(April 13, 2022 / JNS) Knesset member Ayman Odeh and other lawmakers from the Joint Arab List boast of being the emissaries of the Israeli Arab public. Odeh’s call for Arab members of the Israel Defense Forces, Border Police and Israel Police to “throw down their weapons” doesn’t hurt those institutions or the state—these are strong enough to contend with incitement of this sort—it mostly hurts his constituents. I only wish he would apply such passion to the burning issues truly afflicting the Arab public: violence in the villages, infrastructure, resources and the education of the younger generation.
Those serving in the security forces will continue to serve, but the Arab public is the main casualty of Odeh’s diatribe. The doctor or hospital nurse in Tel Aviv, the software engineer at Intel, the tour guide in Nazareth, the building contractor, the mechanic, the restaurant owner—they are all watching from the sidelines and asking themselves, “Does he not see us? What is he doing?”
And Jewish citizens, who meet these Arabs in their day-to-day lives, are struggling to distinguish between the miserable declarations of their elected officials and an entire public that just wants to live in peace and take part in building coexistence here. There are enough challenges and there’s enough inequality that requires fixing. There’s no need for another horror show whose entire purpose is a tired political game at the expense of the common citizen. Whether part of the coalition or not, Odeh was elected to make decisions, not incite and instigate a mutiny.
In this difficult and tense time, we need level-headed, balanced and calm public leadership. Ultimately, there’s no difference between Odeh and the other side of this horror show, Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir, when it comes to sowing fear and division.
Odeh and other leaders who don’t identify with the desires of the majority of the Arab public are the main losers of this conduct. The voice of the sane majority will continue to reverberate; coexistence here in Israel is not just predestination—both sides have to want to preserve what we have and improve upon it for the following generations.
The state and elected officials also have to encourage—not just in words but in deeds—investment in the development of Arab villages and the people living there, through informal educational programs. Let us spearhead a new reality and continue cultivating the action-minded communities between us, which have proven to be crucial in fostering a sense of belonging and self-fulfillment among young Druze. This is the only way. Neither Odeh nor anyone of his ilk will be able to sabotage the unique character of Israeli society.
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