As President Bush returns from the Mideast, he and all those who hope for a
strong and secure Israel should wake up to an unpleasant reality: The biggest
danger to Israel's future may not come from Hamas rockets or even Iranian
nuclear yearnings. It could be from Israel's own, increasingly restive, Arab
More than 20% of the Jewish state's 7.2 million citizens are Israeli Arabs
Muslims, Christians and Druze, descendants of the approximately 180,000
Palestinian Arabs who chose not to become refugees during Israel's 1948 War of
Independence but stayed and cast their lot in with the Jewish state.
Over the past 60 years, Israeli Arabs have grown and prospered like the state
itself. Indeed, their population growth rate outstrips that of Jews.
It is probably no coincidence that a nationalist and Islamic militancy is
spreading among many of them that now ominously demands not only cultural, but
even political separation from the Jewish state.
No, the lives of Israeli Arabs have not always been easy. Their loyalties
suspect in the early days of the state, they were once subject to security
restrictions. Nor have their economic fortunes always been equal. Aside from
election time when Israeli politicians scrounged for their votes Israeli
Arab public works have rarely been as strongly supported as those of Israeli
Still, to appreciate how well Israeli Arabs live now, one need only look at how
their once-dusty towns sprinkling the Galilee and the Ara Valley are now
sprawling communities of brand-new villas and two-car families. Israeli Arabs
have superb medical care, and their children have a wealth of educational
opportunities. They vote, have Arab members of parliament, Arab judges and now
even an Arab member of Israel's cabinet.
For some, however, that's not enough. Israeli Arabs can often be heard repeating
the Arab world's renewed anti-Zionist mantra that Israel has no right to be a
"Jewish state," despite the fact that countless Arab and other nations consider
themselves to be Islamic states.
Indeed, during the war against Hezbollah in 2006, some openly demonstrated
against their country and for the terrorist group.
Just this month, an Israeli Arab anti-Zionist group called for a boycott of
American Jewish groups that contribute to the social and economic betterment of
Israeli Arab communities. Their twisted reasoning: These American groups favor a
"Jewish state of Israel." One group of Israeli Arab activists publicly denounced
the boycott call as self-defeating but most kept silent.
New York recently hosted an event dubbed "The Other Israel Film Festival," which
showcased productions by and about Israeli Arabs. Some, like "The Syrian Bride,"
were excellent cinema. But almost all of the films I saw revealed a split
personality. Their mentaliyut (as they put it in the Hebrew that sprinkles their
Arabic) was Israeli (modern, liberal, open-minded), their sympathies Arab. "We
are caught between two worlds," one Palestinian director told me.
That may be so but it does not give them a right to deny Israel's very raison
d'etre its unique status as the world's only Jewish state.
Indeed, there are few greater examples of political chutzpah than the worldwide
Arab claim that while at least a dozen sprawling states declare themselves
officially Islamic and even some European nations are formally "Christian," the
Jews a nation and culture as well as a faith have no right to a state, no
matter how small it is.
Israeli Arabs have every right to maintain their own minority community and
participate fully in Israeli life but they must accept the basic concept of
Israeli Jewishness. The alternative is to consider moving elsewhere, perhaps to
the future independent Palestine.