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Israeli Arab Responses Two Years Later

06 October 2002

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Two years after the Yasir Arafat began his campaign of massive violence against Israel, Arab citizens of the State of Israel are taking stock.  Last week two types of reactions were discernable, the Islamic Front gathered 60,000 adherents and called for the saving of the Al-Aksa mosque and the destruction of the Jewish State.  The Arab village councils called for a day of protest on Oct. 1st in commemoration of the 13 Arabs killed in the demos two years ago but did not declare a business strike.  Turnout was very light and what was to be an activists’ day of processions can be considered a failure.  An Arab store owned interviewed on Israel’s Channel Two explained that the Jews have not shopped in his village in two years and it is time to get back to working together and solving differences.  Moderates on both sides would agree.

The Islamic Front’s incitement  is designed to whip the Arab community into a frenzy of religious hatred for the State of Israel and the Jews.  They do not just use freedom of speech, but rather abuse it.  A demonstration of the same proportions in the US would total 3 million and call for the destruction of America.

In Israel the authorities are vacillating as to whether an investigation should be launched against the group while the government considers if they should be declared illegal.  There is a fear of forcing Islamic fundamentalist activities underground and thereby making it more difficult for the security forces to keep track of radical subversive moves.

However not to take action will only encourage the radicals and stifle the moderates.  There are legitimate grievances by the Arab community against the state once the Palestinian and Arab identity issues are peeled away.  These must be confronted and wrongs rectified.  Israeli Arabs must understand they are subject to Israeli laws while certainly having the right of dissent within the framework of the democratic system.  This does not include working for the destruction of the State of Israel.

If Israeli Arab moderates do not win out the situation between Jewish and Arab citizens will only get worse and much more dangerous.  It is true everyone is in a holding pattern waiting to see what will be the impact on the Arab world after the American activities in Iraq.

But this does not mean the government cannot begin a two-pronged policy of working with the moderates while curbing the influence of the radicals in the Israeli Arab sector regardless of American actions in Iraq.