Update from AIJAC
April 19, 2007
Number 04/07 #05
This Update features a number of particularly important contributions from the key debates Israelis are having at the moment.
It leads off with an interview with an important voice in Israel, academic and security expert Dr. Dan Shueftan. Shueftan, an architect of Israel’s 2005 Gaza disengagement, explains his continued belief that such moves are necessary even though he does not expect them to bring peace. He also emphasises his overall goal of preserving the resilience of Israeli society, which he discusses at length, together with solutions to the threat to Israel from Iran. To learn what this important voice in Israel’s key debates had to say, CLICK HERE.
Next up, Israeli journalist Ben-Dror Yemini of the Maariv newspaper weighs in to the debate about the situation of Israel’s Arab minority. While acknowledging some problems and discrimination, he takes the claims that they are the victim of “apartheid”, and then uses statistics to show that any gaps between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens in terms of income, education, etc. are actually smaller than those characterising Muslim minorities throughout Europe. Further, he points out that there are demographic reasons, in terms of family size and low employment amongst Muslim women, which explain most of the disparities that do exist, and that Israeli Arabs have an exceedingly low emigration rate, which is a good measure of the degree of comparative deprivation. For this important addition to an oft-debated topic, CLICK HERE.
Finally, Israelis are currently engaged in an intense debate about Hamas’ demands for the release of 1400 Palestinian prisoners, including many senior terrorist figures, in exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. We offer below a good contribution from academic Martin Sherman, who argues that agreeing to Hamas’ demands means putting Israeli civilians at risk via the likely resumption of terrorist attacks by those released, to save a soldier, who is expected to risk his life as part of his duties. For his argument on this difficult subject, CLICK HERE.
THE JERUSALEM POST, Apr. 5, 2007
‘My attitude was, and still is, that Israel without the Gaza Strip is stronger than Israel with the Gaza Strip. Israel without Nablus is stronger than Israel with Nablus,” says Dan Schueftan emphatically, with the utter self-assurance and extremely good cheer of an enfant terrible. But, he stresses, “this has nothing whatsoever to do with peace.”
In fact, says Schueftan – a senior lecturer in political science at the University of Haifa, where he serves as deputy director of the National Security Studies Center – “my concern is not whether the Palestinians will stop being terrorists, because they won’t. My consideration is whether Israeli society will be as strong today and tomorrow as it was yesterday.”
Schueftan, who also lectures at the IDF’s National Defense College, insists that the only way the country can remain a flourishing, modern democracy (what he calls the “eighth wonder of the world”) is for the Jews to have a sustainable majority over the Arabs. His point is that while “we may be able to do with less aircraft and fewer tanks,” demographic imprudence will do us in for sure.
Indeed, the author of Disengagement – the 1999 book that became a virtual blueprint for the 2005 withdrawal from Gush Katif and northern Samaria – is a demography doomsayer.
So much so that he even goes as far as to claim that the state’s allocation of child allowances, which encouraged “non-Zionist, non-productive, non-democratic, non-modern” elements to be fruitful and multiply, posed as great a threat to its survival as an Iranian nuclear bomb.
Not that Schueftan – a leading expert on the Middle East in general and Arab-Israeli affairs in particular, whose advice is sought out by decision-makers at home and abroad – isn’t worried about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s program. On the contrary, he is hoping and praying for a massive American military operation against the Iranian despot’s dangerous infrastructure.
“As one who retroactively condones Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” he states unabashedly, “I believe that this would send a signal to radicals the world over that the US can only be pushed so far.”
You are credited with being one of the main fathers of disengagement. Your book, Korach Hahafrada (Disengagement), was considered its manifesto, if not impetus. A year and a half after the Gaza withdrawal, how do you view its having panned out?
Indeed, my book was the first conceptual framework for disengagement decision-makers had seen. Some of them were even specifically convinced by the book that this was the inevitable course that Israel should take.
I still believe today that this is an inevitable course – one that we will resume at a later date. At the moment, it’s not popular, but we will inevitably come back to it, because the basic logic that led to it is still there.
Arthur Conan Doyle put it so well in Sherlock Holmes’s mouth: “If you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
In this case, I’m not speaking about truth in Doyle’s sense of the word, of course. But when you eliminate the impossible courses of action – peace with the Palestinians and perpetuation of the status quo – you inevitably revert to unilateral steps by Israel.
Unilateral steps can take different forms. For instance, I wouldn’t suggest today that Israel leave the West Bank and take the IDF out. I would remove the settlements more or less behind the fence – mutatis mutandis – and leave the IDF there for as long as it is absolutely necessary, taking the security consequences of Israel’s leaving the area into account. But basically my attitude was, and still is, that Israel without the Gaza Strip is stronger than Israel with the Gaza Strip. Israel without Nablus is stronger than Israel with Nablus. Even more than that: Israel without the parts of east Jerusalem heavily populated by Arabs – with a very different delineation of the line than we had before 1967 – is stronger than Israel that includes 300,000 Arabs. My assumption is that, for the foreseeable future, we’ll have neither peace nor any kind of working settlement with the Palestinians. My assumption is that the conflict will go on for at least this generation.
What about the Jordan Valley?
The Jordan Valley should be under Israeli control for as long as possible and necessary. The best option would be if we could reach some kind of an accepted settlement according to which the Jordan Valley stays in Israel but the heartland of Judea and Samaria is linked to the rest of the Arab world through a corridor in Jericho. Among other things, this would also protect the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan from the Palestinians.
In other words, you support Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s realignment plan that has been put on hold.
Yes, with one exception: not taking the army out of the West Bank… for the time being.
But in terms of territory, I would remove most of the settlements, and keep most of the settlers inside Israel, including the Ariel bloc, Ma’aleh Adumim, Givat Ze’ev, Pisgat Ze’ev, Gush Etzion. I’m sorry that the Supreme Court imposed going back to the June 5, 1967, lines in Judea. There is no reason whatsoever for this, as far as population in the area is concerned. We could have taken a portion of it. But, if this is the deal, I would accept it.
