All Citizens Need to Be Treated Equally

All Citizens Need to Be Treated Equally

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Bibi Netanyahu is suddenly concerned about the loyalty of Israeli Arabs whom he, and numerous Governments before his, generally have treated as second class citizens. A tragedy—a terrorist attack–occurred in central Tel Aviv at a café on Friday afternoon when apparently an Israeli Arab shot a group of people in the Simta bar killing two people and wounding seven. While Netanyahu’s concern for national security implications of this shooting are real and compelling, it is past time for Israel to consider the fact that despite the positive improvements which have been made in the lives of the Israel Arab population since 1966 –when the remaining parts of martial law were lifted–, Israel is still very much a democratic country where most Arabs are still treated as second class citizens.

Village infrastructure, educational facilities, recreational opportunities, work/job training, etc., all have improved over the years. The opportunities for Israeli Arabs are still largely much better than average Arabs enjoy throughout the region; but that does not mean that over 20% of Israeli citizens ought to be treated as potential terrorists.

For too long Israeli Governments have been slow and even reluctant to improve conditions and opportunities for Israeli Arabs to the same level as that of the Jewish citizens. For Netanyahu to publicly respond to Friday’s attack by demanding greater loyalty and heightened law enforcement in Israeli Arab communities cannot in itself prevent the recurrence of similar incidents.

On the one hand, the Government had just announced a major allocation of NIS 15 billion ($3.85 billion) for Arab towns and villages to reduce the gaps between Arabs and Jews. On the other hand, the father of the alleged shooter was himself a local police volunteer; had also helped the police to identify his son; and offered to help bring him in. 

Painting all people with a single brush is wrong. The gap has been much too large for too long. Opportunities have been missed and now the growing radicalism in the Arab world no doubt has permeated the lives of Israeli Arabs. Heightened security is certainly necessary, but equally so is increased service and opportunities as well as a serious effort to dampen the hostile anti-Arab rhetoric, beginning with the Prime Minister.

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