A Message to our Arab Citizens

By Victor Rosenthal    Dec 16/21

A recent editorial in the Jerusalem Post views with alarm recent statements by some media and political personalities that the Post sees as advocating “ethnic cleansing.” For example, journalist/political consultant Itamar Fleischman remarked on the anti-Jewish riots that took place in several mixed Arab-Jewish cities in May, saying

The bottom line is that we have a situation in which Arabs forgot the Nakba. … And the solution is to remind them of the Nakba. We should tell them as soon as now that if they don’t start to come to their senses, and if they keep trying to murder our children, their next stop is beyond the Jordan River or in al-Yarmuk [refugee] camp in Syria.

Radio host and former MK Yinon Magal said something similar: “if you’ll keep killing Jews, we will exile you again.” And Betzalel Smotrich, MK and leader of the Religious Zionist party, spoke bluntly in response to anti-Zionist comments by Arab members of the Knesset:

I am not holding any conversations with you, you anti-Zionists. You are supporters of terror, enemies. You are [here] due to a mistake because [Israel’s first prime minister David] Ben-Gurion didn’t finish the job and throw you out in 1948.

The Post’s editorial writer said that such public statements “raised a red flag,” and that

The Jewish people should be particularly sensitive to such racist remarks. People who know firsthand the outcome of extreme racism should be the first to cry out when they witness or hear a form of institutionalized racism.

Arabs in Israel should not have to live in fear of possible expulsion. They are not terrorists, and the vast majority of them are ordinary law-abiding citizens who hate violence.

He added that “[t]he best way to quell Palestinian nationalism within Israel is to make Arab citizens feel that they belong.”

While I agree that the vast majority of Arab citizens of Israel are “ordinary law-abiding citizens who hate violence,” I disagree that the comments of Fleischman, Magal, and Smotrich were inappropriate. There is a real issue with the Arabs of Israel – leaving aside the Arabs of Judea/Samaria and Gaza – which is not going away, and can’t be made to go away by telling the Jews not to be “racist.”

What is the issue? First, it has nothing to do with “race,” and accusations of “racism” do not illuminate the problem. In a nutshell the conflict is a national one, over the historical question of to whom the Land of Israel belongs, and over who gets to determine the character of the state that is established here.

I’ve written enough about the competing narratives and I don’t want to go into them here. Obviously I believe that the existence of the Jewish state as the nation-state of the Jewish people is justified. That implies that Jews get to choose the flag, the national anthem, and other symbols of the state. And more practically, they can also choose immigration and citizenship policies that will lead to a continued Jewish majority.

Is this situation entirely “democratic?” That depends on your point of view. Yes, there is a Jewish majority which supports the continuation of the Law of Return for Jews, and does not want to change it to include the descendants of Arab refugees from 1948. But isn’t that law in itself anti-democratic? The Zionist answer to that question is that the Jewishness of the state takes priority over its other characteristics. The state strives to provide equal rights for all its citizens, but not at the cost of giving up its identity as a Jewish state. As a result, Jews in Israel have a different status than non-Jews: they are the owners of the state.

It’s impossible to finesse this issue. I myself wrote that there is no contradiction inherent in the formulation “a Jewish and democratic state,” because all citizens, Jews and Arabs, have full civil and political rights. That is true, as far as it goes. But it’s our country, not theirs.

The Arabs – and I think this includes virtually all Arab citizens of Israel – vehemently reject this, because in their historical narrative, they are the owners, and the Jews “stole” the land from them. Statements to this effect are regularly made by Arab members of the Knesset. So while most Arabs do not take part in violent attacks on Jews and Jewish property as happened in May, the idea that we can prevent such occurrences by “mak[ing] Arab citizens feel that they belong” is fantasy. They will not “belong” unless they are given ownership, and we are not going to do that.

Asking the Arabs to give up their narrative is a fool’s errand, and it would be wrong to try to brainwash them with our version of history, even if as a matter of fact it is correct. And if Israel’s Jews should give up their Zionism – as some on the Left would like – then the Jewish state will have failed, and will soon disappear into the mass of Arab states surrounding it.

What we should say to our Arab citizens is something like this: this is a Jewish state and you are a national and religious minority in it. You have all the civil and political rights of any citizen and will not be discriminated against. This is a free society with a free-market economy where you can live better than in any other country in the region. We will treat you with respect, and we appreciate your contribution to Israeli cultural and economic life.

But we insist that you do not try to subvert our state, help its enemies, or engage in insurrections. There are many other states in the world; some of them are defined as Arab-Muslim states, and some are “states of their citizens.” If you can’t accept the minority status that is available here, then go somewhere else.

December 17, 2021 | 9 Comments »

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  1. Leaving “Torah Principles ” aside. I agree totally with Davidowitz. It is indeed an excellent article and the truths contained should be self evident to all readers, indeed and others either Jew or not.