When Olmert reiterated his realignment plan during the Second War in Lebanon, he was chastised by the public for it. His popularity has suffered greatly since then. Are you saying that he was given a bad rap?
No. He deserved a setback, because he mishandled the war.
Secondly, Israelis expected the disengagement from Gaza to lead to a decrease in terrorism, which it didn’t do.
You didn’t expect this?
I certainly didn’t. If I may put it in a broader context: In 1977, when asked if I would leave the Sinai Peninsula for peace, I answered, “What [Egyptian president Anwar] Sadat is offering (a separate settlement removing Egypt from the active violent confrontation with Israel) is so critical for the future of Israel that I would have paid more than merely the Sinai Peninsula, but it has nothing to do with peace. And when we withdraw – indeed, the more we concede to Egyptian demands – the more hostility, hatred and anti-Semitism we will arouse.”
I don’t expect the Arabs to accept us. Even the elite among the Arab citizens of Israel don’t. They would like to undermine our national existence.
Let me stress that I’m not offering concessions because the Arabs deserve them. When they try to destroy us, they deserve nothing. The question is not, “Will we get peace with the Palestinians in return for these concessions?” Because, whatever we do, we will not get peace.
I have one consideration only: How to guarantee Israeli society’s continuing to be as strong as it is. Individual Israelis may be extremely unpleasant, but when you look at the Israeli collective, you cannot but be amazed by the strength and resilience of the society as a whole under extreme pressure. Poets should be praising it. Its strength is manifested in the fact that, on the one hand, it does not turn in the direction of capitulation, like the Europeans; and on the other hand, it does not turn in the direction of radicalization, like the Palestinians.
The beauty of Israeli society is that the more pressure you put on it, the more it gravitates to the center. It is the eighth wonder of the world. Look, people are not leaving this country. People don’t take their money out of this country. Democracy is flourishing – and if it is threatened, it it is threatened from the direction of anarchy, rather than fascism: In other words, what is threatening the separation of powers in government is not the army, but the Supreme Court. Now, I don’t like it, but if you are at war, and your problem is with the Supreme Court, that’s somewhat comforting.
Imagine, 25 years ago, we were on the brink of tearing society apart on the Sephardi-Ashkenazi issue. Today, we’ve got almost a million kids who don’t know whether they’re Sephardi or Ashkenazi. We all but solve problems of a magnitude and multitude that nobody in the world even encounters. This is a most impressive society, and it’s our No. 1 asset. In our arsenal, if there’s one thing hostile Arabs should fear, it is the strength of Israeli society.
A few weeks ago, in an interview with Al-Jazeera, I was asked if Israel lost its deterrence after the Lebanon War. I facetiously responded, “You don’t understand. If I were a hostile Arab, I’d be frightened of Israel, because this country survives in spite of Amir Peretz’s being defense minister.”
This is a society that basically says, “If the government doesn’t function, we’ll function without government.” And it works!
This is a country that, after six years of war – with buses and pizzerias and cafes exploding, and then a million people living in bomb shelters – has a booming economy.
We may be able to do with less aircraft and fewer tanks. We can even survive confrontations with the Arabs that we don’t exactly win. But if, God forbid, we undermine the strength of Israeli society, we’re doomed.
My concern is not whether we will have peace, because we won’t. And my concern is not whether the Palestinians will stop turning to terrorism, because they won’t. My consideration is whether Israeli society will be as strong today and tomorrow as it was yesterday. In this context, we must understand that the perpetuation of the status quo, in the long run, is not an option.
Because mainstream Israelis didn’t want to be in Gaza. I’m choosing Gaza because it’s easy; Judea and Samaria are much more complicated. The Israelis who count are those who say, “We understand the need to stand fast for generations; we understand the need for our newborns to serve in the army 18 years from now.”
The notion that our children will have to be in the army at some point in the near future is something that most Israelis no longer expect. And if there is the slightest suspicion that this war is continuing because of the Gaza Strip, most mainstream Israelis say, “I’m sorry, thank you very much, you can have Gaza. Your 1.3 million Palestinians can go and do whatever they want, but out of our face. We don’t want to see them or have anything to do with them. We want them behind a high wall.”
It is only if people realize that this is what they’re fighting for will we continue to have a strong society that is not only supported by people who are as ideologically committed as the settlers tend to be, but also by people who may have doubts that settlers don’t have – and you need them on board more than anybody else.
The Jewish people made an irrevocable mistake in the early 1920s. Half a million Jews coming here then would have provided a critical demographic mass for a Jewish state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. But we didn’t come. This is something we’ve been paying for ever since, and it means that the Land of Israel must be partitioned between us and the Palestinians. Not because they deserve it. They don’t. Simply because we cannot digest it. And what we cannot digest, we shouldn’t swallow. And what we cannot swallow, we shouldn’t bite off.
We must take a broad strategic view, rather than focus exclusively – or even primarily – on territory. Territory is important; I’m not saying you can disregard it. But there are many different elements that have to be considered.
Two things keep Israel alive today: the resilience and creativity of our society, and our alliance with the United States. In comparison, the rest of the universe [he laughs] is an unconfirmed rumor.
Do I agree with the settlers that we must be careful not to undermine the patriotism of people who have a somewhat different approach from mine? Yes. Should we try our best to keep good patriots inside, rather than alienate them? Yes. But at the expense of incorporating the Gaza Strip in Israel? No.
By this logic, what is Israel supposed to do about “digesting” the Israeli Arab demographics? Withdraw from Haifa and Acre?
By disengaging from the Gaza Strip and most of the West Bank, we transform an unmanageable threat into a manageable challenge. We have hundreds of thousands of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship today, who wouldn’t have it had we built a fence immediately after 1967.
To this day, the Beduin are taking demographic and geographic control of the Negev, because we failed to take the appropriate steps to secure our most vital needs. In extreme cases, a Beduin marries his cousin; they have 15 children. He takes a second wife from the Hebron mountains; he has another 15 children. He takes a third wife from the Gaza Strip; then has yet another 15 children. Then he can take more and divorce as many as he pleases, who collect Bituah Leumi [National Insurance money] as single mothers. With his 45 or 60 children, in one generation, he is a village. So not building a fence is a crime against Zionism. If you let Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank move freely into Israel, we are doomed.
