, and not inequality of state expenditure on a racial basis.
c. Interesting you should bring up the Haredi issue in an answer to Amir, Mr. Silverstein. The Haredim are a sector of Israeli society comparable to the Arabs in social-economic status, because of their low participation in the workforce, men and women alike, and their high birthrate. Both sectors are also similar in their refusal to participate in any national service (even civil), as a way of paying their dues to society, and are therefore seen as parasites by those who do (and who often risk their lives doing so).
d. Mr. Silverstein, sir, you say about yourself that you “have been interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since I was a teenager in 1967 and have worked all my adult life to promote dialogue and mutual recognition.” It beats me how you intend to advance that worthy goal with such an aggressive attitude toward anyone who doesn’t agree with you, and, for that matter, towards all of mainstream Israel.
e. Keep up the good work, Amir. I applaud you.
Richard Silverstein says
What a load of horse manure. Say’s who? You? And you’re such an expert in such historical analogies because? You’re an expert on Hezbollah? On Jewish history? I’m so sick & tired of such histrionic right-wing analogies which make Israel out to be so weak that an Arab member of its own Knesset poses as much danger to the State as Adolf Hitler posed to European Jewry. Nasrallah, no matter how bad a figure he may be, is no Hitler. Saying otherwise is ridiculous & will never gain you any credibility here though it might at sites like your own or LGF, where such chewing the scenery historical overkill is de rigeur.
You are either unbelievably poorly informed or a willful distorter of what Bishara really said. He didn’t call for aggression against Israel. He called for resistance against Israel’s aggression against Lebanon AFTER Israel started the war. I don’t expect you to understand the nuance of such a position since Bishara could’ve pretty much taken a leak & you’d have cried “Treason!” But there is a difference, at least to me and rest of the world. And as for treason, I say let ’em prove it in an Israeli court of law. They’ve tried at least twice before and not even brought the charges to court. I’d like to see ’em do so now. Haaretz has already called that part of the case weak. I have no doubt they are weak. I am so glad that Imshin isn’t a Supreme Court member. Imagine what he could do to Israeli justice & democracy.
In yr mind. Though you’re not the attorney general last I checked, who refused to bring a case because his evidence was so weak he knew he’d fail.
Yes, it’s because Bishara has the whole system gamed in his favor. Politically, it’s in the bag for him, right? Or perhaps it’s just that the State just loves its Arabs so that it wouldn’t dare touch one of them. Don’t make me laugh. If they had a case, they’d have nailed him long ago & you know it.
The operative statement above is “to my knowledge.” Which is to say that Imshin has virtually no knowledge of the issues of which he speaks. This is a perfect example of blaming the victims. The Arab towns don’t get sufficient budgetary funding for social services or education because they are corrupt. As soon as they clean up their act, the money will flow once again. Lies. The State NEVER funded Arab communities comparably to Jewish ones. Corruption had & has nothing to do with it. All you have to do is read your own newspapers, you nitwit, to know that the budgetary figures have ALWAYS been this way since the founding of the State. The corruption meme is a coverup introduced by right wingers like Imshin to conceal Israeli racism.
The reasons for refusing to participate in the IDF are wholly diff. for both groups. The haredim get an exemption for Torah study. The Arabs either refuse to enlist or else the State doesn’t wish to have them because it sees them as a security risk if they did enlist. Only racists like yourself see Israeli Arabs as parasites for not serving in the IDF. If they did serve you’d call them “Fifth columnists” ready to sell out military secrets for 30 pieces of silver.
Oh, I see. You & your Likud views are in the “mainstream?” That must be why the Likud has such a whopping big delegation in the current Knesset. Regarding my alleged “aggressive attitude:” I don’t like Jewish or Israeli racism. When I read hate & ignorance like yours in my comment threads I react strongly to it. If you don’t like it then you have two choices. Stop being a racist (at least here) & embrace Israeli democracy for all its citizens or go elsewhere.
Melvin Schnell says
Can anyone tell me how Bishara has furthered harmony between Israeli Jews and Arabs? Bishara supports a binational state “of all its citizens”. Egypt, Lebanon, and Iraq are states of “all their citizens”, although nobody envies the status today of Egyptian Copts, Iraqi Chaldean Christians, and Lebanese Maronites, and all of these groups are leaving the country, as are Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem. A “binational state” is one of those Trojan horses, just like “right of return”. Bishara has always promoted it, and now that he has accepted money from enemy states, he is in legal trouble
samuel burke says
the lines that differentiate the arab culture and the jewish culture blurrrrr….
The other day I was waiting for a bus in downtown Jerusalem. I was in the bustling orthodox Jewish neighbourhood of Mea Sharim and the bus stop was extremely crowded.
When the Number 40 bus arrived, the most curious thing happened. Husbands left heavily pregnant wives or spouses struggling with prams and pushchairs to fend for themselves as they and all other male passengers got on at the front of the bus.
