Some representatives of the Arab community in Israel are continuing to cause tremendous damage both to their constituents and coexistence between Jews and Arabs.
These representatives, who serve in the Knesset (Parliament), have forgotten that they were elected to look after the interests of Israel’s Arab citizens.
Their fiery rhetoric and provocative actions are the main reason why a growing number of Israeli Jews have begun relating to Arab citizens as a «fifth column» and an «enemy from within.»
These Knesset members are obviously confused as to who their constituents are. Many of them seem to believe that they were elected to the Knesset to represent the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Of course, not all of the 11 Arab Knesset members (out of 120) are involved in provocations and inflammatory rhetoric. Half of them appear to be working toward improving the living conditions of the 1.5 million Arab citizens of Israel.
The other half, however, do not seem to care about the problems facing their constituents in the Galilee, Triangle and Negev. Over the past decade, these Knesset members have done a great job representing the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
It is possible that these representatives are so desperate to win media attention that they are willing to say or do anything that would provoke Israeli Jews. They know that dealing with the problems of infrastructure, unemployment and poverty in the Arab sector are not going to draw media attention.
They have learned that the best and fastest way to grab headlines is by issuing inflammatory statements or engaging in provocative actions against Israel.
An Arab Knesset member who joins a flotilla ship to the Gaza Strip will surely appear on the front pages of Israeli, Arab and even international newspapers. And as far as the Knesset member is concerned, «I don’t care what you write about me as long as you spell my name right.»
Recent tensions in Jerusalem and Arab villages inside Israel have seen these publicity-seekers escalate their provocative rhetoric and actions in a way that has further widened the gap between Jews and Arabs.
Some of them are prepared to employ any gimmick to get their voices heard. Take, for example, the most recent case of Basel Ghattas, a Christian Arab member of the Knesset.
Last week, Ghattas insisted on addressing the plenum while clad in the black-and-white kaffiyeh, a prominent symbol of Palestinian nationalism. It has been a long time since Ghattas’s name or photo appeared in the media. Many Israeli Jews and Arabs were not even aware of his presence in the Knesset until he resorted to the kaffiyeh gimmick – a move that enraged many of his Jewish colleagues in the Knesset.
A similar gimmick a few days earlier turned out to be no joke for the residents of the Galilee village of Abu Snan, where Muslims and Druze have been living in coexistence for decades.
The harmony and neighborly relations between the two communities exploded into a huge brawl after Muslim students showed up for school donning the Palestinian kaffiyeh. The students were seeking to protest the recent police killing of a knife-wielding man in the village of Kfar Kana.
The melee was sparked by the demand of Druze students that the Muslims remove the scarves. At least 41 people were injured, one of them critically.
A video still of the massive brawl between Muslims and Druze in the village of Abu Snan.
The Muslim students were undoubtedly influenced by the inflammatory rhetoric of their Arab Knesset members and other politicians in the aftermath of the shooting in Kfar Kana.
One Knesset member, Ahmed Tibi, denounced the fatal police shooting of the Arab man as a «mafia-style execution.»
22-year-old Kheir a-Din Hamdan, of Kfar Kana, uses a knife to try to smash through the window of a police van, seconds before he was shot dead by a policeman who exited the vehicle, Nov. 7, 2014.
Some Arab Knesset members have also been exploiting the controversy surrounding visits by Jews to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to step up their rhetorical attacks on Israel. Interestingly, these Knesset members are not known to be devout Muslims and have never been seen attending prayers at a mosque.
Yet this has not stopped them from inciting their people by telling them to «defend» the Aqsa Mosque from Jewish «settlers» and «extremists» visiting the Temple Mount.
In some instances, the Israeli Arab representatives did not hesitate to confront and taunt policemen at the holy site.
This is exactly what Knesset member Haneen Zoabi did recently, when she compared the police’s behavior to the Holocaust: «Someone did this to you, decades ago,» she shouted at the policemen. «Remember that? Somebody did rule over you and screwed you over decades ago. You did not learn the lesson.»
On another occasion, Zoabi compared Israeli soldiers to Islamic State terrorists. «They (Islamic State) kill one person with a knife each time, while the IDF kills dozens of Palestinians at a time by pressing a button,» Zoabi said. «The soldier remains in the plane when he launches strikes and he does not see the victim – the wings of the plane just lightly shift. IDF soldiers are no less a terrorist than the ones who behead. They kill more than a knife kills.»
It is hard to see how the words and actions of these Arab Israeli leaders help, if at all, the Arab citizens of Israel. On the contrary; these representatives seem to be determined to damage relations between Jews and Arabs inside Israel, the same way Hamas and the PLO destroyed any prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The leaders of the Israeli Arabs are damaging their people’s hopes of being fully integrated into Israeli society and being looked upon by Israeli Jews as equal and loyal partners.
It is time for these citizens to stand up to those Arab Israeli leaders who are causing them huge damage and remind them that they are supposed to represent Israeli Arabs and not the PLO or Hamas.
It is also time for them to start searching for better leaders before it is too late to stop the rapid deterioration of relations between Israel’s Arabs and Jews.
Israel’s Arabs Need Better Leaders
by Khaled Abu Toameh
November 18, 2014 at 5:00 am