The worst danger was the allocation of child allowances, because it encouraged Muslim Arabs and haredi Jews (Christian Arabs didn’t go in this direction) to have many children and only one parent participating in the workforce. Such a policy increases the non-Zionist, non-productive, non-democratic and non-modern elements within the country. This is an existential threat to Israel – almost as much as an Iranian nuclear bomb.
In 2003, when Binyamin Netanyahu was finance minister, he reduced the child allowances. This was as important as having aircraft that can reach Iran.
You don’t really believe that people have dozens of children because of child allowances, do you? Wouldn’t the populations in question be having that many children anyway?
There is this legend, perpetuated by people who don’t know what they’re talking about, that haredim necessarily have many children and don’t work because their religious belief dictates it. But look at haredim in Antwerp or in New York: They work and have far fewer children. The same goes for the Arab world. The campaign in Egypt to lower the birthrate succeeded, as it did in Iran.
We shouldn’t be mortgaging our future by changing our demographic balance in this direction.
We have a commission of inquiry into the failures of the Second War in Lebanon. But the issue of child allowances – as they were until 2003 and could come back – is far more critical in the long run.
But the child allowances were only a part of an entire welfare state system that has been around since the days of David Ben-Gurion.
It wasn’t from the days of Ben-Gurion; it was from the days of [Yitzhak] Rabin.
For a long period of time, the idea was to support families whose children serve in the army. It was only after 1992 that it changed vis- -vis the Arabs; unfortunately, it eroded vis- -vis the haredim earlier than that.
Surely you are familiar with the study conducted by Bennett Zimmerman, Roberta Seid and Michael Wise of the American Research Initiative, showing there are far fewer Palestinians than is commonly stated.
I’m familiar with it, and it doesn’t matter much. It’s the “so what” effect. It doesn’t matter if the Arabs are already 50% – or let’s be radical and say 40%. The question is: Can we have a state with an overwhelming Jewish majority? If it is not overwhelming, this state will not be modern; it will not be democratic; it will not keep the kind of salt-of-the-earth people who make Israel survive and prosper. If you have millions of Arabs inside Israel, Israel is doomed.
Which brings us back to the issue of the Arabs who are already citizens of Israel. If there is not an “overwhelming” majority of Jews in places like Haifa and Jaffa, are you saying that they’re doomed?
What I’m saying is that you can keep a certain proportion of Arabs, even if it is problematic, say 16% – or even 20-something. You can live with it. But 50% – or even if you accept the study that says it’s 40% or 45% – is something else.
In an interview in these pages in 2004, your colleague (and co-promoter of disengagement) Arnon Soffer said: “We will tell the Palestinians that if a single missile is fired over the fence, we will fire 10 in response. And women and children will be killed, and houses will be destroyed… if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.”
If the idea, as you say, has nothing to do with peace, but self-preservation, why did we allow Kassams to land while we were withdrawing? And why does mainstream Israel not view disengagement as you do?
In time, the mainstream will come again to see things my way. Look, there is this very childish approach which says: Let’s make enormous concessions and then, if the Palestinians do commit even the slightest provocation, all hell will break loose.
But, in every situation, you must ask yourself what the smart thing is to do. The key to being politically smart is to forget about justice and conduct a very strict cost-benefit analysis. For instance, would it have been justified to say that once [Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser] Arafat committed this or that act of terrorism, we would immediately destroy PA infrastructure and reoccupy Palestinian cities and refugee camps? Yes, completely justified.
But wasn’t it wiser to do what [former prime minister Ariel] Sharon did – which was not respond to the Dolphinarium bombing [in 2001] until the Americans were on board?
Remember what happened in the interim between the Dolphinarium bombing and Operation Defensive Shield? The Karine A incident. The Americans finally understood that Arafat was a terrorist. As a result, we were able to do something very radical with American support. The difference was enormous, because the Americans shielded us from potentially dangerous European pressures. This was worth waiting for. We have no option of responding to every provocation by indiscriminate mass killing of Palestinian civilians, because of what we are. That is another dimension of the strong society we discussed before.
Professor Soffer, like you, said it was time for a unilateral step, time to tell the Palestinians that we would no longer let them keep killing us.
Soffer had an important role in warning Israelis of the dire consequences of integration with the Palestinian territories, and his outrage at their terrorism is, of course, justified. The broader question we are discussing here is conceptual. We should choose our methods and timing, realizing that, for the Palestinians who are fighting us under the post-Camp David-Taba circumstances, killing our children is more important than giving hope to their own. This is a problem we have to deal with wisely.
Now, if you look at the 85-year period since the emergence of the Palestinian people, you will see that our situation gets progressively better, while theirs gets worse and worse.
In the final analysis, who suffers strategically more from their terrorism? Think about it: If there were no terrorism, how could we defend the fence? What would we do if peaceful Palestinians wanted to come into Israel?
The answer is that it would be much more difficult to prevent our demographic destruction were it not for terrorism. It would have been very difficult to explain to people why Oslo was a profound mistake, if the Palestinians hadn’t been so stupid as to revert to radical terrorism. Indeed, until that point, you couldn’t convince mainstream Israelis that Oslo was completely detached from reality. Had Arafat not used massive terrorism, we would still have people in the mainstream believing that the Palestinians have abandoned their commitment to the destruction of the Jewish nation-state.
So, do you think former prime minister Ehud Barak is telling the truth when he says that he brought Israel to the brink on purpose – to call Arafat’s bluff?
I don’t care what his purpose was, but Barak saved us from Oslo at Camp David – where he did the right thing; and he was profoundly irresponsible in Taba, where, when the Palestinians started a war, he gave them much more and sent Yossi Beilin to represent Israel [at the negotiating table].
Now let’s talk about Sharon. Would you have imagined – after he was elected by a landslide aimed at ousting Barak – that he would espouse disengagement, and then actually carry it out?