Women moved towards the rear door to get on at the back.
When on the bus, I tried to buck the system, moving my way towards the driver but was pushed back towards the other women.
These are what orthodox Jews call “modesty buses”.
Richard, you said:
My very sharp senses tell me that you’re somewhat upset 😉
You asked for comments from Israelis who do not hold right-wing opinions, so here I am (although I am not left-wing or center either).
Let me start by telling you that I agree with some of the things you said, and that I appreciate your defense of human rights. I think, though, having read your emotional attack on Imshin, that you didn’t try to put yourself in her shoes.
Imshin may not be an expert on Hezbollah (or maybe she is, I don’t know), but from her blog I see that she’s an Israeli. Although I may not share Imshin’s political opinions, I probably have a lot in common with her. For one, both she and I were targeted by Hezbollah a few months ago. We had missiles shot at us. Some of them fell rather close to my home. Some of those missiles were loaded with pellets designed to enhance the killing effect of the explosion.
So, having been personally targeted by Hezbollah (without being asked by them of my political opinions), I would have to agree that Hezbollah is an enemy of Israel. (Even though I am not an expert on Hezbollah).
As for racism – yes, there is racism in Israel. Yet Israel does not uphold a racist agenda. Racism in Israel stems from fear (unfortunately, not totally unfounded), from lack of understanding, from differences in values, from the unwillingness to listen, from isolationism, from differences in language, difference in appearance and even difference in smell. But the racism is individual. It is not organized.
Israel, as a system, tries to fight racism. For example, schools in Israel try to teach kids (at least in theory) to resent racism. When I was in the 8th grade, there was a kid in my class who openly supported Kach (the openly racist party of Meir Kahana). This kid was shunned by almost everyone in our class. No one would befriend him. When Meir Kahana was murdered by an Arab, the response of most Israeli Jews was “good riddance”.
Richard, I personally think that most Israeli Jews are too self-centered to see some truths that are obvious to you. But I also think that you go a bit too far in your criticism. Maybe it is because you do not live here, and don’t have a full and current understanding of what is going on here. Or perhaps it is because you expect too much of Israelis. You must remember: we are only human – and most of the responses you see here from Israeli Jews are not based on logic, but on emotion.
Richard Silverstein says
Not so. Egypt is not a democracy & does very little to protect its minorities or provide them with equal rights. Lebanon is also not yet a true democracy though it is struggling toward that direction. Ditto Iraq. The vision I have of Israel is one which enshrines rights of each ethnic group whether majority or minority into a Constitution. These rights to language, religion, culture, etc. would be inalienable & not negotiable or retractable. There is no state yet in the ME that I know of that works on such a principle.
But should Israel enshrine the right of minorities to physically attack members of the majority? Or their right to actively assist those carrying out acts of physical aggression towards other citizens?
Richard – you seem to support non violence. Why are you only preaching for non-violence from the Israeli Jewish side?
BTW, you might find this article interesting. It quotes Muhamad Barake, another Israeli Arab member of the Knesset, calling Bishara to return to Israel, The article also says:
Richard Silverstein says
Israeliblogger: Thanks for one of the more thoughtful Israeli contributions to this debate at this blog.
I’m not arguing that point. The point I’m arguing is that Hezbollah is not Hitler. Hezbollah is a political movement that arose in response to Israel’s first ill-considered war against Lebanon. Being a political movement, there are ways to negotiate with it & compromise with it & resolve the worst disputes bet. the two sides. Most everyone knows what the outcome needs to be. The Lebanese border needs to eventually be demilitarized. Israel needs to return Shebaa Farms (to Lebanon or Syria depending on who you talk to). Israel needs to return the Golan in return for Syrian recognition and international guarantees of a demilitarized border there too as well. My pt is that by demonizing Hezbollah you don’t get any closer to solving the issues that divide you. Hezbollah can just as easily demonize Israelis (& has) & it hasn’t helped their cause either.
This is simply not true. Otherwise, why has EVERY Israeli Arab Knesset member been investigated by the police for one potential infraction or another? Why do governmental budgets always massively slight the needs of the Arab minority? Why do Knesset members routinely hurl racist epithets at Arab members? Why does a deputy prime minister publicly call for the forced removal of Israeli Arabs from Israeli jurisdiction? Why does as “distinguished” an Israeli historian as Benny Morris wish Ben Gurion had done a better job of expelling Israeli Arabs in 1948? Why do Israeli governing coalitions refuse to include Israeli Arab parties within them? Why when 12 unarmed Israeli Arabs are murdered by Israeli police in Nazareth in cold blood are there no punishments meted out? Why can’t Israeli Arabs get building permits to allow them to house their families in new homes? Why can’t Israel teach its Jewish students Arabic as well as Hebrew?
