Netanyahu’s magic solution for all of Israel’s problems is to fence the state in. But he will still be left with over a million Arabs, potential beasts of prey, and all the incitement in the world will not remove them.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this month announced a plan to surround the State of Israel with fences — to keep out “beasts of prey.” I was left with an inescapable thought: I must ask the prime minister, what about me? If Israel is a villa in the jungle and is being fenced- and walled-in for fear of attack by the beasts of prey – namely Palestinians and other enemies such as the Arab countries and Iran – then what about me? What is my role, as a Palestinian-Arab citizen born right here, in the backyard shed of the fancy villa-estate?
According to the prime minister’s analogy, I must be categorized as a “potential beast of prey.” I might bite, chew and throw up the remains of the State of Israel right here within its walls. All those of my people, who have been expelled, are out there around the world and in refugee camps while I live inside the villa as an “operational failure” of the Zionist Jewish project. I mean the Zionist, Jewish and democratic project, of course. I almost forgot to mention that everything here is Jewish and democratic.
I take this pill three times a day as part of my rehab from the old “equal Palestinian citizen” disease, but it doesn’t really help. Apparently the only plan in store for me is to castrate and tame me, turn me into a domesticated pet, or cage me in close to the Holot detention center (Israel’s desert detention facility for African asylum seekers), and throw me some leftovers from the kosher feast of the lords of the land.
After 70 years of intense taming perhaps I could be allowed to rake the lawn at the prime minister’s official residence, and be promoted from beast of prey to the post of dedicated watchdog of the wondrous sole democracy in the Middle East.
It is no secret that the current right-wing government has outdone itself in disseminating hatred, hostility and plain incitement against its Arab citizens, day in day out, as part of its survival plan — as a distraction from the ongoing failure of handling all the other matters that would improve all its citizens’ lives (welfare, education, housing and health). Who thinks of such things? The main thing is that Jews are alive, thank God.
To that end someone must be kept in the position of national threat, since the Iranian threat evaporated into the hot air of the Middle East. And ISIS is not expected to cross the Jordan River any time soon
Shut up and make a living
The Arab citizens of Israel are never really surprised any time the prime minister seizes an opportunity to fling some racist statement at us. Still, I cannot pretend it does not pain me, every time anew. It is outrageous, offensive, and does nothing to improve our trust in the state and its institutions.
Frankly, I thank the prime minister for his sincere and consistent behavior. It is far better than the nauseating ideological zigzag exhibited by the Labor Party. Netanyahu’s statements, beliefs and actions are congruent, and they outrage Jews of the left wing and nearly all the Arabs, who never cease talking about democracy and partnership and peace and ending the occupation.
But no. He insists on making us choose between being the enemies of the state and raping our loyalty everyday anew. It’s either beasts of prey or domesticated pets – nothing in between. Not even simply humans, or life partners for a change, equal citizens, God forbid. We are required to shut up in return for economic benefits, planned for some future of course, and to accept harsh infringements on our minority rights and our our right to be recognized as a nation, a people, a group with a different narrative that wants its place and recognition in the public sphere.
Who are we, Palestinians in Israel? Our mother-tongue is still Arabic, but we understand Hebrew very well. Our history does not sit well with the Zionist narrative. It even undermines it, and has therefore been targeted for annihilation. We are not Jews, of course. Most of us look “oriental” and lead a traditional way of life, or at least that is how Israeli researchers categorize us. We study, get an education, work, pay taxes, reproduce and live in rural enclaves and towns that are overflowing according to Israeli statistics. We are not responsible for the assimilation of the Jewish people, and in spite of some crude rumors, we had no part in the Holocaust.
Once, Israel’s policy towards us tended to be, “respect and suspect them”: as long as everything is quiet, it’s alright. Now, and in spite of the fact that “security sources” agree that Arab citizens do not “prey” on any Jews, the government has shifted to a policy of “suspect, slander and let our people hate them.” This is meant to push us into a corner from any possible angle and let the masses deal with us.
Netanyahu knows that the discussion he tries to instigate inside Arab society will never be resolved: should we sacrifice our Palestinian identity for the sake of integration? Shut up and make a living, without dignity? Behave as a proud and militant national minority and challenge democracy nonstop? Or raise our hands and remain a self-pitying, oppressed minority and weep behind closed doors?
The chicken dance
At any rate, until we decide what we want, the masses will be busy hating us and fearing our presence, and thus the right wing enjoys some quiet and uncontested rule. The attack began on Election Day, against leftist organizations and the masses of Arab citizens “streaming towards the voting stations in droves,” continued with the outlawing of the Islamic Movement, and then the “state within a state” speech after a single drunk, drugged-up bully shot three people to death in Tel Aviv.
Now the Balad party is targeted, against the background of coalition Knesset members slandering Arab Knesset members, each in his own turn, and with the blessing of the prime minister. This whole chicken coop is revived as the King Rooster enters the Knesset plenary: minor, voiceless Knesset members become a chorus of squawking, nationalist and patriotic hens, at the expense of the Arab Knesset members and the society they represent in this hallowed parliament.
Naturally, in real time the hens report and lay their voting eggs – submissive and putrid, quietly pecking anything fed them in their trough. They vote as expected on any issue – be it natural gas, nominations, budgets, hasty racist legislation – and at the end of the day perform another hate show against the Arabs.
And I ask, when will Israelis finally grow tired of listening to this chorus? When will you free yourselves of the cages of fear and mind-slavery in which the right wing has enclosed you, in the dark, rotten basement of some villa in the jungle, while the lords of the land sit in their fancy, armored living room upstairs? When will you realize that this villa is a trap from which only you can break free? The choice between black and white, between war and hiding behind concrete walls – is NOT a choice you have to make.
The states which Israel would like to resemble, enlightened states, survived because of the dignity they attribute to any human, with equal laws for one and all, where justice is not measured by ethnic or national origin. Look around you. There are Palestinian citizens everywhere. They are humans just like you, who want to live like you and have no interest in shedding blood. They are concerned about Palestinians living under occupation, and they are allies for peace and hope, bearing a cultural heritage, a history and an especially rich language, which any normal state would regard as a treasure, and a powerful asset.
You deserve a leadership that values you more, and does not trample you and your rights in the name of survival. No other people than the Jews have learned more from their own experience about the demise of a nation that is only nurtured on hating the other and builds an empire upon racist theory. You know that no Jewish Temple was ever devastated by Palestinians, and no Jewish Temple will save you from hatred and evil. And if this shrine is ever built, its builders would probably be Arab construction workers, and even then only upon mutual agreement.