I reported a few days ago on a series of secret Shin Bet arrests of Arab minorities in different communities inside Israel and the occupied Golan. Because the arrests were under gag and my Israeli sources could obtain limited information, until now I couldn’t report in greater depth about the nature of the charges and the context to the arrests.
Thanks to a staffer for an intrepid human rights NGO, I can now do so. When I last posted, I had the least information of all the detainees, about Abdul Basset Zo’abi. It turns out he is from Nazareth. In the past few days, two other members of his family, Abdul Majid Zo’abi and Abdullah Zo’abi were also arrested under gag.
These detentions were related to provocative Kahanist rallies held there last Sunday by Baruch Marzel and MK Michael Ben Ari (who also managed to stir up religious hostility this week from Christians by tearing up, Terry Jones-like, a New Testament sent to him by an evangelical Christian). The ostensible purpose of the rally by the Jewish terror supporters was to “encourage” Israeli Palestinians to enlist in the IDF. This occurs in the backdrop of extraordinary domestic tension regarding reform of the current law that exempts most Haredim and Palestinian citizens from serving.
Marzel and his goons planned on rallying at the Nazareth home of Palestinian MK Haneen Zo’abi, a leader of the Israeli Palestinian nationalist movement. This was another bit of provocation on their part.
To give you a sense of their audacity, this is a voice message sent to 10,000 Nazareth households by the miscreants:
In the message, Marzel addresses the residents of Nazareth with the IDF march playing in the background.
“Marhaba! [‘Welcome’ in Arabic]. Residents of Nazareth, this is Baruch Marzel, Chairman of Our Land of Israel speaking. On Sunday I am coming to Nazareth to recruit you to the National Service in the state of Israel. So that our courageous soldiers can be free to wage war against the enemies surrounding us, I call on you to enlist and pull your weight in the work that needs to be done at this time – in construction, paving of roads and agriculture. If there are no obligations – forget about the rights. As our rabbi and teacher, Rabbi Meir Kahane, blessed be the memory of the holy tzaddik, used to say: You want equality? You want National Insurance? You want rights? First of all – [give] three years of service to the state. Only thus will we realize the 2,000-year-old hope, to be a free nation in our land.”
Our Land of Israel spokesman Itamar Ben Gvir said that the phone message is part of a campaign that will reach its climax on Sunday when activists led by MK Michael Ben Ari and Marzel will hold a demonstration near the home of MK Hanin Zouabi and the offices of the Balad party.
The Zoabis were arrested by the Shin Bet for allegedly planning to attack the rightist protest by firing LAW anti-tank missiles that would disrupt it. Israeli security services have arrested Palestinians in the past on similar charges, though there hasn’t been a single incident I know of in which such individuals even came close to securing such a weapon, let alone firing it. So I find the charge dubious.
It’s certainly possible the Zoabis were planning an act of counter-protest, one that likely would’ve or should’ve been entirely legal. But because the city was a tinder box of conflicting nationalist sympathies, the Shin Bet likely decided to arrest them on trumped up charges in order to quell Paestinian resistance.
Interesting that those who originate racist acts of hate like Marzel are not arrested, while Palestinians, whose honor has been trampled upon, are detained. The sympathies of the security police couldn’t be clearer.
Another security prisoner secretly detained was Salman Hassan Safadi of Majdal Shams. His arrest was reported by the Golani Arabic language news service, Baladee, which noted that the Shin Bet “turned his house upside down” and confiscated mobile phones and computers. Dr Eyad Jawhari had earlier been similarly arrested when he attempted to return from Syria to Israel-occupied Golan.
My NGO source informed me that the chaos inside Syria has bled into the Golan as well. A few days ago in Majdal Shams there were conflicting protests by supporters and opponents of the Assad regime. The participants even came to blows.