While there is no rule or regulation calling Israeli Arabs an inferior part of the Israeli population that doesn’t mean there aren’t powerful societal forces operating in precisely this way. It amounts to a system of oppression & alienation whether individual Israelis are conscious of it or not. I’m not saying Israelis deliberately set out to create such a system a la the Nazis or even S. Africans. But what they’ve come up reeks of injustice and is a blight on Jewish ethics at least as I define them.
I wouldn’t deny that there are institutional efforts to fight racism within Israel. I wouldn’t doubt there are many individual Israelis and NGOs who are dedicated to this pursuit and I welcome & embrace them. But you’ve quoted an individual praiseworthy anecdote from your school past as if to say it represents the norm. I’m afraid you’re wrong. All these good examples need to be encouraged & praised. But they are not enough. Israel is a society steeped in racism. It will take many years, many political struggles, many expressions of ethnic/political solidarity before Israel embraces a truly colorblind, non-racial attitude toward its Arab citizens.
I fully concede that this could be so. When I am confronted by ideologues and those who argue from emotions that seem devoid of conscience or logic (as you say), then I do get hot under the collar. I know that I expect a lot from Israel. It means a lot to me and is an important part of my Jewish identity. I want Israelis to know that if they f(*k up they are not just doing so for themselves, they are doing so for every other Jew in the world who cares about Israel’s fate.
I’m not sure what you mean by “physically attack members of the majority.” When have Israeli Arabs done this? And I’m also not sure what “actively assist those carrying out acts of physical aggression,” etc. means. Are you saying Bishara did this? Does this mean that someone who conducts a phone conversation with a Hezbollah leader has “actively assisted” in Hezbollah’s “physical aggression” (again we can argue about this term as well since there is plenty of such “aggression” coming from both sides of the conflict) against Israel? Or because Bishara went to Syria and Syria supports Hezbollah that somehow this constitutes “actively assisting” physical aggression against Israel? I think we have to be very careful about our terms. Israelis may hate Bishara. And hell, maybe they’re right to. I don’t know (well, actually I do but just for the sake of argument I’ll concede he’s not an easy guy NOT to hate). But you can’t say throw the guy in a dark dungeon just because you hate what he stands for. He actually has to violate a law & you have to have evidence & prove it conclusively in legal proceedings.
Leaving all that aside, in this future state I envision there would be a compact between the ethnic groups which compose the state. There would be a Constitution. Rights would be defined. Responsibilities too. I would expect Arabs to accept such responsibilities and obligations willingly if they were going to be getting a “new deal” from the Israeli state. I think once Arabs found themselves the recipients of these new rights they would take care not to tarnish their new won freedoms. I think you’d find an Azmi Bishara becoming like Jesse Jackson in 1988 or Obama today and running for prime minister. But not necessarily as an Israeli Arab separatist nationalist. Rather, he’d run as a pragmatic politician along the lines of Barack Obama. Someone who takes care to build a winning coalition of Israeli Jews and Arabs.
Again, I’m not quite sure what you mean. I’m in favor of self-defense for both sides of the conflict. But self-defense doesn’t mean carpetbombing another country. It means precisely that–defending ones own borders and citizens. I AM in favor of both sides renouncing violence, both Israelis & Palestinians (& Hezbollah). I am against Palestinian terror just as I was against Hezbollah rocket attacks (& IDF destruction of Lebanon). Ultimately, there is no military solution of this conflict & not even a military defense that will allow the status quo to work.
Referring to those who wish Bishara to return–I am among them. He should fight the charges with every power at his disposal fr. within Israel. But unlike others, I am not willing to cast suspicion on or second guess his motives. When we face the loss of everything he faces the loss of (freedom, income, family, physical health & perhaps his life given his serious kidney condition) then we can castigate him for not doing what we think we would do in his circumstances.
I am not much of a fun of Azmi Bishara, and while I respect him and admire his intellectual work as opposed to some of the self-professed Arab “leaders” (or rather, virtually all), who neither understand the people they are supposed to, or claim to, represent, nor can they produce anything of intellectual value because they are not interested in the welfare of their people, but only their pockets; this explains the immense poverty of people’s political awareness and our national movements. This has however, been solved with the coming to the forefront of Islam, and the contribution it brings to the lacking political life of the masses: the intellectual and cultural wealth (Islam as a historical phenomenon in addition to a religion and faith) as opposed to the moral bankruptcy of other political movements and leaderships. I think Azmi Bishara deserves a lot of respect for that, no matter what our (as an Arab, Muslim, Lebanese) disagreements with him might be.
We do not value higher education… really? Wow, I guess that’s what explains the hundreds of universities in the Arab and Muslim world, the thousands of scholars and scientists (or rather 100s of thousands) in the Arab and Muslim world… If that means that Arab (and I presume you use Arab and Muslim synonymously) culture does not value higher education, then wow, we really do have a way to waste money and time. By the way, maybe you have not heard of Ibn Sina, Al Khawarizmi (ever heard of ALGEBRA?), Ibn Rushd, Ibn Khaldun, and hundreds and thousands of scientists, philosophers, scholars, ARAB and MUSLIM ones, who lay the foundations of western thought, science, and medicine; the fact that the geometric shapes used in tilings on Islamic architecture in the early centuries of Islam, were discovered FIVE centuries BEFORE the west; I guess that shows that it’s all about “Arab culture” and its inferiority, and it is Arab culture that has to be blamed for the current predicament of the Arab and Muslim populations. How convenient.
