Right-Wing Israeli Extremists Using Gay Rights to Justify Incursions Into Arab Villages
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Hundreds of Umm al-Fahm residents gathered in the streets and watched from their balconies and rooftops. Some masked their faces with head scarves, knowing that Israeli security agents had been planted in the crowds. Some waved Palestinian flags, and a few began throwing rocks. Police used tear gas and stun grenades to subdue them. Fifteen Umm al-Fahm residents and about the same number of police officers -- but no marchers -- were reported wounded. Ten Arabs were arrested.
This weekend, the far-right activists plan a reprise of their parade through Umm el-Fahm on a far grander scale. They plan to march through 14 other Arab municipalities and neighborhoods, including Abu Isa, Abu Rukik, Araara, Baka el-Arabiya, el-Gharbiya, Kfar Lakiya, Musraifa, Nazareth, Sakhnin and Taibe. Israeli police will again provide security for them.
Instigation of violence among Israeli Arabs by Jewish ultra-nationalists comes at a particularly sensitive time in terms of Middle East geopolitics, with implications that, for the moment, are going largely unnoticed.
Since 1948, Israeli Arabs have been second-class Israeli citizens, but citizens nonetheless. Making up 20 percent of Israel's present population, they have good reason to fear the "two-state solution" being embraced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Lieberman has openly declared that the "Palestinian state" he has in mind is a noncontiguous virtual entity that will solve Israel's "demographic problem." Israeli sovereignty over the residents of the major settlement blocs of the West Bank and Gaza could be traded for Palestinian sovereignty over Arabs who live in the cities and towns inside Israel's pre-1967 boundaries.
Lieberman touts this as a win-win for all parties concerned. Arabs inside post-1948, pre-1967 Israel (without necessarily being asked what future they might choose for themselves) stay in their homes and receive "self-determination" insofar as they would be subject to Palestinian, rather than Israeli governance.
Their cities, towns and villages, while remaining within the boundaries of the state of Israel, would become Palestinian cantons, geographically encircled by an Israel, of which they would no longer be citizens and which no longer would accept any responsibility for their infrastructure or for them.
Fareed Zakariah pointed out in Newsweek in February:
As fiercely as he [Lieberman] denounces the Palestinian militants of Hamas and Hezbollah, his No. 1 target is Israel's Arab minority, which he has called a worse threat than Hamas. He has proposed the effective expulsion of several hundred thousand Arab citizens by unilaterally redesignating some northern Israeli towns as parts of the Palestinian West Bank. Another group of several hundred thousand could expect to be stripped of citizenship for failing to meet requirements such as loyalty oaths or mandatory military service (from which Israel's Arabs are currently exempt).
Israeli Arabs may soon lose the option of pledging allegiance to the Jewish state. Whether they agree or not, they may find themselves amputated from the Israeli body politic and attached to a Palestinian entity that is not now, and may never be, a real state.
Meanwhile, a violent response to extremist provocations this weekend will only confirm the Israeli -- and "pro-Israel" image of Israeli Arabs as violent and disloyal, resistant to responsible Jewish governance and rejecting the notion of Israel as a state whose Jewish citizens have the right to affirm their "Jewish pride."
Dr. Marsha B. Cohen is a Fellow of the Middle East Studies Center (MESC) at Florida International University in Miami, FL.