Once again I wonder how an incendiary article such as Leslie Susser’s (“Israeli Arabs: No to Zionist State,” Dec. 15) helps move us forward in the peace process. (Would he also label as disloyal the many Israeli and American Jews who were as appalled by Israel’s disproportionate use of force in Lebanon as were many Israeli Arabs?)
There are more productive ways to react to the Israeli Arab organizations’ “Future Vision” document than to place all the blame for existing tensions on Israeli Arabs, as Susser does.
As Uri Benziman writes in a recent article in Ha’aretz (Dec. 6, 2006): “Before the Jewish public angrily rejects the new demands, it is worth trying to understand the depth of the distress that has brought them about, and identifying the roots of the Jewish-Arab rift within the Green Line…. The Jews must understand that the positions now expressed in the Arab sector indicate the extent of the discrimination and exploitation it experiences.”
The source of distress of this large minority group (20 percent of the population) as regards constitutional process, minority status, citizenship, political representation, land and transfer policies, and education, was publicized in a famous 2003 Or Commission Report produced by an Israeli government panel of inquiry.
The Or Report directed attention to the need to “find ways to reinforce the Arab citizens’ sense of belonging to the state, without detracting from their sense of belonging to their culture and community.”
In September 2005, Prof. Shimon Shamir, head of the Tel Aviv University Institute for Diplomacy and Regional Cooperation, delivered a lecture on “Arabs in Israel — Two Years After the Or Judicial Commission.” While making note of certain positive developments, he stressed the lack of progress, and, in fact, the deterioration in most areas:
“The state of affairs as I see it, which I have attempted to describe to you, is not heartening. As a member of the former Or Commission, I stand before you today with a sense of disappointment and sadness. This is not the reality we aspired for….”
As citizens of the State of Israel and as an integral part of the Israeli population, Israeli Arabs are uniquely positioned to contribute to a just and sustainable resolution of the conflict between Israel, the Palestinians and the wider Arab world.
As stakeholders in the resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict whose status and future will be directly affected, the Arab citizens of Israel seek to be included as active participants, mediators and partners in determining their own future and in being part of the resolution and reconciliation process.
Rather than gloatingly dismissing the “disloyalty of Israel’s Arabs” as Susser does, we would do much better — for Israel’s sale and for the sake of all its citizens — to urge the Israeli government to address the lack of progress in resolving the outstanding imbalance between the rights and benefits of different groups of citizens.
In Shamir’s words, the failure to do so leaves Israel “fraught with grave dangers….”
Quoting the chairman of the commission, Justice Theodor Or, he concluded his lecture: “The handwriting remains on the wall.”