But let me ask you something, if your monthly salary was $200 (or less), and you were expected to keep your parents and siblings (or just parents, let us say, for the sake of taking away from you the argument that we should not have as many kids if we can’t afford to give them a decent life) on that much money, then I bet you would still be actually thinking about higher education. I am sure that you, as a non-Arab, value higher education so much that in the miseries of poverty you would find a way to somehow get an education. Somehow. I am sure the poor Jews in Israel who can’t afford to pay for higher education, would agree with you, that really, it is not because of social discrimination and economic misery that Arabs are actually not pursuing higher education, but because of “Arab culture”. But then, doesn’t this also apply to Jews of Arab descent (who coincidentally are one of the most underprivileged and discriminated against among the Jewish sector), say the Iraqi Jews? Or you will say they have successfully “shielded” themselves from the “destructive” Arab culture? But 🙂 Let me tell you, if you are taking KSA as a representative sample, then let me tell you, that KSA has the highest per capita production and export of wahabi and salafi terrorists. And KSA also happens to be flirting with your enlightened democracy, or maybe it’s the other way around, I am not sure anymore who is doing the flirting, maybe it’s mutual. So, for the sake of your credibility, do not even try to draw conclusions based on the example of KSA, which in fact does not have an EDUCATION system. The Saudis are brainwashed in schools, they are forced to memorize, if they question something in schools, they are beaten up. One guy told me, that in school they are taught in history class about al-Saud, and they are taught stories about him being ridden by bullets and actually taking out all the dozens of bullets from his chest (not dying from it, mind you…), sewing himself up, and so on, and when one of the kids raised his hand and said, how is this possible, it can’t be, the teacher yelled at him, and said that they should never question what they are taught. I am sure you are now proud of your new-found allies. 🙂
HezbAllah did not ask you your personal opinion??? Oh wait, you mean ISRAEL asked the personal opinion of Lebanese before it launched its bloody war against FOUR MILLION Lebanese??? We should ask for the “personal opinions” of Israelis, but Israel can feel free to massacre our people left right center, all in the name of the so-called violation of a so-called “internationally recognized border” (there is no such thing, btw, it’s only a blue line) which IT has violated day in day out for the previous SIX years (in fact, NEVER stopped, from the day of its withdrawal from South Lebanon).
Let me ask you something. 🙂 If Israel is not racist, then how do you envision Israel in 20-30 years, or let us say 50 years (if you insist the demographic “problem” is not so bad), when there will be demographic parity? Or let us say hypothetically, try to imagine that situation, in X number of years, what will Israel do then? Or will it not let things reach that extent to begin with ? Or will it strip its citizens of their citizenship based on their ethnic and religious belonging, and cede them to the P.A , against their will (as one MK suggested a few days ago) ? Or will it forcefully transfer them, and keep the territory? Or what??? Do you realize that in the long term, the demographic argument is an irrelevant one, and not the real issue that must be dealt with NOW, in order to avoid further bitterness LATER, when there IS actual parity?? Or you want to act like an ostrich and bury your head in the sand ??? What do you want “Israeli Arabs” to do, and by the way, the fact that you call them Israeli Arabs, and not Israelis, goes to show a lot. 🙂 Well, at least you don’t call them Palestinians, which I am sure will become more and more popular a term to be attached to your Arab citizens, as you increasingly come to view them as “things” to be “kicked out”. 🙂 So tell me, what should “Israeli Arabs” do, just refrain from reproducing, so that you will continue to live in your bubble and not have to worry about demographics, Jewish majorities, Jewish-only towns, Judaization of Jalil (Galilee) and Naqab (Negev) ? 🙂
The fact that you invite people specifically to this post to “see some real Israeli Jewish racists”, allow me to be attacked but do not allow me to respond, is unfair.
I see that last comment got posted in spite of you saying “I’m turning off yr privilege to comment here since you don’t seem to know how or when to stop arguing.” If I am able to, I respond later.
Richard Silverstein says
Amir: You’re a broken record and I’m tired of being one of the few people here who rebuts the meretricious nonsense that you attempt to foist off on my audience as received wisdom. It’s time you got a reality check from people other than me so that you know that your opinion is a minority in the world outside your own narrow one.
If you drone on and on and repeat yourself as you have in the past I’ll moderate your comments again. BTW, I don’t usually ban people and didn’t ban you. I merely moderated your comments which allows me to decide whether I want to publish them or not.
[ed., comment edited. I reserve the right to delete links promoting sites or posts which attack me or promote right-wing propaganda.]
