It's not about the Temple Mount, say

                               Israeli Arabs


                               By Zvi Bar'el



                               My telephone conversation with attorney Samar Zidany was cut off

                               twice when the Haifa police fired rubber bullets at some 200 Arab

                               demonstrators. "[The demonstrators] are protesting our slain, the

                               behavior of the Israeli government and our lack of legitimacy as equal

                               citizens of the State of Israel, not the Temple Mount," said Zidany.


                               "The Temple Mount is just an excuse," agreed a newspaper editor.

                               "Sharon's visit was merely the match that set off a barrel of explosives

                               that was close to bursting. And when such a barrel can't hold any

                               more, it explodes, without checking to see whether this is a good time

                               to explode."


                               The Arabs also deride Israeli accusations that the behavior of Arab

                               MKs has caused the disturbances. "Are our MKs really capable of

                               moving the Arab street to this extent? They would be overjoyed to

                               know they have so much power," said an Arab mayor.


                               "Israelis are apparently bored of hearing claims of discrimination, so

                               they are searching for loftier reasons for the Israeli Arab rebellion,"

                               said a lecturer at Bir Zeit University. "It's convenient for you to link us

                               to the Arabs in the territories - and to treat us as you treat them.

                               You've adopted an idee fixe about us and it appears that no facts will

                               change it."


                               All of those interviewed distinguished the motives of Israeli Arabs from

                               those of the Palestinians, and rejected the common Israeli view that

                               Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the territories constitute a single entity

                               with an identical political aspiration.


                               "The Temple Mount is important to all Muslims, but no more important

                               in my eyes than my rights as a citizen of Israel," said one. "I want to

                               remain in Israel as a citizen with equal rights. We have no dream of

                               setting up our own national home."


                               "The Islamic Movement supplies an alternative to what the government

                               is supposed to do," explained another. "It can raise money, help the

                               poor, set up a school system. There is a parallel between the Islamic

                               Movement and Shas: Does everyone who votes Shas believe in every

                               religious principle? The same is true for us."


                               Dr. Adel Mana'a, a researcher at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem,

                               attributed the frustration to the fact that "Israeli Arabs are not on

                               Israel's agenda." Though Arabs always top the poverty rolls, he said,

                               public debate focuses solely on the Jewish poor. "The Arabs don't have

                               separatist aspirations, and this is not a minority that desires a different

                               political entity from that in which it lives. It is a minority that merely

                               demands its rights."


                               The newspaper editor added that Ehud Barak has discriminated against

                               the Arabs more than any previous prime minister, noting that he has

                               never even granted an interview to an Israeli Arab paper. "Even now,

                               during the riots, when we asked Barak to meet with the Arab

                               leadership, he refused. Instead, he sent the police to fire rubber bullets

                               and live fire at us to kill us. This is the first time I have felt that the

                               Jews hate us."


                               Will current events cause a complete rupture between these two parts

                               of the Israeli collective? The Islamic Movement believes such a

                               rupture already exists, and there is no point in searching for common

                               ground. The secular Arab leadership, in contrast, says that despite the

                               scars that will be left by the events of the last few days, Israeli Arabs'

                               ties to the State of Israel will not be undermined. Yet the quality of

                               these ties, they warn, will depend on the degree of recognition the

                               Israeli leadership grants to the needs of the Arab minority, and above

                               all to the degree of legitimacy that Israeli Jews grant Israeli Arab