Mossi Raz, a former Knesset member who represented the extreme-left Meretz Party and didn’t pass the electoral threshold, was asked in a Wall Street Journal story dated Dec. 6, 2022: What is “left-wing?”
He replied: “It’s about justice … and the main injustice in Israel today is toward the Palestinian citizens of Israel.”
There are many values the camp of the left assumes for itself, and Raz indicates that “justice” is one of them. Moreover, he slips in another prerogative—that of defining Israel Arabs deserving of justice as “Palestinian citizens”—that is, the Arabs of Israel. Yet Israel’s Arabs are a responsibility of the right as well.
The usage of “Palestinian citizens” or “Palestinian Arabs of Israel” is a fairly recent formulation. It stems from calls by academics and community activists that the Arab minority of Israel is part of a national grouping. As such, they have a right to demand that the state grant them fundamental recognition as an indigenous national minority, as well as autonomy and self-rule in many aspects of their ethnic-communal life in Israel.
The definition seeks a reordering of Israel, removing its definition as a Jewish state—a title even the United Nations recognized as legitimate and just. After all, its 1947 partition proposal called for an “Independent Jewish State” to “come into existence in Palestine,” and he employed the words “Jewish state” more than two-dozen times. The term “a Jew in the Arab State” was what was used in the proposal for those Jewish residents of Palestine who intended to remain in areas in which they resided, not taking into account that the Arabs were planning complete ethnic cleansing.
What is currently the preferred term is a “state of all its citizens” and, in the meantime, an intermediary stage would be “cultural autonomy” for the Arab community. These ideas enjoy firm and widespread support within the Arab public, as reflected in public opinion surveys that have been conducted in recent years, as well as among left-wing Jews. All these ideas evolved out of what has been termed the “Vision Documents.”
Those four position papers included plans and demands of the National Committee for the Heads of the Arab Local Authorities in Israel; the Mossawa Center; Adalah; and “The Haifa Declaration,” published by Mada al-Carmel. These all appeared in late 2006 and early 2007, though the propositions first entered public discourse in the mid-1989 when the idea of autonomy for Israeli Arabs was raised by two Israeli Arab intellectuals: Azmi Bishara and Said Zaidani.
Their outlook was that Israel is the product of a “colonialist process” that had imposed the state and its citizenship on an unwilling native population. Israel, they maintain, can no longer be defined only as the nation-state of the Jewish people and should assume responsibility for what they called the “historical injustice” it caused the “Palestinians,” in addition to providing compensation. Citizens, however, have duties as well as rights.
One of those duties is the maintenance of a sane semblance of internal social cohesion and consolidation, as well as a solid level of shared mutual responsibility. The statistics and news reports would indicate that that does not exist in the Arab community.
Statistics provided by the Abraham Initiatives NGO for 2021 reveal that 126 Arabs were killed by Arabs, 16 of them women. In 2022, 116 Arabs lost their lives to other Arabs. By the end of January, 13 Arabs have been murdered by other Arabs within the Arab sector in Israel. Over a 24-hour period in the first week of February, four Arabs had been killed within their community. It goes on.
This NGO, which terms these Arabs “Palestinian” rather than “Israeli,” sees a “certified racist” as being in charge of the police, and that the “root causes” of this situation are the need for “socioeconomic development of Arab society.” The New Israel Fund’s 2021 financial report reads: “The NIF redoubled our work to advance a genuinely shared society for Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel.” But who is to construct that development, and are there any internal root causes? For example, why is “honor killing” still an accepted and understood phenomenon?
Is all guilt to be a result of presumed “racists”? Are we faced with external “racists” killing Arabs, or is it an internal reality? Is the problem a near-total breakdown of communal loyalty, whereby criminal elements have completely taken over? Is it, perhaps, the abandonment by communal leaders, elected officials, politicians, religious figures and educators of their duties to their community? Are Sharia court judges doing the best they can?
The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies published a report in June 2022 titled “A Picture of the Nation.” According to the findings, whereas between 2011 and 2021 the number of murders in the Jewish population declined (despite a population growth of 20%), in contrast, from 2016 to 2021 the number of murders within the Arab population doubled. Although Arabs represent 21% of Israel’s total population, 80% of all murders in Israel in the years 2020-21 occurred in the Arab population. Why is that?
The Taub Center sees as critical influential factors a “youth bulge” that is “socially disengaged.” These youth are “underemployed and not in higher education.” There is also a gender element involved with the Taub Center finding that in the 2020/21 academic year, 74% of all master’s degree students and 68% of those in a Ph.D. program are women among the Arab population. Parallel to that, between 2004 and 2019, there has been an increase of more than 50% in the divorce rate among Muslims and Druze (and more than doubled among Christians). Muslim marriages are becoming significantly destabilized, and half of all femicide cases in Israel’s Arab society remain unsolved.
Perhaps, oddly, TikTok has been reported to be an element in Israel’s Arab crime epidemic. The social-media site amplifies conflicts and crime in the Arab community, police confirm, with video clips glorifying illegal actions including shooting guns in the street, drug and weapons possession, high-speed driving and threats of murder. The Baladna NGO now researches this aspect of promoting violent messages in the context of crime. The nationalist violence of May 2022 in mixed cities and neighborhoods was fed by this as well, as is the protection racket in the north and south.
Ze’ev Jabotinsky wrote in a 1926 pamphlet, “What the Zionist-Revisionists Want,” that after the establishment of the Jewish state, “a considerable Arab population always will remain … if things fare badly for this group of inhabitants, the entire country will fare badly. The political, economic and cultural welfare of the Arabs will thus always remain one of the main conditions for the well-being of the Land of Israel.”
This government is headed by the successors of the Jabotinsky legacy. It behooves it both to confront the attempts by Israel’s Arabs to obtain an out-of-state cultural and redefined political identity on the one hand, while on the other, assisting them more actively and efficiently to solve their internal social difficulties, even in spite of themselves.
Yisrael Medad is an analyst and opinion commentator on political, cultural and media issues.