Integration Is Israeli Arabs’ Only Path To Equality

Opinion

By Reda Mansour

Published May 18, 2007, issue of May 18, 2007.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The modern history of the Middle East is filled with ideological intellectuals who aimed for great political ideas but instead produced some of the world’s cruelest dictatorships and militaristic regimes — the Baathists in Iraq, the Islamists in Iran and the pan-Arab socialists in Libya, among others. These intellectuals, detached from the reality and experience of their peoples, were an integral part of their countries’ revolutions, and it was they who tragically became the first victims of the oppression their revolutions unwittingly produced.

Terrifyingly, this history seems to have been lost on some Israeli Arab intellectuals. They have produced a report, “The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel,” that is supposedly based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but is simultaneously loaded with extreme Palestinian and Arab nationalistic symbols. This kind of anachronistic initiative, like all the Arab world’s previous well-intentioned revolutions, can produce only more bloodshed.

These Israeli Arab leaders and intellectuals should remember the first two civil wars fought in the Holy Land, in 1937 and again in 1948, if they want to help prevent a third Arab-Jewish war. The Arab arguments then were based on an uncompromising and violent ideology, and tragedy resulted for both Palestinians and Jews. The Israeli Arab arguments now are emphasizing differences rather than similarities, laying the foundation for separation instead of planting the hope for integration.

A majority of Israeli Arabs support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and want to remain part of Israeli society. The true issues for Israeli Arabs, therefore, are integration and equal opportunity, not nationalistic goals. And the only way for minorities to achieve equal rights is to share responsibility for building mutual trust with the majority — which, as America’s civil rights movement showed, can be achieved through only nonviolence and dialogue.

Martin Luther King Jr. repeated two messages in almost every speech he delivered: He called on his own people to remain committed to nonviolence, and he assured the white majority that blacks do not pose a threat and only want to enjoy the democratic principles upon which American democracy was founded. Moreover, King did not hesitate to criticize the weaknesses and mistakes of his own community.

Unfortunately, we do not see King’s example being followed today in the words and actions of many Israeli Arab intellectuals and leaders. Some of them take their people’s thirst for equality and color it with pan-Arab nationalism or, even worse, extreme Nasserist ideology that long ago disappeared from the Arab world. They reach out to other Arab countries and use them as loudspeakers to call the bluff on what they deride as the “supposedly democratic Israeli system” — but conveniently ignore that there is a total freedom and democracy vacuum in the Arab countries giving them a platform.

Other Arab leaders in Israel lead extremist Islamic movements, the kind that are banned in many Arab countries. The leaders of these movements do not seem to care that most Israeli Arab Muslims are quite moderate, or that at least one-third of Israeli Arabs are not Muslim at all. In essence, the Islamic state that they propose as the replacement for Israel is neither suitable nor desirable for the vast majority of Israeli Arabs.

Every Arab intellectual in Israel who claims to be moderate and truly committed to preventing future violence and catastrophe must openly and repeatedly declare that the end goal of equality for their people is full integration into the State of Israel. It is the integration effort that will bring Israeli Arabs the equality they deserve — not premature and divisive ideas like changing the flag, changing the national anthem, declaring cultural autonomy or canceling the law of return for Jews.

As Israeli Arabs become more integrated into society, the Jewish majority will feel more at ease tackling some of these symbolic demands. And as Israeli society as a whole becomes more integrated, Jews and Arabs will better be able to distinguish each community’s real needs from superficial ideological ones.

In the meantime, the role of the Israeli Jewish majority — and, for that matter, the American Jewish community — is to fully engage and encourage the integration of moderate Israeli Arab communities into the State of Israel. It is nothing short of tragic that communities which have enthusiastically sought integration — such as the Circassians, the Druze, and some Bedouins and Christians — are often ridiculed by extreme Arab intellectuals and leaders for their supposedly unrewarded sacrifice for the state.

I know from my own personal experience — and from the success of my Druze, Muslim and Christian colleagues in Israel’s Foreign Ministry — that integration and equality are real possibilities in Israel. The challenge before us today is to make this success possible, democratically and without violence, for every member of Israel’s moderate minorities.

Reda Mansour, an Israeli Druze diplomat, serves as Israel’s consul general in Atlanta.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.