Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Muslim Soul Yearns (Part 3 of 3 - Tibi or Bibi) - Yishai Friedman

by Yishai Friedman

The Arab-Zionist camp is indeed small, but is becoming increasingly prominent in recent years.

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav

Read Part 1  
Read Part 2

Abdul Abu-Ghosh totally identifies with the State of Israel and the Jewish People. He always has words to defend Israel, and absolutely rejects the Palestinian claims of a “Zionist invasion” or “colonialism”. Israeli society, as he perceives it, is not racist, but fearful, and it is reacting to the murderous  terror with relative restraint. And when he personally encounters insensitivity or intolerance he tries to ignore the flaws and find explanations for the weaknesses among Israeli Jews. So, for example, he chose not to take it to heart when a passerby pestered him while he was working as a security guard at the shopping mall. When the argument between them rose in volume, the man asked what his name is. “my name is Abdul Rahman Abu-Ghosh”, was the answer, with an emphasized Arabic accent. The man immediately called over to the shift supervisor – “Why do you hire Arabs here? Don’t let him work here any more”.

Then perhaps the Left is correct, and we really have become racists?
“I pitied that man. He doesn’t know who I am, what I am and where I come from. And even if he did what he did out of racism or anger – he would not have been able to enter the mall if I hadn’t allowed it. I mean, the security company where I worked would have backed me up. Racism is marginal in the general Israeli public”.

Have you ever met Kahanists?
“I have met all the political sides of Israel, even Kahanists. When I tell them that I am loyal to the state and love it, they treat me with respect. I know people on the extreme Right who  have been harmed personally by the terror, and nevertheless, they have no problem to sit with me and talk about everything. With hundreds of events per month, and with people losing family members or friends, I am not surprised that there are people in the State of Israel who view the Arabs suspiciously”. 

On your Facebook page Jews say things like “Good for you, you don’t even look like an Arab”. Don’t tell me that that doesn’t irritate you.
“I do not look Arab, that’s right. In general, the residents of Abu-Ghosh are closer to people from the Caucasus region than Arabs”, he says, half-sarcastically, half-seriously. It’s true that you can always find radical talkbacks, but I don’t pay attention to them. The Jewish radicals are a small minority among a varied and open society”. 

And how do you live with Netanyahu’s statement about the Arabs who were streaming to the polling stations?
“The Arabs were actually flocking to the polling stations more than in previous times. The last time that the Left won here was when the Arabs voted for Ehud Barak. Netanyahu’s message on election day was very clear: ‘If you want the Joint List to form the coalition, then don’t vote for me, and Zahalka and Tibi will determine the structure of the government’. The polls showed that he was right. Everyone knew that the more Arabs went to the polling stations to vote for the Joint List, the greater the chance for the Left to win”.

Did you see how Zahalka yelled about Stav Shaffir*?
“In general, I don’t agree with even one word of what Mr. Zahalka has to say, but what he said about Stav Shaffir – good for him. Everything that he said was correct. It was the Left that built the settlements, which today they so much wants to dismantle, and now they blame everyone [for  this project]. It was Rabin [of the left-leaning Labor party] who talked about breaking the Arabs’ arms and legs. On the one hand, they act arrogantly toward you, [come down on you] and despise you, and on the other hand they think that you should be a soldier in their wars against the Right and the settlers. Zahalka was right, they do not say hello”.

In your opinion, is the solution to the conflict a Palestinian state?
 I would be happy if there were two states here, an Arab state beside the Jewish state – on the condition that I would be living here, in the Jewish state. I want the conflict to end, but there can be no solution without recognition of the Jewish state and without Israeli control of security. Therefore I doubt that a Palestinian state will be established. The Palestinians want to harm the State of Israel more than they want to establish their own state”.

