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Analysis: It’s hard being a Muslim, an Arab and an Israeli

Israeli Arab woman voting, March 17, 2015
AFP
Nonetheless, studies consistently show process of integration into Israeli society and adaptation to its ways

It’s hard to be both an Arab and a Muslim, as well as an Israeli citizen. It's hard to be a citizen in a state which is your people's enemy, in which institutions discriminate against you, many groups among its majority see you as a danger, and the government places you at the bottom of its list of priorities. It's hard to live with complex identities and a dilemma of loyalties.

Make no mistake: In their ethnic national identity, Israel's Arabs are Palestinians just like their brethren in Nablus, Hebron and Gaza, or those living in Jordan and Lebanon. The reality of their lives as Israeli citizens was forced on them in 1948 as a result of the State's establishment. The 1993 Oslo Agreements imposed on them a future within the State of Israel, after the PLO's recognition of Israel set the borders of the Palestinian political battle on the 1967 lines and excluded them from the diplomatic-political solution of their national movement. They remain part of the conflict problem, but not part of its solution.

In the past two decades, despite traumatic crises like the October 2000 Arab rioting that resulted in the deaths of 13 Arab Israelis, there appears to be a consistent trend among Israel's Arabs of adjusting and integrating into the State's life. The reality of life and the desire to remain on their land dragged them into Israelization processes, and today it is impossible to disconnect them from the Israeli society.

They have a prominent presence in the field of medicine ("if there are no Arabs, there are no pharmacists") and in the food industry, representation in sports (not just Bnei Sakhnin), in theater, in cinema and television ("Big Brother," "Survivor"). Many study in Israeli universities and colleges. Most of them are fluent in Hebrew - and in general, they have created a new language, "Arabrew," which combines elements and grammar from the Hebrew language. They adapt to the standards of living and style of the Jewish society.

The adaptation trend is also reflected in politics, particularly under Ayman Odeh's leadership as head of the Joint Arab List. Odeh is redirecting the Arab citizens' battle for equal rights. Their political demands for ending the conflict, according to the two-state vision, are not much different from the Israeli Left's demands.

The Palestinian citizens of Israel have succeeded, despite the identity complexity, in developing psychological mechanisms which allow them to maintain their initial Palestinian identity while sticking to their civil Israeli identity at the same time. A survey conducted by Prof. Sammy Smooha of Haifa University in November 2015 reveals that 73.2 percent of the Arabs have an Israeli component in their identity. That's a lot. These trends have increased in the past year.

This double identity is seven times harder these days. The overwhelming majority of Arabs in Israel condemned and denounced the murder in Tel Aviv, after distinguishing themselves from the Palestinians knifing terror in the territories and responding with restraint to the decision to outlaw the Islamic Movement. Studies on their involvement in harming the State's security clearly show that they play a minimal part in terror, despite being filled with collective feelings that have a potential for radicalization, revolt and seclusion.

The government and its different wings must encourage the adaptation processes, work to integrate the Arabs into the State's life and adopt a practical policy for equal rights, generously allot budgets for infrastructures, solve the illegal construction problem, develop industrial zones, introduce an emphasis on tolerance and respect for the other into the Jewish and Arab schools' curriculum, and work to enforce the law and strengthen the police in the Arab sector.

Dr. Ronnie Shaked is a research fellow at the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at Hebrew University.

This article is published courtesy of Ynet. To view the original click here.

Comments

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Arabs israelis are the example of integration whithin a society which is supposed to discriminate them, but respecting the jewish laws is their successful behaviour.

Although there are problems being an Arab in Israel did you know that most of the pharmacists, including some of the managers, in Jerusalem's hospitals are Arabs who studied pharmacy at Israeli universities? Arab doctors, graduates of Israeli universities, work in Israeli hospitals. Arab lawyers, graduates of Israeli universities, defend Arab and other clients in Israeli courts. The list goes on and on.

Arab Israelis integration is only possible because of Israeli law. Israel is the ONLY DEMOCRACY in the Middle East. History has shown how Muslims treat non believers. Arab Israelis should be thankful for living under Israeli law and should perhaps be more Vocal to protect the state of Israel rather than silently pray for its demise. Perhaps then Israeli attitudes towards Arabs in general will change for the better.

" It's hard to be a citizen in a state which is your people's enemy, in which institutions discriminate against you, many groups among its majority see you as a danger, and the government places you at the bottom of its list of priorities. " Well, the discrimination, being seen as a danger and being placed at the bottom of priorities list obviously aren't good. But blaming for this only Israeli and israel's government isn't wise either - isn't the time to look in mirror and on your "brethren in Nablus, Hebron and Gaza"? It's not easy to be labeled as a traitor, no question. But Dr. Ronnie Shaked's vision that "The reality of their lives as Israeli citizens was forced on them in 1948 as a result of the State's establishment" ignores the fact that Palestinian Arabs lost their cause at least twice: first when rejected the sharing of Palestine with Jewish state and second time when accepted the Egyptian extremist as their leader. BTW, the safe bet is that nobody from Israeli Arabs would accept the moving to the "Palestinian State" as well to any other "Arab State". This is the real reality.

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