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September 14, 2006
Israeli Arabs a 'Fifth Column'?

Israeli Arabs have come under unprecedented criticism in the last few weeks, undermining their political position in the nation. While majorities still see native Arabs as Israelis, growing percentages of Israelis want them to emigrate out of Israel, with even Knesset members expressing hostility towards them. The potential for increasing racism have some politicians worried, especially Israeli Arab MKs. However, as the Jerusalem Post reports, they have done the most damage to their image themselves:

Unsurprisingly, this trend worries Israeli Arabs. MK Azmi Bishara (Balad) complained of a "season of incitement against Arab MKs" during the recent Lebanon war. Bakar Awada, director of the Center Against Racism, said the poll showed that "racism is becoming mainstream…. This is a worrisome development."

Yet Israeli Arab leaders apparently still see no connection between this growing anti-Arab sentiment and their own behavior. And in fact, their behavior is the main impetus for this trend.

Last weekend, for instance, Bishara's Balad faction traveled to Damascus, thereby violating the law prohibiting travel to enemy states. While there, he publicly praised Syria's "struggle to free occupied Arab land" and its "resistance against occupation" - i.e., its support for anti-Israel terror. Moreover, he makes such statements frequently, as in a 2001 speech praising Hizbullah's "guerrilla war" against Israel, the "losses" (casualties) it inflicted on Israel and its "victory" over Israel.

THUS BISHARA openly advocates terror attacks against the country in whose parliament he sits, rejoices when it suffers casualties and cheers when it loses battles ("Hizbullah won, and for the first time since 1967 we have tasted the taste of victory"). Is it surprising that such behavior provokes cries of "fifth column" and "traitor"?

Or take Balad MK Jamal Zahalka's explanation for the trip: "We don't see Syria as an enemy state."

During wartime, many claims of unpatriotic behavior get cast on some fairly harmless actions. These, however, appear to be close to the real thing. Traveling to Damascus while their proxy made war on their nation certainly looks like giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Cheering the terrorist attacks and hoping for their success absolutely qualifies as such. And it's not just limited to Bishara, as Evelyn Gordon reports.

One might expect that kind of rhetoric from fringe players, like university professors and newspaper columnists. When it comes from Israel's elected officials, who represent their communities, it makes the Israeli questioning of their allegiance and that of their constituents much more understandable.

I find that when I discuss the differences between Israel and its neighbors, most people express surprise to hear that Arabs sit in the Knesset. The differences, alas, apply within Israel as well, which indicates that the Israelis may have plenty to fear from their Arab citizens, regardless of their political sufferage.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 14, 2006 5:39 AM

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