If I said that things were good, I would be nothing but a Pollyanna. But I do believe there are some signs here in Israel of a shift in perspective that is long overdue and should ultimately provide better policies for a stronger nation.
Of course, these shifts are generating tensions, a fairly predictable state of affairs. Nothing ever progresses smoothly, and perhaps in a democracy we cannot and should not expect that any transition would be made without resistance.
“Democracy” is a buzz word right now with regard to domestic tensions, and we see this in several respects.
The first has to do with how we are responding to Arabs within our midst. And I say, without inhibitions or second thoughts, that in our situation of crisis, it may be necessary to adjust some of the parameters of what is seen as civil liberties for the Arabs. Because in some instances the flip side of Arab civil liberties is the right of Jews to not be killed or attacked.
The other day I quoted Netanyahu (although perhaps it was Erdan) who said that 99.9% of Israeli Arabs are OK. I did not belabor the fact that I didn’t believe it for a second, that only .1 % of Israeli Arabs are potentially trouble. I just made the point of how many this represents.
Well, today I encountered a poll by Stat Net that indicated that 68% of Israeli Arabs oppose terror: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/187808#.VHMOOJtxnIU
Hmmm. If I am calculating correctly, that leaves over 500,000 Arabs within our midst who might in certain circumstances be predisposed to terror – whether actively or via passive support. (I am not saying we have 500,000 terrorists in our midst. I am saying there is a potential that we dare not ignore.)
I made the point recently that all Israeli Arabs are not loyal to Israel. Some have conflicting loyalties, and are pulled at by radical elements who challenge them to prove their devotion to the “Palestinian cause.” And I again contrast this situation to that of the Israeli Druse community: they made a conscious decision to be loyal Israelis and opted for conscription in the IDF.
Some of the most shocking and blatant examples of Israeli Arabs who in their hearts are not loyal to Israel can be found in the Israeli parties of the Knesset. Few are worse than Haneen Zoabi. She was a passenger on the Mavi Marmara that attempted to break the blockade of Gaza, and has told Palestinian Arabs that they should “declare popular resistance.”
This summer, she stated that the kidnappers of the three teenage boys were not terrorists. Speaking of the kidnappers, she said,
“they are people who don’t see any way to change their reality and are forced to use these means until Israel sobers up a bit.”
In response, the Knesset ethics committee suspended for six months her right to address the plenum of the Knesset. She was still a member of the Knesset, and could still vote. But she called this ruling “anti-democratic.”
Give me a break. The only place in the Middle East where Arabs have civil rights is in Israel.
I am looking at all of this now in part because of the decision by the Ashkelon mayor to temporarily stop Arabs from working on construction sites near pre-schools. All sorts of epithets were thrown at him, and, under pressure, he has backed down part way now. The Arab construction workers will be permitted to continue and the children will be moved to a community center for the duration of the construction.
You might want to see Ruthie Blum’s “The Mayor of Ashkelon is not a racist,” which set this incident into context:
”’I would rather be taken to the Supreme Court than, heaven forbid, to the funeral of a kindergarten child,’ Shimoni told Channel 2 on Thursday evening. Finding himself under fire and at the wrong end of the law, Shimoni backed down on Sunday… His new decision is to leave the Arab workers at the kindergartens to complete the job of renovating the bomb shelters, while moving the children from those specific pre-schools to community centers.
”Shimoni may well find himself at the wrong end of the law. But there is nothing in his behavior that warrants being labeled a racist. Willing to face ostracism and possible indictment in order to protect the weakest sector of his city from a palpable threat, he is exhibiting leadership.”
The key word here is “palpable threat.”
And here’s the context:
Just last week, on PA TV (not Hamas TV), a program host intoned:
“Good morning to you, good morning to your pride, and to your hands preparing to throw stones and ignite the gasoline in the Molotov cocktails, greetings from the Good Morning Jerusalem program.”
While on its Facebook page, Fatah posted a video that featured this song:
“I’m coming towards you, my enemy,
”We’re going down from every house with cleavers and knives,
”With grenades we announced a popular war.
”I swear, you won’t escape, my enemy,
“from the revolution and the people.
”How will you escape the ring of fire,“while the crowds are blocking the way?”
This is accompanied by pictures of Arabs attacking with rocks and more in the streets.
And I raise the issue of “democracy,” as well, because of other actions that are now being taken:
“Likud Central Committee Chairman MK Danny Danon is advancing a new bill to prevent Israel from returning the bodies of dead terrorists to their families and the Palestinian Authority (PA), in an attempt to deter terrorism and prevent the glorification of terrorists at their funerals.
“…Danon explained ‘we saw what happened recently when cruel terrorists turn into heroes and their funeral processions turn into recruitment processions for the next generation of terrorists.’
“So as to prevent the current arrangement from continuing, Danon is proposing to have the bodies of terrorists buried in unknown cemeteries.”
My only question here is why we didn’t start doing this sooner. But guaranteed, someone will respond to this great idea by screaming “human rights.”