The average reported wage an Arab earns in Israel is 75% that of a Jew. As far as I know, Arabs and Jews working in the public sector and performing the same job title earn the same wage. I believe discrimination plays a role in this gap, but that other factors do as well. I never said Arabs are lazy or smoke hookahs all day. All the Arabs I know are hard working. Most of the ones I know have college degrees, nicer cars than I have (not hard to do) houses which are three times bigger than mine and are professionals and their wives work: accountants, lawyers, building contractors, physicians, dentists etc. Most of them have between 2 and 4 children. Nevertheless, as a group and statistically speaking, a greater number of Israeli Arabs have CHOSEN to prefer a large family and to begin creating a family at an earlier age, and to prefer childbirth over higher education for the women. I do not consider this choice to be inferior to the choice I or my friends have made, but it has economic consequences. In this chart (http://www.adva.org/UserFiles/File/femaletomale.pdf) you can see the percentage of females of Males in the Labor Force worldwide. The Arab countries are all at the bottom of the list. So there may be a cultural aspect to this trend, and it in no matter belittles the acomplishments of Arab and/or Muslim culture that AG mentioned. For the record, I think every woman should have as many children as she wants and can have regardless of race or creed.
I never referred to the minister Majadele as a “good Arab”. I merely said he’s in a position to actually do some good while Bishara is not.
For your Information –
Arabic is compulsory for all Jewish pupils in High School. In junior high school they must choose between Arabic and Frence and since few learn French, most have quite a few years of Arabic study in the classroom.
That’s all for now
Richard – I read your response to Amir, and couldn’t help being reminded of my discussions with Arab bloggers (who attacked my views in a way that is not unlike the way you’re being attacked by Israelis right now).
I’d really like to refer you to a post of mine. Let me know what you think.
@AG – where exactly did I say that Israel is a saint?
Richard Silverstein says
Which is supposed to mean what? That there is parity bet. them because there is only a 25% wage gap?
Which again skirts the issue. Either the Arab can’t get hired for the job since his Jewish supervisor won’t do so; or the Arab doesn’t even have sufficient work or educational experience to be hired for the job. It’s an endless vicious circle.
Ah yes. Those Arabs have chosen to be poor & their women have chosen to be barefoot and pregnant. I repeat, while having a larger family does put a financial burden on that family, it has nothing to do with the reason why the breadwinner cannot find any work or, if he finds work, it is likely menial, back-breaking manual labor. The man with 10 children who serves as a porter isn’t deliberately choosing not to be a dentist or accountant (as your Arab friends are). He couldn’t be one even if he wanted to be.
Wrong again. Bishara has done much good and will continue to do so. But you & I view as “good” are widely disparate. You wrote approvingly of Majadele as an Arab who works within the system & plays by its rules. That is the defintion of a “good Arab” by me. I see both figures playing a positive role for entirely different reasons. They are the Martin Luther King and Malcom X of Israeli Arab politics (I only meant this as a historical comparison but not to say that I feel Majadele’s contribution is comparable to MLK’s).
So as a product of the Israeli educational system–how’s your Arabic? With my 6 yrs of junior high & high school French I could carry on a decent conversation with a native French person & read a basic text. How ’bout you? If every American high school student took Arabic for 4 or more yrs., I have to say the language would be a damn sight more highly regarded than it is in Israel.
Mike Seth says
So by the same logic, can it be truthfully said that the Jewish Holocaust is nothing like what Israel does to the “palestinians”?
I am glad not to be a part of these forces. Unfortunately, you have me confused with them. Our road to collision with these forces is long, winded and inevitable. Eventually, the new generation of Israeli people would see the horse manure (as you would say) they’re stuck in, and shit will hit the fan. Old powers would be fought back, and change will come, and Israel will be a better place for everyone. I am not afraid of that as I wait for that day rather impatiently. What I am afraid of is the day after. I know Israel, Israeli people and myself. I am convinced that on the grand scale of things Israeli Jews are not evil people and I know we can get our shit together and fix this once and for all. I can not in good faith say the same about Israeli Arabs. I am sure you can come up with many statistical explanations and macrosocial reasoning on why they are on the receiving end of the stick and we’re on the handle one. But here’s the thing. My flatmate, who’s also a russian immigrant, went through US and Canada before finding himself in Israel; and at home, I and him speak Hebrew. When I interview people, even though they are obviously more comfortable speaking in Russian, I still demand that they do it in Hebrew. I was not born in Israel but I am an Israeli. I understand the Israeli humour, I read Israeli newspapers, and I have Israeli friends despite the fact that I am a pantheist and I have absolutely nothing in common with Jewish culture and tradition. I came to Israel as a russian boy and now I am proud to be an Israeli man. Israel became my new home and I changed myself to fit. Are the Israeli Arabs of today prepared to undergo the same change? No. Do some of them try? Absolutely. Do some succeed? Go around Hadera and count the arabic lawyer offices. Yes, they do, individually. En masse they do no such thing, however. They want to stay in