“It’s a Zionist conspiracy,” an educated Arab man exclaimed after I informed him that Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) consider all Arabic-speaking Israelis to be “Arabs.” So, why is what seems to be a boon to the Palestinian cause instead looked as an act of villainy? The answer has to do with self-identity and the notion of nationality.
In general, Muslims of the Middle East have never fully bought into the Western idea of nationality. That much is evident by the present crumbling of the post-Word War I artificial states created by the Sykes-Picot Agreement, namely Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan.
Arabs living in Israel are no exception. Rather than a nation, they see themselves as residents of an area called “Palestine,” thought most came from other Muslim countries. The privileged families of Husseini, Nashashibi, Tamimi and Zoabi, for example, who immigrated from Arabia during the first and second Muslim conquests, don’t have much in common with the influential Greek Orthodox Lebanese Sursock clan that in the 19th century bought some 50,000 acres of land from Galilee...
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