I doubt if there was anybody was less surprised than I. In 1999 – when Sharon was foreign minister in Bibi’s [Netanyahu’s] government – I went to see him with a copy of my book. I told him I had come to tell him his future. “I may not look like a gypsy,” I said. “And I left my crystal ball in the parking lot, but I came to read your fortune. Within three to five years, if you become prime minister, you will recognize a Palestinian state, build a fence and remove the settlements that you planted.”
He responded, “Please repeat everything you just said, because I want to write down every word. You laughed at me in ’82, and now it’s my turn to laugh at you, because I know that I’m not going to do any of it.”
In fact, Sharon – the good Mapainik that he was – ended up doing exactly what all responsible leaders of Israel have done when push came to shove: the right thing.
Take Menachem Begin, for example, whose life plan had been to remain ideologically pure, and lose one election after another for the rest of his days. To his amazement and shock, however, in 1977 he was elected prime minister. And what was the first thing he did? He asked Moshe Dayan to be his foreign minister, and committed not to incorporate Judea, Samaria and Gaza into Israel – the opposite of his platform. He did this because he understood he now had the supreme responsibility of Israel on his shoulders.
Look at Yitzhak Shamir, the “Jordan is Palestine” ideologue. The golden opportunity to make his vision a reality arose during the first Gulf War. But he didn’t take it, because he understood that in the seat of the prime minister, he was no longer in the role of ideologue. He had to ask himself whether he wanted Jordan as a buffer state between Israel and the radical Arab states. And he came to the conclusion that he did.
What about Bibi?
Bibi opposed Oslo, and rightly so. But what did he do when he became prime minister? He kept Israel’s commitment to it. He started the process of bringing the right-wing Likud party into the political center.
I’ll tell you a story about Golda Meir that explains this phenomenon. During the Yom Kippur War, we had the Egyptian Third Army encircled and could have destroyed it. But the Russians said that if we didn’t open the encirclement, the Soviet Union would become directly involved in the war.
After the war, I went to see Golda, and I asked her if she had believed the Russians would actually do it. I asked her in Hebrew. She answered in English: “No, they were bluffing.”
So, I asked, “Then why did you give up?”
To which she replied – in Hebrew – “Lo vitarti; nichnati.” [“I didn’t give up; I capitulated.”]
“Even more interesting,” I said. “Why did you capitulate?”
“I am the prime minister of the Jewish people,” she answered. “The prime minister of the Jewish people does not gamble with the fate of the Jewish people.”
If all our leaders behave “responsibly” once they take the helm, are you saying that you don’t really worry about who wins the elections?
Of course I worry. In the first place, not everything that applied in the past necessarily applies to the future. And if Yossi Beilin, Effi Eitam or Amir Peretz were prime minister, I wouldn’t sleep nights.
Surrounded by a hostile Muslim world – and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s finger nearly on the button – isn’t focusing on the Palestinian issue a form of tunnel vision?
It’s worse than tunnel vision, particularly since the Palestinian problem doesn’t have a solution. Palestinian society has disintegrated. The only reason I would discuss negotiating with them would be to go along with [US Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice’s make-believe, as long as I know that nothing can come of it.
Nor is it only the Iranian issue that is more important. For instance, the problems we’re having with strong mainstream voices in Europe questioning Israel’s right to exist. And, contrary to what they say, this has nothing to do with the Palestinians. Delegitimizing Israel continues, even accelerates, after you withdraw from Gaza. It accelerates after you accept a Palestinian state. It accelerates after you accept the partitioning of Jerusalem. The more concessions we make, the deeper the process in Europe of questioning the legitimacy of a Jewish nation-state grows.
If this is the case, why concede anything whatsoever?
Whatever we do, we should consider primarily how it affects our own society.
What is your view of the Bush policy in Iraq?
The Bush policy had two components – destroying the Saddam Hussein regime and bringing democracy to the Arabs.
I was for the first part. I supported the war. But, as I suggested before the war – and you can judge it with today’s hindsight – “Be punitive, not corrective.” Destroy the regime, destroy as much of the infrastructure as it takes. You cannot have somebody like Saddam Hussein succeeding. And this part worked; his regime isn’t there. And the domestication of [Libya’s Muammar] Gaddafi cannot be explained without the context of what happened to Saddam.
But bringing democracy to the Arabs? This was foolish to begin with. You cannot sell freedom to people who don’t want it.
Like the Palestinians, you mean?
Nobody is as irresponsible as the Palestinians. But in the Arab world in general, democracy is not something that can be produced exogenously. It must be endogenous and start from one’s own society. If you have enough good guys, then we can come in from outside and break the bad-guy stronghold, so that the good guys can take over. But if there are not enough good guys in a society, then destroying the bad guys and substituting for the good guys doesn’t work.
Are there enough “good guys” in Iran?
Yes. Iran is completely different. In Iran, the problem is the regime, not the people.
At the moment, however, I don’t see any other option but an American military operation in Iran. If there isn’t one, Iran will become nuclear. And if Iran is nuclear, civilized life the world over will be threatened. If Iran has nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia and Egypt will immediately go in this direction; other Arab countries will follow. Radical countries throughout the world will not be able to afford not to develop nuclear weapons. And before you know it, clowns like [Hugo] Chavez in Venezuela will have nuclear weapons – 30-40 countries will have nuclear weapons – and then nuclear war is only a matter of time, and not a very long time, at that.
What about an Israeli attack on Iran?
With all due respect to Israel, we cannot do it properly.
Politically or militarily?
Even militarily. Knocking out the nuclear infrastructure so that it stays knocked out is beyond our capability. Because you need aerial staying power over Iran for weeks.
My hope is that the Iranians would then retaliate massively, which would cause the Americans to respond in a way I would really appreciate.
Such an operation would also be the way out of Iraq. The reason the US cannot leave Iraq today is that it would lose its deterrence. But if it bombards Iran, that problem would no longer exist.
As one who retroactively condones Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I believe that [an American attack] would send a signal to radicals the world over that the US can only be pushed so far.
But Bush is very unpopular at the moment. What are the odds that he’ll be able to take such action?