Within the Israeli public there are many who believe that the Palestinians have a right for a state no less than the Jews.
“I believe in the Jewish People’s right to this land, and not to tell them all the time that they are invaders or occupiers or that they are living in a land that they have no connection to. I also admire the Jewish People, its journey and its struggle over thousands of years. In my opinion, to establish a state after two thousand years of exile and turn it into one of the most developed countries in the world – this is amazing. The Jewish People has contributed to humanity in science, in spirituality, in the economy and in hi-tech. How many peoples here in the Middle East can say something like that about themselves?”

“I cannot live one minute under an Arab or Muslim regime, that’s for sure. I look around and know what to choose. And I am not alone. There are many like me in Israel who know that they are living in one of the best and most unique places in the Middle East, and it’s only because the Jews rule here that they have the freedoms that they do”.

The Palestinians would tell you that the Jews returned to this land at the Palestinians’ expense.
 “Okay, this is not true. First of all, even the Muslims came here as occupiers. It’s not as if the Muslims lived here from time immemorial. They were occupiers and also the Jews were occupiers. The difference is that the Jews, contrary to the Arabs, came for the good. Why, there was a war here that the Arabs started, and they are still paying the price for this. I belong to a village that chose not to fight the Jews, because they thought the Jews were right”.

Arabs who Sing the Anthem

 Abdul Abu-Ghosh’s voice is no longer alone, even if his position is not common. The Arab-Zionist camp is indeed small, but is becoming increasingly prominent in recent years.Among the Arabs who wave the blue and white flag is Father Gabriel Nadaf, who is the head of the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum, Shadi Halul from Gush Halav, Muhammad Ka'abiye, who is active among Bedouin youth, educator Nael Zoabi and his son Muhammad Zoabi, who has become a well-known figure on Facebook, and Annette Haskia, who ran for a spot on the list of HaBayit HaYehudi. It is Haskia who organized the demonstration in Tel Aviv University last October. “Annette works to raise the self-esteem of many youths in the Arab sector, who will fearlessly tell you what they think”, says Abu-Ghosh. Haskia’s two sons, he says, are now in the process of conversion. 

Do you sing the national anthem?
“As long as within the heart…”, he sings in response.

“…A Jewish soul still yearns”. Do you feel a connection to the rest of the line?
“I connect to the understanding that the Jewish People has a right to exist. I live under the governance of the Jewish State, and it is my duty to be a loyal citizen. Why is this so surprising? This country is good for me, and I don’t want any other government. Why shouldn’t I sing the national anthem?

And wouldn’t you want there to be some mention of your people in the national anthem?
“This is a Jewish state and the national anthem is an expression of this. I am a minority living in the state, but there is no reason why I cannot be a proud citizen, who can also sing the national anthem”.

Many of the Arab members of Knesset define themselves as “Palestinian citizen of Israel”. Doesn’t this relate to you, too?
“I am a proud Israeli. I don’t identify with the Palestinian flag. The Arab members of Knesset like to talk about the Palestinian state, but they would be the last ones to move there. They don’t actually want to live under Arab rule, so everything they say about the way they define themselves is hypocrisy and phoniness”. 

Has it ever crossed your mind that you might want to join the Jewish People? Maybe it is not really possible to be an “Arab Zionist”, and even a Rightist, and perhaps it is better to convert?
“I’ll tell you something”, says Abu-Ghosh, for the first time he doesn’t answer immediately, but slows slightly the pace of his speech. “I have thought about it, but I am not a religious person. I admire what the Jewish People has created, but I am also proud of what I am, of my own culture and the values that I grew up with from home. I have come to the conclusion that there is no contradiction between who I am and what this country represents, and therefore I do not intend to change. I am happy the way I am, with my culture, with the Israel I flag is waving over my head and over my family.

*Stav Shaffir (of the Zionist Union party, which was previously known as the Labor party) is the youngest female Knesset member in Israel's history, outspoken for demanding fiscal oversight of settlement funding and supporting a wide array of social justice-related issues

Yishai Friedman

Source: Makor Rishon, Nov. 13, 2015, Diokan section, issue 953 section, pg. 24-28

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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