    Ben Gurion, in his Socialistic fervour, and trying to calm down a very difficult situation, made the cardinal error in going far beyond the Balfour Declaration, in fact gutted it to a large extent. He had no business extending the Franchise to the Arabs. They should have been “Immigrants with renewable residence permits”.

    Kahane was totally correct. We have been paying, over-paying by a great margin , ever since.

    And TED’S Jordan Option is the only sensible and obvious solution. Steven Shamrak also has a solution; he’s pushing for who knows how many years. He calls it “The Sinai Option’, but there, a huge need for infrastructure from scratch, PLUS Egyptian assent and active help, PLUS massive international aid, plus with YESHA Arab resistance and much more, makes it far less attractive.

  2. In the USA, Canada and many other countries, there is no official state religion. In the U.K. the Church of England is the religion of the Royal Family and the ‘state religion’ of the country. That fact does not mean that other religions cannot be practiced there, nor does it preclude the practitioners of other religions from holding elected public office or from employment in the civil service.
    In Israel the Jewish religion is the official religion of the state but, as in the UK, practitioners of other religions can be elected to public office and work as civil servants.

  3. Balfour

    It is not racist. The Balfour Declaration was all about making Palestine into the nation state of the Jews. True there was a little addition to take care as good rulers of others. But (taking care of those others) only in the context of the first principle the creation of the necessary state for the Jews which turned out to be in time called Israel. Then Islam Jew Hatred boiled, they hated and hate the Jews, they hate the Jews having their own state…so that minor addition is cancelled. In the sense that every cause is followed in law by effect. It is a logic which flows from Balfour and also flows into Martin’s wise counsel.

  4. The best “message to our Arab citizens” (who are rolling on the floor laughing at the naive Jews who can’t stop fighting about who said what and to whom) is settling the Land of Israel completely and ASAP in its Biblical borders, and that includes Judea and Samaria which the Government Of Israel agreed not to settle with Jews anymore already 30 years ago.

    All the blah-blah-blah on the topic while the Arabs are settling the Jewish lands are a complete waste of time and a distraction.

  5. For Israel to be able to formulate a cogent and coherent policy vis-a-vis the Palestinian issue, it must first manage to correctly conceptualize the conflict. Failure to do so will inevitably result in flawed policy, which in turn, will inevitably result in policy failure—as has been the case with Israel’s policy on the Palestinian issue for decades.

    This brings to mind the wise words of eminent social psychologist, Kurt Levin, who observed: “There is nothing so practical as a good theory.” After all, action without comprehension is a little like swinging a hammer without knowing where the nails are—and just as hazardous and harmful. Thus, good theory creates understanding of cause and effect and hence facilitates effective policy, allowing measures undertaken to achieve their intended goals.

    Formulating such “good theory” entails setting aside the previously mentioned misconceptions that underlie—and undermine—virtually all of the conceptual approaches to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—namely that the Palestinians are a prospective peace partner and that they are unwilling victims of their leaders.

    This leads inexorably to the dour conclusion that the conflict must be conceptualized as one between two irreconcilable collectives, with mutually exclusive foundational narratives: A Jewish collective and an Arab collective—for which, today, the Palestinian-Arab collective is its operational spearhead.

    Grudgingly accepted or greatly feared

    They are irreconcilable because the raison d’etre of the one is the preservation of Jewish political sovereignty in the Holy Land, while the raison d’etre of the other is the annulment Jewish political sovereignty in the Holy Land. Therefore, for one to prevail, the other must be prevailed upon.

    With antithetical and mutually exclusive core objectives, only one can emerge victorious, with the other, vanquished.

    Accordingly, as a clash of collectives, whose outcome will be determined by collective victory or defeat, it cannot be personalized. The fate of individual members of one collective cannot be a deciding determinant of the policy of the rival collective—and certainly not a consideration that impacts the probability of collective victory or defeat.

    Thus, Israel’s survival imperative must dictate that it forgo the pursuit of international amity from the Arabs, which, for the foreseeable future, will remain an unattainable pipe-dream. It must reconcile itself to the stern, but sober, conclusion: The most it can realistically hope for is to be grudgingly accepted, the least it must attain is to be greatly feared.

    Any more benign policy goals are a recipe for disaster.

  6. It is really complex, no-one is kicking out the Arabs unless there is an all out internal war. They do not want to leave. Two enemy populations living in the same state.

  7. All Arabs are free to live in Israel and those who are unhappy living here in Israel are free to leave the counry to live elsewhere whenever they choose!

  8. Israel is the state of the Jewish people and anybody who does not accept that is free to live elsewhere! As for the Arabs, if they are looking for another Nakba, they had best leave before they get what they wanted and are removed from Israel entirely!