He is very unpopular, but he is committed to not leaving behind a world that is much worse off than the one he received. And I wouldn’t underestimate the significance of this commitment.
The rationale for resisting ransom
by Ben-Dror Yemini
Maariv, April 3, 2007
A comparative study shows that Israeli Arabs are much better off than Muslim minorities in the European countries and better off than the Arabs in neighboring countries. One of the main reasons for the disparity: domestic repression. The fourth article in the series.
Israeli Arabs have become a hot topic all over the world. Their spokespeople, among whom are Jews and Israelis, appear in many forums, disseminating false accusations of the “apartheid” under which the Israeli Arabs are suffering. It is a strange apartheid. It is an apartheid in which the Arabs, which are a minority community, attain the highest achievements, both in comparison to similar communities in Europe and in comparison to the citizens of neighboring countries. The facts are below.
This is an apartheid that allows its spokespeople to say whatever they please, including identifying with entities that are calling for the destruction of the state in which they live. It is doubtful that any other country in the world that has granted such broad freedom of expression in such a situation of confrontation.
Most Israeli Arabs are law abiding citizens, irrespective of their political positions. Their rights are not a matter of benevolence. The problem is the leadership. And here, too, some of their claims are valid: there are gaps between the Arab minority and the Jewish majority. But even if there is discrimination – and there is – it is not the main explanation for the disparity, either in the Arab countries, in which the gap is larger, or in Israel. The explanation lies elsewhere and we will get to that.
Opposition to Jewish self-determination
Before we get to the facts, a bit of background: In recent months, documents have been published that have attempted to place the various demands of Israeli Arabs on the Israeli and international agenda. They contain points that are worth discussing. The main point, however, is not a legitimate demand for equality. The main point is a negation of the right of the Jews to self-determination. The main point is the absolute adoption of the rejectionist line. The main point is another milestone in a series of problems that the Arabs of the region have brought upon themselves.
We must remember that in 1937 it was the Arabs, not the Jews, who rejected the settlement proposed by the Peel Commission, which gave the Jews only 17% of the Western part of Israel west of the Jordan. In 1947 it was the Arabs who rejected to the UN proposal for partition. In 1967 it was the Arabs who published the Three NOs in the Khartoum Resolution. In 2000 it was Arafat who rejected President Clinton’s proposal for a peace agreement.
The position papers that are now being presented are a continuation of that same rejectionism. For example, the Adallah, which deals with the legal rights of Israeli Arabs, published a “draft constitution.” The document contains a demand that Israel recognize the Palestinian right to self-determination without giving a similar right to the Jews. The longer this line prevails, the more the Palestinians suffer. Not because of Israel. Because of the rejectionism.
But before we discuss the demands appearing in the documents, we should present the status of Israeli Arabs. These issues are not presented here for the sake of polemics, but rather to enable Israeli Arabs to live and flourish within the State of Israel, as a democratic Jewish state.
Since the establishment of Israel, the Arabs in Israel have undergone positive changes that have not occurred in any other Muslim and/or Arab community in the world. This is true in comparison to the citizens of neighboring countries, whose starting point was similar, and in comparison to similar minority communities in European countries. We will not ignore the gaps, but sometimes the data only present a partial picture.
For example, per capita income among the Arabs is far lower than that of the Jews. However, this stems from the fact that the average age of the Arabs is lower (young people earn less), from the fact that most Arab women are not part of the workforce, and from the fact that Arab families are much bigger. The objective result, completely unconnected to discrimination, is that the per capita income is lower.
Jewish populations with similar characteristics (single breadwinner, large family) are in a similar position. In contrast, there is a subgroup among the Arabs — the Christian Arabs — whose achievements in most fields are greater than the average for the Jewish population. The reasons will follow.
Most of the countries of Europe are welfare states. Some of the Muslims there are second and third generation. They should already have integrated and begun to benefit from the welfare policies, but that is not happening. In France, for example, the Muslims make up less than 10% of the general population but more than 50% to of the prisoner population.
Many European countries prohibit gathering data on the basis of religion. Despite that, there are many sources that deal with the status of Muslims in Europe. The latest and most comprehensive of these is a special report issued by the European Union: “Muslims in the European Union: “Discrimination and Islamophobia.” The figures are frightening. Below are some of the data based on the above report and on many additional sources.
Income and employment
68% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi households in Britain (which are the majority of Muslims there) are living below the poverty line, compared with 23% of the general population. In Israel, according to a report by Amutat Sikui which was recently published, 45.9% of Arab families are living below the poverty line, compared with 14.7% of the general population.
Worse yet, 73% of Bangladeshi and Pakistani children in Britain are living under the poverty line, compared with 31% of the general population. In Israel those figures are 55.7% of Arabs compared with 20.3% of the general population. For the sake of accuracy, in Israel the poverty line is 50% of the median income, compared with 60% in Britain, so the gap between Israel and Britain is probably smaller than what was shown.
However, the income data show an enormous gap in Britain. According to a study conducted by the British Chamber of Commerce, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis earn £182 a week (equal to NIS 5,824 month) while whites earn £332 (NIS 10,624 a month). The Indians, who are also a minority with ethnic characteristics, earn the same as the whites. It is important to remember this later on, when we try to examine the reasons for the gap. In Israel, in contrast, the difference in income is far smaller. According to data for the same years, the average income of an Arab employee was NIS 5,230 compared with NIS 7,178 among the Jews. Thus, in Britain, the gaps are far larger.
In 2003, the unemployment rate for Jews in Israel was about 9%. Among Israeli Arabs, in contrast, the rate was 16%. In the field employment, the European Union shows corresponding data. In Germany, the unemployment rate among the general population was 10% compared with 20% among the Muslims (more up to date research indicates 25.2% unemployment).
In Holland, the rate is 6.5% compared with 16% among the Muslims. In Britain, it is 5% compared with 15% among the Muslims.
In Belgium the rate is 7% compared with 38% among the Muslims. In France, according to official data, the unemployment rate is 9% compared with 24% among North Africans and Turks. In other words, in the European welfare states, the relative status of Muslims is worse than in Israel.
