Last week the local Jewish community hosted Ghaida Rinawie-Zoabi, an Israeli-Arab activist from Nazareth who is working to improve the living conditions of Israel’s Arab minority. (Read story here.) Her organization, Injaz, works with mayors and other influentials in the Arab sector, helping them use the tools of government to close the income and opportunities gap between Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews. Her work is supported in part by a coalition of Jewish organizations that includes the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.
Rinawie-Zoabi reminded her audience of the distinctions between Israel’s Arab citizens — 20 percent of its population — and Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. The former may not be “Zionists,” but they are law-abiding citizens who support the state’s institutions. The latter are not citizens of Israel, and would be citizens of their own country under a two-state solution.
Those who are inciting and perpetrating a series of deadly terrorist attacks on Israelis would like nothing more than to blur this distinction. They would like to turn Israeli Arabs against Israeli Jews, and vice versa. They want to transform the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into one between Jews and Muslims; as Israeli journalist David Horovitz put it, they are not fighting the occupation, but the very existence of Israel.
To accomplish this, Islamists and their fellow rejectionists are spreading a series of rumors about Israel’s alleged designs on Muslim holy sites. If they can convince fellow Muslims that Israel wants to overturn the “status quo” at sites like the Temple Mount (against all available evidence), they can turn a fight over land and sovereignty into a fight over religion. They are being aided and abetted by the six Arab countries who submitted a noxious proposal to UNESCO asking that the Western Wall — you read that right — be declared a Muslim site. (We’re grateful to the director general of UNESCO, who issued a statement “deploring” the proposal.) And they even got a boost from a preposterous New York Times article, since corrected, that cast doubt on Jewish claims to the Jews’ holiest site.
Most Israelis support separation from the Palestinians living in the territories, and are satisfied with the overwhelmingly peaceful albeit complicated relationship between their country’s Jewish and Arab citizens. But after a series of attacks within their major cities and public spaces, they are understandably fearful and can’t help but distrust Arabs they had long regarded as neighbors. That is a victory for the inciters and murderers.
Jews everywhere are hoping for a swift end to the current wave of violence aimed at Israelis, and perhaps a return to a track that will bring about the separation yearned for by sober people on both sides. Until then, we hope that the media get the message that this is not a national fight for “Palestine,” but religious incitement against the very existence of Israel. And we pray that Israelis can find the security they are seeking and get back to their unlikely but glorious experiment in Jewish nation-building and multicultural coexistence, the twin pillars upon which their country was founded.