With encouragement from Prime Minister Netanyahu, legislation is being drawn up to remove residency rights from Arabs who are convicted of attacks on Israeli citizens or promote Israel’s destruction.
Meanwhile, Minister of the Interior Gilad Erdan has revoked the Jerusalem residency status of Mohammed Nadi who drove a suicide bomber to the Dolphinarium nightclub in Tel Aviv on June 1, 2001. That attack killed 21 teenagers and injured 132 people. Nadi served 10 years in prison as accomplice.
“a wave of terror and incitement” has swept Israel, assisted by Israeli residents who “carry out attacks, assist them, and justify them, and even incite others to commit crimes and murders.”
“These people cannot continue to enjoy a permanent status of Israeli residency, and I will use all of my power to cancel their residency and prevent them from receiving all benefits that this residency offers.”
Benefits consist primarily of the right to reside in Israel, and to receive social benefits such as health insurance.
What are the odds that someone will seek to challenge this excellent move in the courts?
Along with this is the stated intention to continue the demolition of homes of terrorists (although there are charges that the homes are not even fully demolished).
And wouldn’t you know; last Thursday the ambassadors from Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Spain registered objections about this to our government.
And then there is the bill being advanced as part of basic law that speaks about Israel as a Jewish nation.
With strong support from Netanyahu, one version of this bill has been approved by the Cabinet. But, as it is causing great dissension within the coalition, other modified versions are being promoted. I am not able to describe the contents of these bills in detail, but my understanding is that while basics remain, there are some modifications regarding specifications about democracy.
Whatever modifications are made, I believe they all clearly state that Israel is a Jewish state, and somehow defines national rights (and self-determination) as belonging only to the Jewish people, with individual civil rights adhering to all citizens.
Those who objecting to the bill are Tzipi Livni (Hatenua) and and Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), both of whom threaten to leave the coalition because the bill is “anti-democratic” and “unfair to the Arabs.”
What I have found fascinating is how adamant the prime minister is about pushing this. This, too, I believe is a reflection of our times. Whether there is real risk of the coalition tearing apart because of this, or it is grandstanding, I cannot say. What Netanyahu is working on, we are told, is a version of the bill that would satisfy all. Whatever that might turn out to be.
Perhaps even in calling these modest steps signs of an encouraging shift in perspective, I am being a Pollyanna. For, as I read this over, I see how we seem to go two steps forward and then one step backward. We speak about national unity – oh how we need national unity! – but even here in Israel there are those who have forgotten who we are, and those who are too concerned with what the world says to take a stand.
Keep plugging then…
As Jerusalem continues to take measures to protect its Jewish citizens, additional security measures have been announced:
There will be 300 guards placed at bus stations. First, at the Central Bus Station, and then along routes that have been selected as requiring the most security protection. Then, 10,000 bus drivers national-wide are being given training in the Israeli martial art of will be given Krav Maga.
And finally, someone with his head screwed on properly, who is talking about blocking ways in which we assist the PA or provide benefits to Palestinian Arabs. The “someone” is MK Naom Slomiansky (Habayit Hayehudi), who chairs the Knesset Finance Committee. And he is seeking ways to block the transfer of funds from Israel to the Palestinian Authority:
“We must recognize there’s a crazy absurdness here that I don’t understand,” Slomiansky said. “A terrorist who murdered and attacked and goes into jail has his finances covered during the years in jail, for him and his family.”
Money finds its way from the PA to the families of the terrorists – while Israel passes on to the PA taxes it collect for it in accordance with agreements in the Paris Protocol and the Oslo Accords. And this continues even as the PA fails to honor its agreements and owes Israel “staggering sums” including over 1.4 billion shekels (over $360 million).
Slomiansky says that the PA collects money for electricity from its residents, even as it doesn’t pay Israel for the electricity, instead using the money for such purposes as providing “salaries” to terrorists.
“We have to defend ourselves. It’s not just a game of money anymore. We are indirectly encouraging terror against ourselves and the murder of our citizens. We must stop this,”
Can we clone him?
I cannot say that the failure to reach an agreement with Iran today is good news Seven more months of pathetic negotiations is definitely not that. But our prime minister is happy at present because “no deal is better than a bad deal,” and it’s hard to disagree with that. Depends on what happens next, doesn’t it?
So, let’s end with some really good news, twice over.
First, Yehuda Glick was released from Shaare Zedek hospital tonight. Baruch Hashem. At a press conference, he called his recovery, after he was close to death, a “miracle.”
And then he said,
“Those who are giving respect to Islam are those Muslim doctors and nurses who work at this hospital [by] helping people after they have signed the Hippocratic Oath.”
This is so lovely. As it should be. The counterweight to the ugly stuff.
And then Yehuda said:
“It must not be a working assumption that members of the public in Israel are protected. Something has happened in Israel – a person who is active in public and law-abiding was shot because of his faith.”
The government, he warned, must “come to its senses” and provide the public with better protection. Relates directly to much of what I’ve written above.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org