A European Union report makes particularly negative mention of France, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Germany, Austria and Denmark. 40% of the first generation of Muslim immigrants in Belgium, France and Sweden, and 25% in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Holland, did not reach the basic level in the comparative examinations (PISA), compared with just a few percent among the white population.
According to the data of the National Bureau of Statistics in England, 31% of the Muslims in the workforce are completely lacking in professional or academic training, compared with 15% among the whites. In Germany, only one in ten Turks reaches one of the three high school tracks that enable students to go on to university studies.
In contrast, the achievements of the Chinese minority are far greater . In Israel, 29.6% of the Arabs earn a matriculation certificate, which gives them access to university studies, compared with 46.4% among the Jews (in regular matriculation data, the differences are much smaller: 55.6% compared with 48.7%).
And in Germany, 25% of the young Turks (who are the majority of the Muslims) are lacking even basic educational certificates compared with only 1% of the Germans. In Israel, the dropout rate of Arabs in grades 9 to 12 is 8.9% compared with 4.6% among the Jews.
The average number of years of schooling is 12.6 for Israeli Jews and 11.2 for Arabs. The data show that at the beginning of the 1960s, there was a difference of seven years of schooling, but since that time the gap has been dramatically narrowed to 1.4 years. Not a single country in Europe can show similar data for narrowing such gaps. In Britain there is even data indicating that the gaps are growing between second and third generation Muslims and other minorities and the rest of the population.
Israeli Arabs and the neighboring countries
The life expectancy in Israel is 79.7 years and 76 years for Israeli Arabs. In Syria, the life expectancy is 73; in Jordan – 71; in Lebanon – 72; and in Egypt – less than 70. The same is true for education. In Jordan the rate of illiteracy is 10.1%; in Lebanon – 13.5%; in Syria – 20.4%; in Egypt – 28.6%; and in Israel – 2.9% in the general population and about 6% among the Arabs.
Similar data exist with regard to average infant mortality: among Christians in Israel it is 3.2 per 1,000 births; among Jews – 3.6; among Muslims – 8.7 (compared with 56 in 1950). But in Syria, 15 out of every 1,000 newborns still dies; in Jordan – 23; in Egypt – 26; in Lebanon – 27.
Data has also been published recently showing that the situation of Israeli Arabs is worse than that of the Arabs in neighboring countries. This is nonsense. There are disparities within Israel, but it is better to be an Arab in Israel than in any neighboring and/or European country.
The cause of inequality
The main question is what is the principal cause of the inequality between Muslims and others in Europe, in other Western countries and in Israel? Before we get to the answer, we should note that even among Jews there are huge disparities, that are far too great, between various groups. The ultra-orthodox, for example, suffer from low average income. More importantly, in Europe itself there are other minorities — not just Muslims — that should, by all accounts, be suffering from the same disparities, since their starting conditions were similar to those of the Muslims, or even worse.
It turns out, however, that those minorities are in a different place now. Some of them have made stunning achievements. For example, one out of every 20 Hindu men in England has earned a doctorate, compared with one in every 200 Christians. The Hindus came to Britain during the same years that the Muslims arrived. The Hindus sprang forward and the Muslims were left behind. In Germany, the Chinese are achieving far greater accomplishments than the Turks.
Similar data regarding immigrants exist in the United States. The median income of a Hispanic family is $35,054; of a white family $53,256; and of an Asian family (Chinese, Japanese and Hindu) $61,511.
The ultra-orthodox are in a worse position
The basis is therefore not ethnic or national, nor is color the explanation for discrimination or oppression. After all, the accomplishments of the immigrants from India have surpassed the whites (and the Jews) in both the United States and England. The formula for equality lies primarily in another source: culture — primarily the status of women.
Every community that practices repression — primarily the repression of women — is further from attaining equality with the general population. Discrimination begins at home, literally. The Christians in Israel, who are Arabs in every way, are at the same level as the Jews and in certain areas they are even at a higher level. Among them, in contrast to the Muslims, women have much greater status.
The same is true among Jews: the situation of the ultra-orthodox, by very many indices, is worse than that of the Muslims. The reasons are similar: the status of women, low participation in the workforce and large families. That is the situation in Western countries. The Indians, Japanese and Chinese are surging foreword. Many Muslims, in contrast, prefer their women to be veiled. That, for example, is what 74% of the young people in Britain want. That is the main story.
The status of women — a critical factor
The status of women affects their participation in the workforce. In Israel, 52.5% of Jewish women are in the workforce. Among Muslims the rate is 13.3%, and among Christians it is a 42%. In England, 70% of Muslim women are not in the workforce compared with only 23% of the white women and 30% of the Hindu women.
“The Vision Document” that was published under the auspices of the Israeli Arab Follow-up Committee does not ignore the family structure and the patriarchy. Even the Musawa organization admits that the participation of women in the workforce would add NIS 6.2 billion to the economy. Logical statements. But here the self-delusion goes into effect: the accusatory finger is pointed at the state. Is the Zionist state to blame for the fact that a third of the Muslim women do not leave their homes at all, as was recently publicized? And is it the Zionists who created the family values among the Muslims?
Unless the Zionist influence is so all embracing that its impact began before it even existed and extends to places in which it is not even present. The Muslim states lead the international list of inequality between men and women. In Saudi Arabia, the average salary of women is only 15% of the salaries of men. In Egypt – 23%; in Morocco – 25%; in Jordan – 30%; in Syria – 33%; and in Israel – 64% in relation to all population groups. That is the main reason, albeit not the only one, for the dismal state of most of the Muslim countries.
Societies that practice internal repression can expect lower achievements than the majority. That is the case in countries with minorities and in minority communities. Even enormous oil reserves cannot rectify the damage caused by the repression of women. The per capita income in Israel, in terms of buying power, is $24,382. In Kuwait it is $19,384 and in Saudi Arabia it is $13,825.
Even so, there is discrimination
The following is not intended to deny the existence of discrimination. The BBC checked whether candidates with identical qualifications in Britain are invited to job interviews. As expected, there was a clear preference for whites. The Muslims were discriminated against even more than the blacks.
