Monday, August 31, 2009

Israeli Arab Isolation

Two related stories today out of Israel. First, Rawi Fuad Sultani, 23, was accused of working on behalf of Hizbullah on a plan to assassinate IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Ashkenazi. In a separate story, Arab MKs threatened "civil disobedience" if Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar mandated the removal of the Nakba from Israeli Arab textbooks. Nakba is an Arabic word meaning "catastrophe" and refers to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, in which hundreds of thousands of refugees were created as the result of war, pressure, and coercion from Arab states and from Israel as well. The Nakba essentially set the Palestinians down a path to nationality and, moderates hope, statehood.

These two stories both speak to the continuing isolation of the Israeli Arab community. While the community in some ways isolates itself, the arrest of a 23-year old Israeli Arab for involvement with Hizbullah is proof enough of the national security implications of this isolation. While Israel is not totally responsible for this situation, it can and should act to decrease isolation. This would be best accomplished by providing equal funding for basic services like education and medical care. It would also be accomplished to writing Israeli Arabs into Israel's historical narrative rather than trying to edit them out. Much like the US teaches children about Native Americans and the way they were mistreated, Israel must also cofront its past as a state responsible for, in some cases, the forced expulsion of Palestinians. In reality, this recognition is at least a generation off, but ultimately security considerations must take precedence over issues of whom did what to whom, when.

Recognizing the Nakba would not intrinsically detract from Israel's legitimacy as a Jewish state. Rather, it would incorporate the Arab narrative into the Jewish one, with positive results from the moderate Israeli Arab community. This latest case of Israeli Arab involvement in terrorism is not the first time and is unlikely to be the last. Considering the relative expense of improving basic social services, a recognition of Palestinian suffering by the Israeli government is a cost-efficient way to fight terrorism without truly compromising Israeli legitimacy.

Snarky comment of the day: Lieberman now says Israel will not permit the Palestinians to build unilaterally a Palestinian state. Netanyahu has already explicitly stated his willingness to see a Palestinian state, and in fact offered economic cooperation and strength as the basis of this state. So evidently, if you're a Consul General in Boston and point out how Israel's policies hurt its image in the US, you should be reprimanded. But if you're Lieberman and contradict your boss, the Prime Minister's, policy, thats fine.

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