The vast majority of Arab Israeli voters cast ballots for the Joint Arab List. They are well aware of the fact that their political and public leadership rejects the legitimacy of the Jewish state, and openly expresses their understanding, sympathy, and support for Israel’s enemies’ violence and attempts to undermine its foundations, existence, and security.
They do so even though many of them recognize, deep down, the contribution that the flourishing modern Jewish state has made to the quality of life enjoyed by the Arabs who live in Israel, and even though they aspire to integrate into national life.
We have already presented data that shows the positive trend in the Arab sector. Now it is time to expand on the roots of its leadership’s positions, which stem from the claim that the Jews are not a people, but merely a religious group. Therefore, they reason, Jews have no right to self-determination or historic national roots in the Land of Israel. (The Palestinian elite does some fancy stepping around this issue – recognizing the “Israeli Jewish people” while rejecting its national common ground with the Jews of the world.
In this fiction, the Jews are defined, rather than being recognized.) From here, it’s easy to make the jump to the leadership’s acceptance of the Arab “vision documents,” which cast the Zionist enterprise as a colonialist project – not as a people returning to their homeland, over which a historical compromise must be reached. But instead, the Jews are seen as foreign occupiers that want to enjoy the poisoned fruit of the worst crime in modern history, the sin of colonialism.
This has led to the Palestinian leadership’s basic demand – which, not coincidentally, appears in the platform of the Joint Arab List: A “just solution” to the issue of Arab refugees and right of return in accordance with UN Resolution 194.
This demand is anchored in the view that the success of “Zionist colonialism” has interfered with justice and the world order and seeks to restore them by turning back the clock. The way they see it, the heinous crime can be accepted for now – and that’s convenient when the Arabs are benefiting from the achievements of the Jews – but it cannot be legitimized or accepted as a permanent reality.
It was Mohammad Dahla, the first Arab intern at the Supreme Court, who explained it well. Dahla was one of the founders of the Arab rights group Adala, which integrates the terminology of human rights and liberal democracy into its perspective on Arab history.
In an interview with Ari Shavit of Haaretz in 2003, Dahla explained how he felt after meeting Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the now-outlawed Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, who constantly makes anti-Semitic remarks and has been imprisoned for inciting and supporting terrorism.
“Sheikh Salah represents 1,400 years of Islamic existence in this land. And there is something heartwarming about that. There is something deeply human about that continuity. When I look in the sheik’s eyes, I connect – as if through a tunnel in time – to the caliphate of Omar Ibn Khattab, whom I named my son after. And I connect to the greatness of Islam. It gives me a sort of deep peace that you [Jewish Israelis] don’t have, a sense of self-confidence.
I know we are not destined to be defeated and weak. And I know that we aren’t actually a minority. The idea of being a minority is foreign to Islam. It fits Judaism, but not Islam. And when you look around, you see that we aren’t really a minority, that in Israel there is a majority who is actually a minority and a minority who is actually a majority,” he said.
At first glance, this is “just ideology” or “mere words.” This is how the supporters of the Oslo Accords remained in denial about the main reason why Israel’s historic compromise with PLO leader Yasser Arafat and the PLO failed. The Oslo supporters said, “They know that there will be no ‘right of return.’ That’s political leverage, and at the moment of truth, they’ll compromise. The ‘radical’ ideologeous will cling to it, but most of the people and their realistic leaders want an end to the occupation and will shelve the ideology.” Today, it’s clear to anyone who has even a tenuous connection to reality that this issue is the core of what has made the agreement a failure.
Without this element, it is impossible to understand the addiction of the Joint Arab List leadership – or even the “moderates” from Hadash – to the hostile and provocative discourse that borders on solidarity with generations of terrorists.
Their identification with Israel’s enemies is split between Hezbollah, the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Hamas. Even the Hadash “moderates” opposed the Arab League’s decision to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization, claiming that the decision served Israel’s interests. This is not Arab or Palestinian solidarity. The league is Arab. Hezbollah is not Palestinian but aspires to annihilate Israel. And about half the citizens it murdered during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, were Arabs.
*Dan Schueftan is the head of the International Graduate Program in National Security Studies at the University of Haifa.
- This commentary was published in Israel Hayom, on March 24, 2020.