A similar examination in France revealed that there, too, a Muslim had five times less of a chance of getting a job interview on the basis of equal starting data. Studies conducted in Israel indicate similar results: people with Arabic and eastern names are victims of similar discrimination. This is also the case with formal discrimination. In many fields of distributive justice (land, distribution of municipal areas, infrastructures, education), a serious and determined fight for change is needed.
Even if the Muslims in Israel, Europe and the Arab countries themselves raise justified claims of discrimination, the greatest promoter of change is the status of women. The status of women is not the rationale that explains everything, but it is the best explanation.
In the United States, the Muslims have a higher status, even higher than the average of the general population because there, among other things, there is a real change in the status of the women. It has a far greater impact than the external repression of the West, of the white majority in western countries, or of the Jewish majority in Israel. Around the Muslim world, there are those who know that taking responsibility and ending the self-delusion are the way to get out of the mire. These voices are the hope of the Muslim world.
The United States and Israel, the “Great Satan” and the “Little Satan,” are the countries in which, both relatively and absolutely, the situation of the Muslims is far better than anywhere else in the world. But the industry of lies is stronger than the facts. One way or the other, on the basis of the comparative data, the demands of the Israeli Arabs for obliterating the Jewish character of the State are more than puzzling. And they are puzzling both because they have no serious basis in international law and because, if they are implemented, they will cause double damage: both to the Arab minority and to the Jewish majority. This must never happen.
Immigration and return
The basic demand in the documents is obliteration of the Jewish identity of the State of Israel. In practical terms, the demand is to cancel the Law of Return and grant equal immigration rights. The ideological background is negation of the right to self-determination of the Jews in their own country. The Palestinians have the right to self-determination. They have the right to be the majority in their own state. It is also their right to implement the right of return for Palestinians and not for Jews. There is a similar right in the State of Israel, which was established by UN resolution as a Jewish state. There is nothing racist about this. There is a basic desire for a nationhood based on the right to self-determination.
What is clear is the fact that there is no room for double self-determination, either in the Palestinian state or in Israel. Countries with a national, ethnic-cultural character legislate their right to preserve their national character. It is therefore the right of the State of Israel to make every effort, by democratic means, to maintain a clear Jewish majority, for example by means of the Law of Return and by means of its citizenship laws. That is precisely what many countries in Europe do. Liberal discourse has succeeded in disseminating slogans about the “fundamental right to marry” or the “natural right to immigrate.” In our Supreme Court, there is even a majority for this viewpoint. A more serious examination shows that Finland, Greece, the Czech Republic, Japan, Ireland, Poland, Norway, Germany and many other countries grant a right of return, at one level or another, on the basis of ethnicity or repatriation, i.e., a return to the homeland.
The international community also recognizes nation states. Even the existence of a national minority does not negate the state’s right to preserve its national character. This is the case in many countries that have recently joined the European Union, including Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia and Romania.
What is wrong with “Jewish and democratic?”
The logic of the Israeli Arab leadership reminds me that several years ago, the Egyptian newspaper Al Aharam published a particularly vitriolic editorial against Israel over the fact that it dared to define itself as a “Jewish and democratic state,” which involved dreadful racism. I contacted the editor and called his attention to the fact that Egypt calls itself the “Arab Republic” and that Article 2 of the Egyptian Constitution states: “ Islam is the state religion… the main source of the law is Islamic law (the Sharia). If that is the case, what is wrong with Israel being “Jewish and democratic?” I was told that an explanation would be forthcoming. More than two years have passed – I’m still waiting.
Let’s go back to Europe. The immigration laws that have been passed since 2001 attest to a clear direction: a tightening of the restrictions on immigration. When there are no national or ethnic restrictions, there are economic and cultural restrictions (Denmark, Holland, France and England). In Germany and Holland there are entrance examinations with a well-known, albeit undeclared, objective, which is to prevent Muslim immigration, primarily by means of forced marriages.
Even the Venice Commission, which is a commission of jurists operating on behalf of the Council of Europe to discuss conflicts of this type, recognized the connection between a country with an ethnic majority to minority groups of the same ethnic origin in different countries, including the right of the Kin State to grant certain rights, including immigration, to foreign nationals of the same ethnic origin.
A country of all its citizens
This solution has all kinds of names. The PLO once called it a “secular estate.” Among us, there are those who call it a “country of all its citizens.” In the new documents, it is called a “dual language” or “multicultural” state. Thanks, but we’re not buying. The wars between ethnic groups in Sudan, a country with a clear Muslim majority, has left millions dead. The civil wars in Lebanon over the past three decades, based on religion and at ethnicity, have left 130,000 dead. The abysmal hatred between Shi’ites and Sunnis in Iraq has already left hundreds of thousands of people dead. They joined the even larger number of those murdered, primarily Shi’ites and Kurds, who were disliked by the Sunni minority that was in power.
If what the Muslim Arabs are offering to other ethnic groups is mainly unending slaughter, then please, don’t try to sell us your latest hit: consociationalism. In our region, it doesn’t work. Consociationalism is fine for Belgium or Switzerland, where there are no profound differences between the various groups. In the Middle East, in contrast, Arab Muslims are butchering non-Arab Muslims. We don’t even want to think about what would happen to non-Muslims who are not even Arabs. When there is no slaughter, there is repression, as with the Copts in Egypt, and the Christians in the Palestinian Authority. Both are emigrating en masse. They cannot bear the suffering.
The multinational solution in situations of historical hostility leads only to unending bloodshed. Czechoslovakia was split into two countries: the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Even the model to which you aspire, Macedonia, in which the right of veto was granted to the Albanian Muslim minority (under the Ohrid Agreement) has failed for the most part. Since the agreement was put into practice, after a kind of Intifada in 2001, the tension has only risen and the government has been paralyzed of late. So, yes, in one place there is an unsuccessful constitutional application of the veto you demand, but there are many more reasons, some of them bleeding, to reject this arrangement.
Who opposes multiculturalism?
