Now It's Up to the Israeli Arabs

Sunday, January 03, 2016 |  Jonathan Elkhoury

The first day of this new year left the country in shock with the deaths of Alon Bakal and Shimon Ruimi who were killed in the Tel Aviv pub attack on Friday. Despite the terrorist’s father publicly denouncing his son’s actions, the fact that the killer is an Arab citizen of Israel left Israelis increasingly concerned and eager to hear condemnations from the Arab sector.

The “Intifada of Knives” is still with us. While the average number of daily attacks has declined, the violence continues, with Israeli Arab leaders not only unwilling to openly condemn it, but actually doing whatever they can to encourage it.

Some of these Israeli Arab leaders, like Member of Knesset Haneen Zoabi, have called for an escalation of this Intifada. “Today, only individuals are acting. We need the support of our [Israeli Arab] people. Only the acts of thousands of our people can turn this into a real Intifada,” Zoabi told a Hamas publication last November.

A November 2015 survey conducted by Israeli research groups Dialogue and Taldor found that 68 percent of Israeli Arabs accept Israel’s existence, and 65 percent believe they can be loyal to Israel as Palestinians. In reality, however, this is a passive majority that simply accepts the policies of activists with whom it most likely disagrees.

It may be that the question of identity is no longer an issue. Indeed, one can today hear voices like that of Father Gabriel Naddaf, leader of the Israeli Aramean Christian community and spiritual leader of the forum for recruitment of Israeli Christians into the IDF. Muslims like Mohammed and Sarah Zoabi, Bedouin activist Mohammed Kaabiya, and Abdul Abu-Ghosh - manager of the “Arabs and Right-wingers Tweeting” page on Facebook - are also encouraging young Muslims to join the IDF as a way of further integrating into Israeli society.

As Arab political activist Ali Adi said to Time Out magazine: “Of course we [Arabs] have things to strive for, but to say I hate the country and that the government is my enemy just because I have a few complaints is unfair. It is a mistake.”

In the same vein, the head of the Department of Pharmaceutics at Ben Gurion University, Prof. Riad Agbaria, said that Friday’s shooting in Tel Aviv “was without a doubt a terror attack.”

Unfortunately, at present, these voices are but a dim light in a dark room.

In the coming year, Israeli Arabs must either take a clear stand as citizens who love and support the State of Israel and care about its future, or continue to stick their collective heads in the sand and wait for a future that doesn’t look very bright.

PHOTO: Hostile anti-Israel politicians like MK Basel Ghattas no longer represent a majority of Israeli Arabs, but continue to be elected nevertheless.

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