Israel and get the full benefits of being Israeli without actually being an Israeli: Arab education, they want, Arab cities, they want, road signs in Arabic, they want, national insurance, they want, and Jewish jobs with Jewish pay they want too. You know who else does that kind of thing? These people, a Russian nationalist movement inside Israel that is, I quote by translation, “created to serve the interests of satisfaction of cultural and spiritual demands of the Russian community of Israel, the numbers and the intellectual potential of which have risen lately”. These people are the part of the societal forces you were talking about: they want Russian to be a national language, and they want all government services to be offered in Russian JUST SO THAT THEY DON’T HAVE TO BECOME ISRAELI. Behind their seemingly innocent if not righteous message hides the ugly truth: these are disgusting nationalists who would do everything in their power to resist the change and become an Israeli. How are the Israeli Arabs different at large? And I will reiterate the question that no one seems to be able to answer: our impatience with the present grows short. We are ready to change and even though we have sacrificed enough we will be able to sacrifice even more if we are sure that we can achieve long lasting peace. How can we be sure? Who will give us the assurance that after we return Golan heights and follow the rest of concessions that are prescribed to us by your favourite two state solution plans, the Arabs will not use their new strategic positions to launch a full scale eradication war against us? They’ve been meaning to do that for more than half a century; they tried repeatedly and they failed, which only invigorated them further; with the “palestinian” cause being trumped up in every major newspaper around the world, with backing of the Russian military machine, with the new knowledge of psi-ops and assymmetric warfare, a network of terrorist organizations who share their experience and intelligence with each other, and millions of “liberal” western supporters, during the global rise of militant Islam, please answer me: how likely is it that by following the peace initiatives blindly (unconditionally) we are not loading a shotgun that would be then dicharged into our foot just like we did in 1993? And what countermeasures can be put in place to ensure that we are not turning into a minority in our own state? Answer me, because frankly, no one else is able to.
Yes, there is no military solution to this conflict, and there never will be. However, there is a military defense that allows the status quo to work. It’s called “now”. If you have a better alternative that does not have the demise of Israel as a free democratic society among its likely consequences, put it on the table. No, we are not saints, and yes, the way we handle things is way way way beyond benevolence; its because so far our methods, sadistic and amoral as they are, were shown to work where everything else fails. I know what you’ll say next: that human rights come before politics, and that efficiency is not an excuse for violence. You are right, yet we have no choice. I know a girl (well, a woman) who said once during a gun argument that she would rather allow herself to be raped than take away the rapists’ life. This is a subservient, fatalist attitude that we are not willing to bear.
And about Arabic: my cousin, also an immigrant from Russia, also had compulsory Arabic lessons in her high school (rather, she chose Arabic instead of Russian as a second language of choice). And she got to use it too; during her military service she was recruited into the border guards, which is Israel’s official ‘we beat Arabs up’ pseudo-military unit (pseudo since they are considered police and there are various legal and jurisdictional consequences to that). That is our reality. Please don’t abuse other Israelis’ studies of Arabic as a way to prove your point, as the only likely response you would get is not the one you would like to hear.
Richard Silverstein says
Is the Occupation genocide? No. Do Israelis want to exterminate Palestinians? Except for the Kahanists, no. But is there virulent hatred of Palestinians among significant portions of the Israeli people? Yes. Does this hatred allow them to view Palestinians as less than human, & hence make it that much easier to oppress them? Yes. So there ARE similarities bet. the two phenomena. But there are fundamental differences bet. the two events & they should only be compared very carefully, deliberately and in a quite constrained way.
I share your view. Again, nice to agree w. you on something.
And here we fundamentally disagree & it becomes clear that you are & will be part of the problem that prevents peace rather than part of the solution that enables it. Most sad.
There is a fundamental diff. bet. you & them. As you say, you have little in common w. Jews or Judaism. You came to Israel & worked hard at assimilating to it. Arabs have no such obligation. Should a Native American feel he or she has to acculturate to white society? What does an aboriginal person owe to such a society in terms of being forced to fit in? If anything, fitting in should be the other way around. The majority owes the original inhabitants a debt because they have been toppled from their former status, oppressed & discriminated against. Lands & livelihoods have been stolen. Ways of life trampled. It is not the obligation of Arabs to fit into yr society. Should they choose to do so that should be their prerogative & they should not be hindered fro doing so (as they most definitely are).
And that’s another thing. You complain about Arabs not trying to fit in as you have. If you close off jobs, opportunities, livelihoods, & educational advantages fr. Arabs as Israel most assuredly does you have no right to squawk about them “not fitting in.” Israel doesn’t give them a chance to do so. And those Arabs who do succeed in Israel do so against all odds.
