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Jews Must Speak Out For Arab-Jewish Unity and Against Racism in Israel

In the wake of the tragic deaths of Israeli and Palestinian youths, Israeli political leaders must stop inciting violence against Arabs.
 
 
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A man holds up his hand as Israeli security and Palestinian stone-throwers clash in the Shuafat neighborhood of Israeli-annexed Arab east Jerusalem, on July 2, 2014, after a Palestinian teenager was kidnapped and killed in an apparent act of revenge

 
 
 
 

The appalling racism and act of vengeance inherent in the  kidnapping and murder of young Mohammed Abu Khdeir is not an aberration in Israel. It is a trend and the direct result of decades of state indoctrination, and deep-rooted racism in the Jewish community—a racism I have personally experienced in my own family. That is, Jews are taught to believe not only that Arabs are the enemy, but also that we are intellectually and morally superior to them.

As an Arab Jew and a human being first and foremost, I completely reject this exceptionalist claptrap. Ironically, my Moroccan Jewish family on my father’s side was saved from certain death in concentration camps, when during a routine train stop in Occupied France, in 1941, SS officers mistook the Elgrably clan for Moroccan Arabs—that is to say, Muslims. There can never be any doubt that we are all human beings first and foremost, and that we share much more than we differ.

As Jews we must shout from the rooftops against all forms of racism against Arabs and all others. Just as Jews were pro-active during the Civil Rights movement in this country, we must now reject Israeli calls for vengeance with respect to the tragic deaths of the three Israeli teens. We should be in the front lines of protest against the abusive response by Israel’s armed forces and police, who while ostensibly searching for the Israeli teens' murderers last month, arrested hundreds of Palestinians, many of whom remain in administrative detention, without charge. And now the IDF has released an aggressive military assault on Gaza in response to Hamas rockets, which in turn are in response to Israel’s bombing in select Gaza neighborhoods. The IDF is pounding Gaza with excess force, exacting collective punishment upon innocent Palestinians.

Peace is not merely a buzzword or a slogan, and it is not a word to be taken lightly. Indeed, real peace requires equality, freedom and above all, justice. Arabs in Israel and in the occupied territories must be treated with the same respect and under the same laws as Jews. All human beings deserve dignified treatment under the law, and that requires Israel to halt its practice of administrative detention of Palestinians, who are often arrested without charge and held for months, sometimes in solitary confinement. As well, Israeli law enforcement and military should be accountable for their behavior under the law in cases where Palestinians are abused, tortured or killed. Israeli political leaders must stop inciting violence against Arabs, and speak up for restraint.

A new conflagration is taking place between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, and people speak of an impending Third Intifada. To stop the potential deaths of hundreds, even thousands of innocent victims, the United States should intervene now, decisively, demanding that Israel show restraint and do everything in its power to restore calm.

Peace—and justice—depend upon it.

Jordan Elgrably is the director of the Levantine Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

 
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