Crude generalizations of Arab Israelis are dangerous

It may surprise Effie Eitam to learn that not all Israeli Arabs are alike. We are not all members of a fifth column plotting to eradicate the Jewish state.

Arab women walk by a shoe store selling Crocs at the Mamila Mall in Jerusalem on Sept. 22, 2009. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Arab women walk by a shoe store selling Crocs at the Mamila Mall in Jerusalem on Sept. 22, 2009. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Nael Zoabi
Nael Zoabi

Hello, IDF Brig. Gen. (res.) Efraim Eitam,

My name is Nael Zoabi, and I am a proud Arab Israeli citizen who is happy to have the privilege of living in the State of Israel, a Jewish and democratic state, proud of its symbols, enjoying its rights and fulfilling my duties as a citizen.

I don’t know you personally, but I did read your serious, thorough and honest interview in Israel Hayom. I read it over and over. I agreed with some of the things you said but disagreed with others. Given the depth of your remarks, though, I could not help but feel insulted by your simplistic view of Israel’s Arab public.

As with every other public in the world, members of the Arab public in Israel are not all cut from the same cloth. The Arab public is diverse, with various thoughts, ideas, beliefs, opinions and values. The gross generalization of an entire public as a herd pursuing one idea is fundamentally wrong and the root of all evil.

In your opinion, all of Israel’s Arabs are a fifth column planning a great revolt to eliminate the Jewish state, hoarding weapons for the day when they are called to storm and slaughter the Jews. It is sad and astonishing to see a principled ideologue with a résumé as impressive as yours so crudely generalize and cause such injustice to tens of thousands of Arab citizens who lovingly support the Jewish and democratic State of Israel, and work all their lives toward cooperation out of respect for the state and its symbols.

You are a patriot, you said. I would like you to know that I and my son and daughter, my friends and acquaintances are also Israeli patriots in our own way, through cooperation and peace. I did not write this to tell you about myself, nor did I write this for myself but for the hundreds of thousands of Arab citizens in Israel who yearn for peace and coexistence, who send their children to volunteer for national service, who get excited by the Israeli flag, who support the security forces, and mourn with the bereaved families and victims of terrorism, attacking, even at a heavy personal cost, the terrorists and their emissaries.

Mr. Eitam, the unbearable ease with which you categorize all Arabs as a threat is an unparalleled mistake, one that requires you to stand up and apologize to a significant portion of Israel’s Arabs.

The truth must be said: There are a considerable number of Arab Israelis who knowingly oppose the very existence of the state, who bear arms and join terrorists who want to harm Jews, who scorn the state’s symbols, laws and values, and who create dangerous enclaves where the government in its stupidity has forfeited its authority. This population and its leaders, which call for a revolt against the State of Israel and act toward its extermination, must be dealt with.

Mr. Eitam, do not exclude us from the journey of identification and partnership with the State of Israel. Separate the wheat from the chaff. We strive for partnership; we sanctify coexistence.

You are invited to my home in Nein in the Lower Galilee. I will make you a cup of coffee, and you can meet some people who aren’t thinking about a revolt, but rather reflecting on how we can live together out of a shared love of homeland and human dignity.

Nael Zoabi is a Muslim Israeli educator and entrepreneur. 

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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