|The Enemy Within|
|By Professor Moshe Sharon *|
On October 1, 2000 the Arab citizens of Israel began a rebellion against the state. In the lexicon of the laundered words of the media, this rebellion was called “demonstrations,” “disturbances” and similar expressions which obscured the true facts.
The pretext for the rebellion was the visit of Ariel Sharon, then an opposition Knesset member, to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on September 28, 2000. The Muslim Arabs all over the Middle East, but particularly the Palestinians, dubbed this visit to the holiest spot on earth for the Jewish people, an act of “provocation” which “defiled” the Muslim holy place. Yassir Arafat and his gangs of terrorists had been waiting for the occasion to begin a new full-scale war of terror against Israel. They immediately seized the opportunity and the next day, September 29, a wave scale terror attacks began accompanied by a frenzy of incitement of the Muslims in the country. Significantly, they called this new round of terror “The Aqsa Intifada” giving it a symbolic religious connotation.
On October 1st 2000, the Arabs of Israel, incited by their leaders who included Knesset members, joined in by opening a rebellion against the state. Arab mobs from towns and villages all over the country blocked major arteries in the country, in particular the main route passing through Wadi Ara, which connects the center of the state to the north. They burnt branches of the post-office, petrol stations, police stations, banks, and other public institutions as well as private Jewish businesses. Many innocent Jewish travelers, who fell into the hands of inflamed Arab youngsters, were almost beaten to death and one elderly Jew was killed by a stone thrown at his car. It took the police 3 days to overcome the first wave of violence, which was rekindled on October 7th and continued for another 3 days.
Only 13 Arabs were killed in crushing this rebellion, mainly because the police displayed great restraint in dealing with the rebels. Later, when a special committee of investigation was established by the government to investigate the events, it blamed the police for not showing more restraint!
These events and the Israeli reaction to them represent the main problem of the State of Israel in a nutshell: since its establishment it has hidden its head in the sand, refusing to face the fact that a mighty enemy has been growing within it, threatening its very existence.
Israel was established, first and foremost as a Jewish state but also as a democratic state. If the Arabs living in Israel were to accept the Jewish state as their home, its Jewishness and democracy would have been a blessing for them. But the Arabs of Israel see themselves as part of the Arab world and more particularly as “Arabs in occupied Palestine.” They enjoy every benefit that a democratic state has to offer, but they, together with Israel’s enemies, share the hope that this Jewish state, in which they have achieved conditions no other Arabs in the Middle East enjoy, will cease to exist.
The committee that investigated the “Events of October” concluded, among other things that they were the outcome of the state’s discrimination against the Arabs. The truth of the matter is that in comparison to the Arabs in Israel, the Jews are the ones who are suffering from discrimination. The Arabs, now more than 20 percent of the population in the country do not go to the army. Officially they are “exempted” but the truth of the matter is that they refuse take part in any national service, as peaceful as it can be, even for the benefit of their own society, because they do not feel that they have either to defend the state or to contribute to its success in any way. Their attitude to Israel can be summed up in one of the popular sayings: “take whatever you can and give nothing.” For this reason they avoid paying true taxes either to the municipalities or the state. But at the same time they enjoy all the services and benefits which the state offers its citizens. Since they pay very little income tax, they are regarded statistically as belonging to the low-income, namely poor, section of the society. But anybody who travels through all the Arab villages and towns in Israel is astonished by the wonderful villas in which these “poor people” live. Not one of all the “liberal humanitarians” who cry about the “poverty” of the Israeli Arabs thinks for a moment to question the source of the funds needed to build these stately homes.
The Israeli Arabs are represented by three parties in the Knesset which are elected in free, democratic elections. One of them is officially communist, one officially Islamic, and one “national-democratic” but as far as their attitude to Israel as a Jewish state, there is no difference between them. They all openly wish for its disappearance although all of them swore allegiance to “the State of Israel and its laws” when they joined the Knesset. The following examples will suffice to demonstrate the point.
Wasil Taha is a Knesset member and represents the “National Democratic Alliance.” He has openly supported the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by the Lebanese Hizballah terror group and Hamas terrorist group from Gaza in July this year. More than five years ago his colleague, and the head of his party, the Christian Azmi Bisharah, traveled to Syria, and, standing next to Nasrallah the leader of the Hizballah and Syrian President Bashir Assad, called openly for the continuation of the war against Israel. “The Arab world should unite,” – he said – “and together forge a pan-Arab struggle instead of mere local Palestinian or Lebanese uprisings. The present situation calls for Arab unity, which does not exist.”