Israel is known to feel extremely nervous about not only the deterioration of conditions in Syria and how this may harm Israeli interests, but how the unrest might possibly transfer into Israel itself. In light of the Arab Spring, its yearning for freedom and hostility to oppressive regimes, israel sees itself as a likely target. Ehud Barak has already said Israel will forcibly prevent refugees from entering Israel. Israel is also known to be worrying about any advantage that it’s arch enemy Hezbollah might exploit by using Syrian territory to launch attacks on Israel. It is scared shitless that the Golan could turn into what the Sinai has become in post-Mubarak Egypt–a zone in which shadowy Islamist elements operate freely and mount terror attacks of opportunity. Recall that Eilat saw just such an attack two years ago that originated in Sinai (though Israel lied by claiming it came from Gaza, because it was far easier to take revenge there than on Egyptian elements it could hardly identify, let alone strike).
The first impulse of an authoritarian regime (such as Israel in its dealings with its Arab minorities) facing such challenges is to clamp down hard in hopes that a clenched fist will discourage trouble. That’s why it has arrested so many recently in the Golan. My source tells me that even more than those whom I’ve listed have been imprisoned. Most detained have been Assad supporters.
In attempting to squelch resistance by its ethnic minorities to their disenfranchisement from Israeli society (in the case of the Nazareth protest); or the suppression of resistance to occupation (in the case of the Golani arrests), the Shin Bet reminds me of the poor Dutch boy holding his finger in the dyke. Eventually, he simply doesn’t have enough fingers to plug all the holes as they spring leaks and the entire dyke collapses. At some point in the not too distant future something like this will happen to Israel. No amount of Shin Bet fingers are going to prevent the entire edifice of Jewish privilege and entitlement from falling like a house of cards. They will be replaced by an Israel that recognizes democratic rights for all its citizens without regard to religion or ethnicity. It will be an Israel that renounces claims to territory acquired through military conquest or theft.
A Minor Nit Pick says
Richard, there is a minor error in your article, right here:
“This occurs in the backdrop of extraordinary domestic tension regarding reform of the current law that exempts most Haredim and Palestinian citizens from serving.”
The Tal Law exempts Haredim from compulsory military service in the IDF, but it deals *only* with the Haredim.
There is nothing in any Israeli law that exempts Israeli Arabs i.e. if Ehud Barak called up an able-bodied Arab for military service then the law says that he/she *must* report for duty; no exemptions, no excuses, no evasions.
The only wrinkle is that this law also gives Ehud Barak the perogative not to call up any “individual or group” and he – like all Ministers of Defense before him – has a policy of exercising that perogative by deciding that he doesn’t want any Israeli Arabs in his army.
But it is important to recognize that for what it is i.e. it is not that Israeli Arabs are “exempt” from serving in the IDF, but that the Ministry of Defense is allowed to decide that it does not want them to serve in the IDF.
Note this: the Druze were once in the same situation i.e. the IDF simply refused to call them up.
Then one day the then-minister decided to change that policy: the Druze then started to receive their call-up papers, and they had to front up for basic training.
No Knesset legislation required.
No special committee needed to be former.
All it took was for the Minister to change his mind.
As far as the Israeli Arabs are concerned that is all it would take i.e. Ehud Barak could simply change his mind and start calling them up tomorrow, and if he made that decision then …… no Knesset legislation is required, no special committee is needed.
Not so with the haredim, whose call-up *would* require a change in the current legislation.
Richard Silverstein says
That’s not a minor nitpick at all. Thanks for your correction & review of the issues involved in Israeli Palestinian participation in the IDF.
Uri Horesh says
Thank you for exposing this, Richard.
Just one comment, though: Zoabi’s party, al-tajammu3, is hardly a “nationalist” movement, at least not in the sense that the term is typically used in the West, to mean a movement that advocates for the superiority of one nation over others.
I’m sure you didn’t mean to villify Zoabi or her peers, but I’m afraid the use of the word “nationalist” may have that inadvertent effect. Her party has been labeled that way, unfortunately, even among left-leaning circles in Palestine and Israel, but we don’t have to buy into that epithet.
Richard Silverstein says
No, I don’t mean “nationalist” in the sense that Likud and settlers are “nationalists.” I mean it in the sense that she stands up for Palestinian national identity, which I believe is the original meaning of the term. I do not mean that she privileges Palestinian national identity over Jewish or Israeli national identity. But I do find justice is your concern & will note it for when I consider using the term in future.
kochava malchiel says
Isn’t Ben Ari somehow connected with the brother of Yigal Amir?