Carter's Book; Israel, Apartheid and Arab Grievances
by Norman Berdichevsky (March 2007)
President Carter's recent book “Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid“ has called into question the strong traditional and emotional support for Israel as a thriving and beleaguered democracy and raised the specter of an oppressed Arab population in the territories and within Israel itself on a par with the Black population under the previous Apartheid regime in South Africa. In response to criticism, Carter does a trick with smoke, mirrors, slight of hand and vanishing elephants by claiming that his reference to apartheid was intended to call attention to what Israel might or would become (rather than what it is now) if the grievances of the Arabs are not addressed.
It should have been a simple matter for President Carter to declare his concerns when he was President rather than waiting more than twenty years to bring us his program for peace. Moreover, the book deals primarily with the Palestinian Arabs in
Do Israeli Arabs live under Apartheid conditions? A simple answer must be a categorical NO. Individuals among Israel’s non-Jewish population of Arabs (both Christian and Muslims, Bedouin tribesmen), the Druze, Circassians have held and continue to hold significant positions in the Israeli parliament (Knesset), the police, the army, the diplomatic corps, the arts, literature, cinema, sports, entertainment, the universities, business, medicine and science.
Serious problems and discrimination do exist especially in the areas of career choices, and jobs, as well as a pattern of segregation in residence and elementary education that goes far back to conditions prevailing in
The Arab Minority
The Arab minority in Israel, numbering a million souls is guaranteed full cultural expression of its identity whereas practically no more than a handful of a few thousand Jews remain in the Arab states (primarily in Morocco) as if they were exotic plants on display in a hothouse when in 1948 they numbered more than 800,000 throughout the Arab World and Iran and included large sections of major cities such as Baghdad and Cairo. Their fate, expulsion, forced exile and loss of property rate not a single mention in Carter‘s book - his sole humanitarian concern is for the Palestinian Arabs who were first forcibly put under Jordanian and Egyptian occupation without their consent and then became the pawns of all those in the Arab world intent on launching a new crusade to destroy the Jewish state.
The Arab minority in
The settled Moslem and Christian Arab Population:
The bulk of the Arab population comprises 950,000 Israeli Muslim citizens and another 145,000 Christians living in villages and towns. In theory, every Arab child must go to school in
For him, Israel is to make every concession regarding full and equal rights and acceptance of a large number of refugees who would thus comprise a huge minority destined to become a majority by the differential birth rate alone while the Arab Palestinian state to be formed by the Palestinian Authority in the west Bank and Gaza would be “Judenrein”. i.e. without any Jewish population whatsoever similar to the reality in much of the Arab states today.
Israeli Arab Cultural Creativity in Arabic and Hebrew
The lack of an appropriate framework and symbols by which the Christian and Moslem population can identify with the state rather than a specific grievance based on prejudice is the problem which Israeli statesmen, educators, philosophers and politicians have not sufficiently addressed. High school graduates are fluent in Hebrew after 3-5 hours a week instruction for ten years. Knowledge of Hebrew is much greater among men and especially those who work in the Jewish sector of the economy outside of the village. Hebrew is needed for higher education as there is no university in
They are Anton Shammas, author of the critically acclaimed novel Arabesques, Makram Khouri, a popular actor on the stage, screen and television and the late playwright, politician and Communist member of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), Emile Habibi; all prominent on the Israeli cultural scene and who have demonstrated equal talent in Hebrew along with their native Arabic but their work and names are totally unknown among Jewish communities abroad. Within
What is crucial however is that
The Druze and Circassians
Hebrew has been fervently embraced by the Druze in
Among the Druze, the greater degree of social integration with the Jewish majority is also leading to greater use of, and fluency in, Hebrew, so much so that many observers report spontaneous Hebrew conversations between men and among youngsters at play or while watching football games without any Jews present. Obviously their shared loyalty, sense of common citizenship and language has also led to greater demands for real equality in every walk of life. Yet, the Druze have their own flags (one version used by Druze soldiers in the IDF contains the Star of David and is flown only in their own villages alongside the Israeli flag), and their religious particularity remains unchanged.
They are a “minority within a minority” and their relationship with other Arabic speaking Druze living in Arab states hostile to
The 3,500 Circassians in
A third group of
The biggest issue for the Bedouin has always been “land use” and grazing rights rather than formal legal “ownership” of land. Traditionally, no attention was paid to the formal ownership of land when Bedouin tribesmen built temporary structures or grazed their herds of sheep and goats. For this reason, all Israeli Bedouin abandon their nomadic life and settle in towns.
The first Israeli Bedouin town, Tel Sheva, was founded in 1967. Another six towns have been established since then and the residents of these towns now account for more than one-third of the Bedouin population. Much resentment among the Bedouins has been caused by the urban framework of these towns that are felt to be too restrictive of their mobility. The problem remains, however, that the best way to provide necessary services is to a sedentary population. The extremely wide gap between Bedouin living standards and that of the settled Jewish population has produced new tensions. Children who formerly took an active part in herding activities are now idle or forced to attend schools. Part of the adaptation to an urban lifestyle has led to more interest in religion and the establishment of a fixed mosque for the Bedouin population in the regional capital of Beer Sheva.