Bishara’s declared policy is that Israel should change from being a Jewish state and become a state “of all its citizens.” In other words he wants to see the end of the only Jewish homeland in the world, together with all its symbols including its flag and anthem. And this man is a member of the Israeli parliament!
Muhammad Barakah, the head of the Arab Communist, party declared: “I am not loyal to a state that is Jewish and Zionist … This is not a golden calf that I have to worship.” This man swore allegiance to “the State of Israel and its laws” before he took his seat in the Knesset.
Ahmad Tibi is a member of the combined party of “The United Arab List” and “The Arab Movement for Renewal.” The party represents the Islamic movement which sees itself as part of the Islamic front. For Islam the disappearance of Israel is a religious duty. He also repeatedly demands the abolishment of all the Jewish symbols of the state, first and foremost the flag, the anthem, and the Menorah. Referring to the attempts of the Arabs to destroy Israel, the state in whose parliament he serves, and from whose university he received his M.D., he has declared more than once: “An Arab flag hoisted over any freed Arab land is a source of pride. I have no doubt that this was the general feeling among the Arabs in Israel. Whoever says anything else is not telling the truth.”
When Saddam Husayn attacked Israel in 1991 with missiles many Arabs in Israel supported the Iraqi dictator and showed their sympathy to him openly. “We the Arabs in this country,” – said Tibi – “wish to see a strong Arab force… able to confront the axis of the USA and Israel.” And these are among the mildest pronouncements of these Arab members of the Israeli parliament who enjoy all the rights and privileges that the Jewish Democracy can offer. Similar and worse declarations can be gleaned from other Arab Knesset members who seem to compete with each other in producing hostile pronouncements against Israel.
The most recent pronouncements coming from Wasil Taha and Muhammad Baraka, while Israel is in the midst of a war on two fronts against the Hizballah and the Hamas, support the kidnapping and killing of Israeli soldiers and furnish the legitimacy for these actions. “Hizballah and the others did what it is their right and duty to do: to act against the Israeli occupier and drive him out.” Bear in mind that Israel has not been in Lebanon since 2000 and for almost a year there has no trace of Israel’s “occupation” in Gaza.
When the State of Israel was established, it declared that it would not discriminate between its citizens. The Arabs of Israel enjoy the services and environment of a modern country. They enjoy modern education, modern technology, modern medical services, and high birth rate coupled with a very low rate of infant mortality. Over the past 57 years it has increased ten times in size. The Arabs number 1,500,000 out of a little over the 7,000,000 inhabitants of Israel. They enjoy a quality of life the like of which does not exist in any of the Arab countries. Illiteracy has disappeared and the universities are open to them like to any other citizen. They have their own educational system which functions in Arabic, and they can participate in any cultural activity they wish in their own language. It would be a mistake to think that they do not realize the benefits of living in Israel. While their leaders incite against Israel, most of the Israeli Arabs are terrified of the possibility of coming under Arab rule. They are very much aware of the corruption, backwardness, poverty, illiteracy, and other ailments of their nearest neighbors in the Palestinian Authority, and they have no wish to join it. They need Israel, in spite of themselves.
One of the old-time Arab politicians described the feelings of the Israeli Arabs saying: “Israel is like a step-mother; we are happy that she looks after us but we wish she would die.”
After all is said and done, the danger for Israel comes not only from the Arabs outside, but from the enemy within. The Israeli Arabs are not only a demographic problem they are a geographic one as well. They are concentrated in the Galilee, in the centre of the country, and in the Negev. It is almost certain that within a few years the demand for national autonomy will be raised in these places and after that separation. Incitement in this direction has already been voiced by some Arab Knesset members. The potential of the state being destroyed from within is, therefore, the real danger. And for this Israel has no answer.
*Professor Moshe Sharon, PhD is professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, and Chair in Bahá’í Studies at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Colonel (res.) in the IDF. He served as Prime Minister Begin Advisor on Arab Affairs during the Israeli-Egyptian peace process, and later was the Head of the Department of Arab Affairs in the IDF, advisor to the Minister of Defense, and special envoy to the Shi‘ites in Lebanon.
Professor Sharon publishes extensively analysis in depth on current Middle Eastern affairs, in addition to his many scholarly publications on Islamic history and civilization. Among these are Black Banners from the East in 2 volumes, by now classic on the earliest revolutionary movement in Islam; Judaism Christianity and Islam, Interaction and Conflict; Judaism in the Context of Diverse Civilizations; Studies in Modern Religions and Religious Movements (ed.) Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum; The Bahá’í Religion and its Most Holy Book and many more. Professor Sharon is one of foremost authorities on Shi‘ite Islam and a world expert on Arabic Epigraphy.