This is also the case with multiculturalism. As a slogan, multiculturalism is very tempting but, in effect, it is an option that has enabled two things to happen: the blossoming of fanatic Islamic education and thus also Islamic radicalization, and perpetuation of the patriarchal family model. Multiculturalism does, indeed, give autonomy to the men, but it relegates the women to slavery. Needless to say, under the aegis of multiculturalism, parallel cities have sprung up in many European cities, which are incubators for poverty, domestic repression, social differentiation, crime and Islamic fanaticism. So if Israeli Arabs, and primarily the women among them, desire equality, they must distance themselves from multiculturalism like the plague.
The Arab heritage is ancient, rich and profound. It has given a great deal to world culture. If multiculturalism means deepening the knowledge of the Arab heritage and becoming acquainted with all levels of Arabic culture — that would be welcome. Unfortunately, the main expression of multiculturalism is political: shutting people up in ghettos, veils and Islamization, continued repression of women.
Canada is presented as a model of multiculturalism. Between English speakers and French speakers — it works. Is that also the case with Muslims? Three years ago, a multicultural bill was prepared with the encouragement of the Muslim community, for the purpose of establishing Muslim family courts. The idea was that litigation would only take place with the “consent” of the man and the woman. But then the Muslim women raised a hue and cry of protest: Never! they proclaimed. The “consent” would be coerced. The repression of women would only increase. The battle was launched — they recruited Muslim activist women from all over the world and the edict was canceled.
There seems to be something strange about supporting the “forces of progress” in this unsuccessful formula. It is even stranger that Muslim intellectuals continue to recite it. It would behoove them to heed the prominent Muslim women such as Seyran Ates, Necla Kelek of Germany, Fadela Amara of France, Irshid Manji of Canada, Fatima Mernissi and Amina Wadud of USA and many, many others. It seems that the Muslim women are the greatest opponents of multiculturalism. They know why.
You demand that “the state recognize its responsibility for the injustices of Al Nakba (the catastrophe of the creation of the State of Israel) and the occupation. Why shouldn’t the Arabs in general, and the Palestinians in particular, recognized their responsibility in the injustices that they have brought upon themselves? After all, the Arabs declared a war of annihilation on the state that had just been established and the result was a catastrophe for them. 630,000 Palestinians were forced to leave. Some ran away. Others were expelled. Still others remained displaced within Israel. In the years that followed, 700,000 Jews arrived from Arab countries. Some of them had run away. Some of them were expelled.
During those years, this was called a population exchange. That is nothing compared with other regions. 7 million Muslims moved from India to Pakistan. A similar number of Hindus moved from Pakistan to India. And there are numerous other examples (as detailed in my article And the World Lies, which was published on October 1, 2006).
In all other nations of the world, that chapter of history is over and done with. But only the Arab world, by conscious and intentional decision, chose to leave the refugees like a festering wound. Let them suffer. That would enable the Arab world to level complaints at Israel. That is what happened in 1967, when the Arabs refused to learn the lessons of the past and launched another war of annihilation. The result is the “occupation.”
So how exactly is Israel responsible?
And what would have happened to if there had been an Arab victory? We will remind you only of what not none other than the Secretary of the Arab League said, upon launching the war in 1948: “This war will be a war of annihilation and the story of the slaughter will be told like the campaigns of the Mongols and the Crusaders.” And the Mufti, Haj Amin Al Husseini, added his own bit: “I am declaring a holy war. My brother Muslims! Slaughter the Jews! Kill them all!” So forgive us for winning. The other option was a lot worse. And no, this is not just history. This is happening in our time as well. Arabs and Muslims are slaughtering Arabs and Muslims. The slaughtered number in the millions, with no connection to Israel and Zionism (details in my article And The World Remains Silent, which was published on January 5, 2007).
Based on the fact that millions of Muslims were and are being murdered by other Muslims, and many millions of others have become refugees, your Nakba really is a catastrophe, but try to think what would have happened to you if the enemy was not Jews, but rather Muslims. Horrifying thought, no?
There is a good representation of the “forces of progress” among the Jewish majority. These are devout anti-Zionists. Sometimes more than you. And they encourage you to hang on to your rejectionism. Among us, they are a weed growing in the garden of democracy and academe. They aid and abet your fantasy of a right of return, a binational state and other nonsense. They only perpetuate your suffering. And if you think a bit more, you will understand they are racist Orientalists.
From your standpoint, the Arabs are entitled to what is forbidden to others. The Arabs are permitted to kill each other, and they are encouraging you to insist on a right of return in a form that no other national group has. And they do not have the courage to tell you anything about the repression of women. They think that you are “different.” In other words, inferior. And have you not noticed the fact that every demand that you raise — every single one — gets their support? They are treating you like the retarded children of the world, and you love it. Are you crazy?
The love of Israel
Israeli Arabs, it should be said, are a community of lovers. There is not another Muslim community in the world which, despite its public claims (both justified and untenable), that clings so closely to its country. This is expressed in two ways. Firstly, it is the only national minority that has no irredentist ambitions. National minorities generally strive to annex the minority areas to the neighboring national state. This is not the case with Israeli Arabs.
Secondly, the percentage of immigration among Israeli Arabs to other countries is one of the lowest in the world. Surveys in Arab countries indicate substantial percentages of people who want to immigrate, which is not doable, both because of the nature of the régimes in those countries and the immigration restrictions in the countries of the West. Israeli Arabs do not have the same problem. The Israeli government does not prevent them from leaving and many immigration possibilities are open to them. Despite this, they stay here.
This is not just to the Arabs’ loyalty to their land. After all, millions of Arabs have left their countries and even more would like to leave. And of all of them, it is the Israeli Arabs who can leave, but who choose to stay here. They are well aware of the fact that it is doubtful that there is any other place in the world in which their situation would be better. They are voting with their feet. They are confirming the data presented above. This is badge of honor for the State of Israel.
The State of Israel is far from perfect. Bad, irritating and painful mistakes have been made by the Jewish majority, which have only increased the damage and suffering for both nations. The criticism is often justified. But when criticism is not leveled for the purpose of preventing discrimination and distortions, but rather for the sake of damaging the national ethos of the majority, the justified demand for equality is tarnished.