There wasn’t one protest on Saturday night, but two. One was of those who waved the Palestine flag, mostly in defiance. They are not seeking equality or coexistence, but the rejection of Israel’s right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people. The second protest was of those protesting the discrimination and fighting for equality, and they think the Nation-State Law is going to make their situation worse. The first group wants to deepen the conflict; the second group wants change through legitimate protest.
The great majority of Israeli Arabs vote for the Joint List, whose leadership supports the former group. This leadership provokes. This leadership rejects Israel’s right to exist. This leadership’s comments and actions lead to slogans being shouted such as: “In spirit and in blood we’ll save you Palestine.” And on Saturday night—what a shame—these slogans were being shouted at Rabin Square.
On the other hand, all of the polls conducted in recent years indicate that 50-53 percent of Joint List voters support the definition of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. They don’t support every foolish thing the party’s leadership does, just like Likud voters don’t support every irksome declaration of constructions outside the main settlement blocs and/or outside the separation barrier. Voting for a party is about identity, not about agreeing with every statement.
The protest organizers asked not to wave Palestinian flags. They wanted to appeal to the Israeli public. It was a worthy decision. Because anyone who waves the Palestine flag at this protest is there to show defiance against Israeli flags, supports Palestinian nationalism and opposes Jewish nationalism.
But when one of the speakers at the protest, Amos Schocken, was asked about the flags, he was a lot more empathetic. Instead of joining the organizers in urging protesters not to wave Palestinian flags, he found explanations and justifications. It’s safe to assume some Jews will also find a variety of justifications to the calls of “In spirit and in blood we’ll save you Palestine.”
Despite the Joint List leadership, despite the slogans being shouted—we must listen to the moderate voices, and those exist. We need to come toward those who demand equality and integration, exactly as we need to stop funding to those who praise the martyr and murder culture in the name of “the freedom of art and expression.”
In practice, the current government is actually doing more budget-wise than all governments that preceded it. The five-year plan for the Arab sector is already underway. It’s not just a massive investment in infrastructure, but also in affirmative action.
And it bears fruit. Many Israeli Arabs are successfully undergoing Israelization and not Palestinization. More Arabs are entering the fields of high-tech, pharmacy and medicine. They are equal and loyal and don’t need an oath of loyalty.
The road to full equality is still long, and it goes through not only budgets, but also feelings. They need to feel like Israel is home. And a small change to the Nation-State Law—introducing an article about equality—will not hurt the justification of Jewish nationality, but it will improve the current climate.
The way to equality, it’s important to note, also includes equality in duties—primarily national service—because the Haredim and the Arabs will never be equal without becoming part of the shared ethos that includes not just acceptance but also giving.
On Saturday night, Rabin Square saw both abusers and those demanding equality. The first are the enemies within. The latter are partners. We need to listen to the latter—both for their sake and our own.
Reprinted with author’s permission from YNet News.com