Prime minister and his
ministers would do well to act to calm things down and adopt a different
policy, which regards Arabs as equal citizens, not a fifth column
undermining the state.
Haaretz Editorial Oct 15, 2015 2:18 AM
Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu accused Arab Knesset members of incitement against the State
of Israel this week. He spoke of “the instigating leadership of the
communist Balad party, behind whom
are a train of ISIS flags.” Such statements, uttered by the prime
minister of Israel in a speech from the Knesset rostrum, could have
destructive implications for the relationship between the Arab citizens
and the Jewish majority at a time when people on both
sides feel threatened and are afraid to walk the streets.
In addition to their
dangerous timing, Netanyahu’s statements revealed his ignorance about
Arab politics and society. Balad is a national-Arab party which has no
connection to the communist party,
even if some of its members were associated with that party in the
past. There has been bitter political rivalry between the two parties
for many years, and the fact that they are cooperating in the Joint Arab
List faction in the Knesset does not mean that
the differences between them have melted away.
Moreover, at no march or
rally of the Arab public have the black flags of the Islamic state been
raised. What were present were green flags with the words, “There is no
God but Allah and Mohammed is
Allah’s messenger,” which are the flags of both branches of the Islamic
Movement, one of which is represented in the Knesset by three MKs.
Most Israelis view Arabs
as one “bloc,” and not as a pluralistic society with a variety of
opinions and movements – mainly because of the distorted coverage of
events in Arab society. Netanyahu was
directing his statements precisely at the inflamed part of the Israeli
public when he depicted the Arab Knesset members and the citizens they
represent as Islamic State supporters. In the same breath, he demanded
that incitement be denounced and coexistence
supported. Netanyahu understands full well the implications of his
words, especially when he sees the turbulence that is created and the
fact that every Arab citizen becomes in the eyes of others a potential
attacker who should be killed.
More than 20,000 Arab
citizens took part in the rally in Sakhnin on Tuesday, young and old,
children and women, expressing legitimate protest against the
government’s policy. They dispersed quietly
without incident. A group of young men who attempted to clash with
police were pushed back by municipal ushers and inspectors. All the
speakers at the rally made clear that the Arabs in Israel have at their
disposal only democratic tools to deal with discrimination,
racism and the desire to end the occupation.
Instead of inciting
against Israel’s Arab citizens, the prime minister and his ministers
would do well to act to calm things down and adopt a different policy,
which regards Arabs as equal citizens,
not a fifth column undermining the state.