Sunday, November 2, 2008

What Israeli Arabs Think of Israel

So much is written by journalists on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians that the story of the real Israel is usually ignored altogether. At a recent conference I attended, the results of a survey in two countries, Denmark and India, showed that the average man on the street really knew very little about day to day life of the Israeli citizen.

In a recent briefing 223 by Beyond Images a number of examples are given which report the way the Arab community views their lives in Israel. These are not isolated cases. I will be visiting an institution this week dealing with a number of very successful co-existence projects and will write about this visit shortly.

Case 1 - Arab parent praises the 'equal treatment' of Jews and Arabs in Israel by a charity for disabled children

Keren Malki is an Israeli charity which supports families with disabled children. It was founded in memory of 15 year old Chana Malka Roth, who was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber in the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem in 2001. An Arab parent recently wrote to Keren Malki praising it for "not differentiating between Jews and Arabs", despite how it came into being, and describing how his requests for support and help have always been received warmly. You can
click here for the briefing 223, where the text of the letter is printed in full.

The key message is that Keren Malki is a great example of how personal suffering (in this case of the Roth family) has become a foundation on which to build hope. Keren Malki shows the highest respect for human dignity, of Jews and Arabs. It is also a massive refutation of the 'cycle of violence' theory.

Case 2. 77% of Israeli Arabs say they prefer living in Israel to living in any other country

This is a startling conclusion from a 2008 Harvard School of Government survey. And this is despite the social and economic challenges which Israeli Arabs face. Not exactly proof that Israel is an 'apartheid state'.

Case 3. Don't leave us outside Israel - 50,000 of us will move "within minutes" - Arab communal leader

The leader of Shuafat, an Arab neighbourhood of Jerusalem, publicly stated in October 2007 (in a Canadian newspaper) that 50,000 Arab residents in and around Shuafat would move to Israel 'within minutes' if they felt they'd be excluded from Israel under a permanent border arrangement agreed between Israel and the Palestinians.

Case 4. Praising the democracy and justice of Israeli society - communal leader in Umm el-Fahm

The Arab mayor of Israel's largest Israeli Arab town, Umm el-Fahm, who is also chairman of Israel's Islamic Movement, stated publicly in 2004 that in his opinion, despite the discrimination and injustice faced by Israel's Arabs, the democracy and justice in Israel is better than the democracy and justice in Arab and Muslim countries.'

Whilst it is true to say that recently, relations with the Islamic movement in Umm el-Fahm have deteriorated, due to the increased radicalisation of many Arab residents in the town, and their association with Hamas. Nonetheless, the underlying messages from the Umm el-Fahm residents is unmistakeable).

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