At the beginning of the recent strife between Israelis and Palestinians, the
vast majority of Israelis were shocked at the vehemence that the Arab-Israeli
community displayed toward the Israeli Government and toward Israeli Jews. The
nation was forced to realize that it had in its midst a minority population that
had changed dramatically over the years.
The radical rhetoric emanating from that community intent on enlisting
participation in the current "Al Aska Intifada" was a clarion call.
The upsurge of Islamic movement activity within the Green Line over the past
year has been a cause for concern amongst Israel's Jewish inhabitants. In
addition to addressing important social concerns, the Islamic movement has added
a religious fervor to an emotionally charged nationalistic struggle. Many within
the Arab Israeli population credit the Islamic movement for their profound
contribution to building a self-reliant and self-confident people. Thus, many
have refrained from speaking out against some of the movementís extremist
.As more and more Arab Israelis speak and act out in favor of Palestinian
independence, Jewish Israelis are simply questioning the loyalty, ambitions, and
trust worthiness of their fellow Arab citizens.
Exacerbating fears further is the use of new terminology such as the label
"Palestinian minority in Israel" instead of "Arab Israeli".
Though it has been known for some time that an overwhelming majority of Arab
Israelis identify with Palestinians and their "struggle" for
statehood, this change is much more than symbolic and has very significant
reverberations for both Jews and Arabs. This new self-awareness has bolstered
the nationalistic component of their identity and has put them on equal footing
with the Jewish population of Israel. It has also added to their claim that a
bi-national state should be created within the Green Line, as they have openly
expressed no desire to reside in a Palestinian state created in the West Bank
and Gaza Strip. On the other hand, Jewish Israelis find this new definition as
threatening to their existence and Israelís Jewish character, and as one more
obstacle to co-existence.
There are several indications that elected Arab-Israeli leadership has also
turned more extreme. These well educated, articulate and 40-something, male
parliamentarians have attracted tremendous media attention for themselves and
Arab Israeli issues.
However, due to the fact that a cultural, educational, socioeconomic gap has
emerged between the elected leadership and those they represent, these leaders
have been forced to adopt a more radical tone to maintain their popular support.
Statements such as those praising the terrorist group Hizbullah as a
"legitimate resistance organization" or calling for Arab Israelis to
take on a more active role in the Palestinian struggle for independence have
also enraged Jewish Israelis.
While Jewish Israelis are determined not to shed the Jewish character of the
State, the latter bears an obligation to ensure equality for all its citizens
and reinforce the pillars of democracy on which the State of Israel was founded.
Despite the dismay of those Jewish Israelis who oppose granting full rights and
privileges to the Arab Israeli minority in Israel, the Supreme Court continues
to be active in enforcing equality as delineated in Israelís Declaration of
Most polls continue to show that Israeli Arabs still see themselves as
Israelis in terms of identity and future. Still, the trends underscored by the
communityís activism in recent months are troubling.