You are about the 40th reader to ask such a question here. If you have cancer & the doctor tells you only one thing can save you: an operation. But he warns you that the operation also might kill you. Do you say to him: “But doctor, how can you expect me to have such an operation when you might kill me instead?” Sure, anything can happen after Israel returns the Golan. But will it? No. The problem is not only that you don’t trust the Arabs, but you don’t want to trust them. In fact, you’d rather believe that they’ll knife you in the back before they’d settle for peace. Well, you can believe that. But you won’t get peace out of that approach. You’ll get the same old bloody status quo.
That’s a crock. They tried in 1948 and failed. Israel attacked Egypt in 1956 (not the other way around). Israel essentially attacked Egypt in 1967 because it believed that Egypt was planning to attack it first (which it wasn’t). After Sadat offered Israel peace negotiations in 1972 & Golda rejected his offer, he attacked to regain the Sinai (not to destroy Israel). There have been no other wars in which Israel’s existence was endangered. So don’t go claiming the Arabs are exterminationists. That song doesn’t play around here.
You’re from Russia & should certainly know that the Russian military is entirely dysfunctional. Couldn’t conquer Afghanistan. Took 2 wars to conquer Chechnya which isn’t entirely subdued yet. What does Israel have to be afraid of fr. the Russian army??
No, it DOESN’T work. Surviving is not enough. Living and enjoying life is what Israelis & Palestinians are entitled to. The status quo means continued murder & death. More blood. Survival, if you’re lucky. Just barely getting by. That’s not a life. Peace means life.
They “work???” How do you figure that??? Sadism and amorality when practiced by an entire nation never “works.” The Occupation doesn’t “work.” Not for Palestinians, not for Israelis.
You think the Occupation is “efficient???” Just think of the wasted money going into military weapons systems & logistics that could go into things that would truly help Israel’s inhabitants. Think of the millions of hours reservists spend in military service when they could be productive workers. This is efficient??
This is a false choice and ridiculous construct.
This only proves my point. Your cousin got to “use” her Arabic while participating in one of the most brutal & thuggish Israeli institutions that interacts with Arabs. She essentially used her knowledge of the language to help perpetrate Arab subjugation. Is that the only use an Israeli Jew can make of Arabic? Shouldn’t we learn Arabic so we can study their great philosophers from the Middle Ages? Shouldn’t we study Arabic so we can study their astonishing artistic traditions? Shouldn’t we study Arabic so we can participate in joint economic ventures that might benefit both peoples? How often does any of this happen now? You know the answer.
I personally believe that the problem is much deeper than trust. It’s a problem of understanding. We don’t understand the Arabs, and they don’t understand us. And I’m not talking about language – I’m talking about understanding the fundamental way of thinking. Understanding the motivations. This lack of understanding is the root of distrust – for both sides.
Why are you so sure of that? I have heard from many Arabs that Israelis and Zionists are the devil, and that the purpose of the Zionist movement is to conquer the entire Arab world. Simply returning the Golan will not change that. They will see such a tactic move in the plot to conquer their land. What is to stop them from attacking Israel in order to defend themselves from this threat? To us, this threat seems ridiculous. To them it is a very real one.
Richard, the Qassam missiles that are being continuously fired on Sderot these past few days do much to strengthen this belief for the vast majority of Israeli Jews. I don’t think Israelis would “rather” believe Arabs will knife us in the back. It is the lack of understanding of the motivation – or actually, the misinterpretation of motivation – that strengthens this belief. The Israeli narrative is “we returned Gaza, and look what we got in return”. This is immediately extended to the Golan. Israelis don’t realize that the Qassam missiles originate in Palestinian despair and in the Palestinian ignorance of the effect of those missiles on Israelis. We automatically associate those missiles with the declarations by Hamas that Israel doesn’t have a right to exist, and label them as “acts of terror” and “antisemitism”. BTW, most Arabs believe Israelis will knife them in the back rather than settle for peace, but Israelis don’t usually understand this, because we interpret this way of thinking as “antisemitic propaganda”.
Richard Silverstein says
I completely agree w. you that the ignorance on both sides of the “other” is what fuels the hatred & mistrust. Somehow, this ignorance must be broken down w. diligent efforts on both sides to learn the “language” the other speaks.
That is certainly possible just as many Israeli Jews believe that the Islamists want nothing short of conquering the entire world including the west. But the former set of beliefs is not held by the majority of Arabs & we shouldn’t overstate the hatred, strong as it may be, that Arabs might feel for Zionism.
It certainly will. Clearly this is what the Assad regime wants. When Syria gets this territory back & reciprocates by ending its state of war with Israel & recognizing Israel, the environment will change radically for the better. You don’t have to believe me if you don’t wish to. But mark my words when it happens because it will.
Look, you or I could get killed crossing the street tomorrow. But will it happen? Unlikely. I know that the possibility of a war with Syria is more weighty than my example, but the comparison is still apt. Can anyone promise you a sure thing regarding Israeli Arab peace? No. But the chances are very strong that land for peace will work.
