by Mordechai Nisan
A reflection on what citizenship demands.
The fire of Islam struck Israel beginning on November 22. It is not likely that the dry season and the easterly winds ignited four separate fire sites in Haifa, also in Zichron Yaakov, Gilon and Mitzpe Harashim in the Galilee, Nataf and Beit Meir in the Judean hills, Dolev and Talmon north of Jerusalem, and Neve Tsuf/Halamish in Samaria.
As in years past, Arab arsonists are primary suspects for this crime of wanton destruction. While police investigations continue, and the left-leaning reality-denying media outlets predictably exonerate the Arabs and blame meteorology and negligence, the experienced and intelligent Israeli public is not fooled. 'Not all Arabs are terrorists and arsonists' becomes the inane thought-control conclusion.
After six days, public authorities reported basic statistics: a quarter of Haifa's population, some 75,000 residents, were evacuated from their homes, while 1,700 dwellings were damaged and over 100 people hospitalized for smoke inhalation; 32,000 acres of land were burned in over 200 fires around the country. Some 10 countries provided Israel with firefighting planes, including the United States and Russia, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and Italy, the Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Croatia. Thirty Arabs (i.e. Muslims), of which 22 were Israeli citizens, and others from the Palestinian Authority area in the West Bank, had been arrested and interrogated on suspicion of arson.
Insight into Muslim warfare methods can be gleaned from Muhammad the prophet of Islam, who set fire to the palm groves of the Jewish tribe Banu el-Nadr in Medina, despite the fact that the next day, with the imminent banishment of the Jews, the groves would revert to the Muslims. Heaping destruction and humiliation upon the enemy was more satisfying than benefiting from his property. Islam, according to the Muslim scholar Ibn Hazm (994-1064), is permitted to burn the produce of the land and its trees as part of the jihad against infidels.
The wildfires in Israel lead us to address the place of the Arabs in Israel, incorrectly referred to as 'Israeli Arabs'. Their identity as Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims - excepting Christians and others who are not - transcends their nominal Israeli citizen status.
The Joint Arab List (JAL) of 13 Knesset members relentlessly conducts a political and ideological assault upon the State of Israel and its Jewish Zionist ethos. They are authentic representatives of the Arab voting public, of whom more than 90% cast their ballots for the JAL in the general elections of 2015.
At the head of the Israel-bashing Arab political class and parliamentary caucus is MK Ayman Odeh, himself a resident of Haifa. He is the visible and vocal spokesman of an embittered and angry minority group, demanding national status on the path to redefining Israel as a bi-national Jewish-Arab state. The formula of 'a state of all its citizens', with its democratic egalitarian melody, is designed to de-Zionize and destroy the renewed Jewish state. The state that is in fact for all its citizens is essentially and firstly the state of the Jewish people.
Ayman Odeh, who recently memorialized Yasir Arafat at a commemoration ceremony in Ramallah, refused to attend the state funeral for Shimon Peres in Jerusalem. Politically active before entering the Knesset, Odeh aggressively campaigned against the proposal for Arab national service – Arabs are exempt from army service - because it would be in his view an act of 'collaboration' with the state.
During late 2015 and early 2016, Odeh visited New York and two incidents were noteworthy: he wrote the UN Secretary-General via the Palestinian delegation to the world forum and requested that an international investigation be conducted on the status of Arabs in Israel; and he refused to address the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations because they shared office space with the Jewish Agency where the Israeli flag is proudly displayed. Odeh's provocative political behavior included publicly supporting the BDS anti-Israel movement. For him, a Jewish majority and a Jewish state add up to Zionist racism.
Ayman Odeh, leading the Joint Arab List, assumes a transparent theatrical pose parallel to the Arab incendiary struggle in Israel. His emotional bombast is pure drama. He oozed sentimentally during a TV interview in the days of the blazing fires: 'We [the Arabs] value nature and especially nature around Haifa where we have lived for centuries'. This fraudulent politician, having earlier visited Palestinian arch-terrorist Marwan Barghouti serving five life-sentences in prison, now urged Jews and Arabs – as the fire burned Israel - to live together in our [Palestine] homeland.
Odeh makes one recall the Arab story, so entertaining in its culture-code idiom, of the specious mourner who joins in the funeral procession for the man he murdered.
Arab youth in Israel have been exposed to the anti-Zionist anti-Israel disparagement and condemnation of the state in which they live. The road is not long from sentiments to sallying forth to attack.
Some of the arson sabateurs in this nationalist/Islamic jihad live under the brainwashing indoctrination of the Palestinian Authority's media and educational outlets. Yet it is the Arab citizens within the Green Line pre-1967 lines, in Sakhnin, Umm el-Fahm, and Jaffa, who studied in the state educational system and live in proximity to Israel's Jews, who highlight the striking anomaly of anti-Israeli Arabs enjoying citizenship in the Jewish state of Israel.
Citizenship demands a moral and civic balance between rights and duties. Political philosophers over the ages, from Plato to Rousseau and Mill, understood that the grant of citizenship and liberty comes with a price and obligation. Should only the Jews in Israel carry the burden for the defense of the country while others defame, deride, and ridicule the country, absolving themselves from any ounce of solidarity and loyalty by word or deed?
A little less than a year ago, the Netanyahu government decided to budget 15 billion Israeli shekels ($3.5 billion) for the development of the Arab sector. Israel's unrequited generosity is not the way to educate and generate good citizenship in the Arabs. Certainly the hollowness of Odeh's call for Jewish-Arab coexistence is no more than verbal theatrics and throwing proverbial sand in the eyes of the Israeli Jews, and the world.
Dr. Mordechai Nisan is the author of Only Israel West of the River: The Jewish State and the Palestinian Question.
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