The Dilemma of the Israeli Arabs
After 50 years of procrastination, there was one Israeli Arab appointed to the level of ambassador (to
President Carter’s Concern for the Palestinian Arabs in the Territories
President Carter’s portrait on the left hand side of the jacket cover of his new book shows a thoughtful man with his hands clasped under his chin in a staged portrayal of dignity, piety, humility, and deep prayerful contemplation. One is immediately reminded in the starkest and most ironic terms of his predecessor in the highest office of our land who acted without the Carterite halo of sainthood although raised in the same Baptist traditions - Harry S. Truman. “Give them Hell Harry” was the slogan that propelled him to victory in 1948 following the crucial decision to recognize the State of Israel as an act of historic justice, a decision that Jimmy Carter apparently believes he must compensate for by his new found passion for the situation of the Palestinian Arabs.
The right hand side of the jacket cover shows a picture of the foreboding security wall that looms over the people scurrying at its base; an obvious allusion to “Apartheid” and the discomfort and problems that have befallen the civilian Arab population in the region as a result of
A careful reading of the book uncovers a multiplicity of omissions and one-sided coverage although it may well be that the President is convinced that he is an honest broker on a mission from God and a true friend to both sides. There are indeed many expressions of Carter’s “good will to all men” but the picture he paints is a two-dimensional one like the paces of a thoroughbred horse with blinders on, oblivious to the jockeys on either side about to pull past him.
Palestinian terrorism is condemned as “suicidal” for ….“the Palestinian cause” rather than the real victims of these acts of homicide that result in the death and disfiguration of innocent civilians. Israeli steps designed to halt the infiltration of terrorists that interfere with civilian life are referred to as “regrettable”. The immense achievements in living standards that were the result of improved security and general prosperity until the outbreak of the intifada are wholly missing from the book that places the chief responsibility for the current dreadful living standards and lack of security on the Israelis. In numerous citations of “fact”, Carter omits vital information. His description of
His fascination with The Fourth Geneva Convention that forbids an occupying power from transferring any parts of its civilian population into “territories seized by military force” does not distinguish how Jordanian policies and population transfers in parts of the West Bank were themselves a result of seizure by Jordanian occupation forces. The same rule apparently never interfered with
References to such events as the Syrian inspired assassination of President Rafiq Harriri of
What is outright repugnant is his analysis of the elections to the Palestinian authority that he so highly praises, describing the victory of Yassir Arafat as “an overwhelming mandate”. This is his view of an election in conditions without freedom of the press, an independent judiciary, widespread intimidation and the absence of a realistic opposition candidate (Arafat’s opponent was a woman for whom the great majority of Palestinian men in the territories would have most likely boycotted if she had run unopposed). Carter’s reluctance to do more than “chastise” (how like a Biblical prophet!) Arafat, a man with so much blood on his hands and the individual most responsible for the use of terrorism as a political weapon in our times for…..”not encouraging more democracy in the Palestinian Authority” and “arresting Palestinians of the news media and human rights activists” (p.193) is a scene out of the theater of the absurd. The term “extremely militant” is only used regarding the 450 Jewish settlers in
Carter, like so many other “Johnny-come-latelies” to the
Every so often, an apparent slip of the pen or Carter’s repressed subconscious emerges to proclaim real and undeniable crucial aspects of the Middle East conflict such as on page 68.…“Only among Israelis in a democracy with almost unrestricted freedom of speech can one hear a wide range of opinion concerning the dispute among themselves with Palestinians and other Arabs.” How then does one reach a meaningful agreement when the other side does not permit a real debate on the issues? Carter has no answer.
Caught in the middle - Between a rock and a hard place
Although Israeli Arab expressions of disloyalty during the Intifada dismayed many Jews in
Rami described himself as Israeli, not Palestinian, but he spoke with some bitterness about the reality of the Arab minority in
Anyone who doubts this is unaware of how Jews and Arabs in Israeli football clubs, restaurants, garages and the entertainment world have performed harmoniously together during almost sixty years of coexistence. The Arabs of Israel do face a dilemma. They must be aided by a much greater willingness on the part of their Jewish fellow citizens to foster their integration. Those who elect to stay in
The Future and What Can Be Done
A much more clear-cut critical American position on the Palestinian Authority, and the eventual realization that Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas & Company have led their brothers and cousins on both sides of the Green Line down a dead-end path, will ultimately create a change in attitudes.
The Arabs of Israel have some legitimate grievances. It behooves
Sponsoring a competition for Arabic words to a common anthem and replacing Hatikva (or permitting an alternative anthem) that sings of love for a common homeland would offend no one except the obtuse and obdurate. A model for this exists in
Many observers who are aware of the unrelenting hostility of Arab Knesset members and many prominent figures in public life among the Israeli Arabs do not give sufficient recognition to the unabashed opportunism that characterizes the political culture prevalent in the region. This means there are no real political parties, no free press or independent judiciary - hence the expression “The Arab Street”. Questions and issues of policy are not debated. They are manifested in street demonstrations, almost always orchestrated. In stable states with strong governments, the “people” support the government. In weak states, or in the case of
This should have been obvious during the “Iraqi Freedom” campaign. Many critics of the Bush administration bemoaned the “apparent lack” of support for American troops until it was clear from
This is short-sighted and self-defeating. It also plays into the hands of extremists. Even if many Israeli Arabs are opportunistic and blow with every change in wind, it would be a smart policy to offer a framework based on the “carrot and stick” approach. In so doing,
The ex-President’s use of the nickname “Jimmy” was always calculated to sound more folksy. He undoubted believes that he has a special mission to bring “peace” to the Middle East and that a renewed effort on his part may restore the luster and prestige to his achievement of bringing Sadat and Begin together. Sadat’s fate and the cold nature of the Egyptian regime toward
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