I want to thank you for the empathy that this comment shows. I too deplore the Qassam attacks. They are a bankrupt tactic. And I understand that they create hatred among Jews for Palestinians. I wish the barrage wasn’t happening.
I do think in a way that Hamas is goading Israel into invading Gaza because if the IDF invades then Hamas realizes that all of Gaza will united behind them as the chief resisters of Israeli military might. If the IDF stays outside Gaza then Hamas starts to look like just another Palestinian cabal greedy for power & willing to decimate their fellow Palestinian supporters of Fatah.
Kudos for the optimism :-).
Problem is, if I may continue the analogy – suppose someone has a tendency to look only to the right before crossing the street. Having already been run down twice, this person has developed a severe paranoia of crossing streets, and can’t even get near a sidewalk without trembling with fear and the memory of pain. How do you convince such a person to learn to look left and try again? I doubt that shouting at that person that “you’re an incompetent fool” will do much good. Please forgive my criticism, Richard, but your answers to Israeli comments on this thread are a bit close to this sort of response. I’m only saying this because I realize you mean well, and I hope that you can find a way to truly communicate your thoughts to Israelis.
Are you basing the statement that this view is not held by the majority of Arabs on any concrete statistics? I base many of my views on gut feelings and hearsay, so I would really find such statistics helpful. Can you point me at them? BTW, I’m not talking just about hatred – I’m talking about Arab people “knowing for sure” that the “true purpose” of the Zionist movement is to conquer the Arab lands (regardless of hating or not hating zionists for this).
Rereading what I wrote in my “road crossing paranoia” example, I suspect I may not have been quite clear. I forgot to mention that the Israeli Jewish society is paranoid about its survival.
Is this paranoia justified? I don’t know, but it stems from the Pogroms, the Holocaust, the Prao’t, and the war of independence. It is constantly strengthened by intentional attacks on Israeli civilians – whether with knifes, guns, bombs, suicide bombers, Katyusha rockets, Scud missiles (and Palestinians dancing on rooftops when the Scuds fall) and now with Qassam missiles. It is further entrenched by declarations of Muslim leaders about Israel not having a right to exist, and by attempts of those leaders to obtain nuclear weapons. Can you blame Israeli Jews for being paranoid?
Richard, you praised my empathy towards Palestinians. You’ll gain a lot by showing empathy towards Israeli Jews (including those in the right wing).
BTW – Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they aren’t really out to get you… 😉
Richard Silverstein says
I completely agree w. yr analogy. Israeli ARE traumatized by their experience of war & terror. I empathize w. this fear. I know a great deal about the Jewish history & suffering you refer to. I do not call Israelis “incompetent fools” for being afraid for their lives.
But Israeli readers of this blog who support a Likud or settler agenda are a diff. story. I do not have sympathy for them. I do not have sympathy for anyone who has convinced themselves that Arabs are pure unadulterated evil. I do not have sympathy for anyone who refuses to take any risk for peace at all & says it’s up to the other side to give in before they’ll be ready to make peace.
I have a good number of Israeli readers who are not supporters of Likud or the settlers, but they are in the minority here. The reason is that most Israelis who are left of center are reading & writing Hebrew blogs, not English lang. blogs. Most Israeli blog readers reading English lang. blogs are Anglo-Israelis, whose politics unfortunately skews rightward. So though you may see these right leaning blog readers as a microcosm of Israelis themselves, I tend to see them as a skewed sample of a true Israeli panoply of political views.
I wrote a blog post some months ago about a Pew survey of world opinion which included opinions in the Arab world. It doesn’t measure attitudes toward Zionism, but it does measure Muslim attitudes toward the west & toward Islamic fundamentalism. Therefore, it’s instructive. I’ll do some more searching for some more solid statistics on this subject.
Yes, I agree. But my personal corollary to that Delmore Schwartz quotation is: “Just because they’re out to get you doesn’t absolve you of responsibility to try to find a way to turn them from enemies to something less threatening.”
I can certainly understand this view of yours. I used to subscribe to it myself not so long ago. However, once I realized that I must show sympathy towards Arabs who are convinced that Israelis are pure unadulterated evil, I found myself also showing sympathy towards Israelis holding that same view towards Arabs.
Try reading the Hebrew talkbacks on Ha’aretz or Ynet some time. You may find that the Anglo-Israelis are very mild. 🙁
That said, I think that many comments here are not right-wing. They reflect one aspect of the Israeli way of thinking – even of those who vote for center or even left-wing parties. Remember, though, that it’s only a partial view.
Thanks – I’ll check it out.
Richard Silverstein says
I think that’s admirable & it’s a state of grace I aspire to. With some commenters here who disagree but do so in a civil way, I don’t have such hot disputations. It really depends on someone’s tone. If they come across as self-righteous then I tend to reply in kind. If their tone sounds insulting or demeaning I respond similarly. I guess I like a good mahloket. But I should pay more attention to yr perspective (shared by my wife btw) that kindness, sympathy and tolerance go farther in their way than rapier wit.