It's not about the Temple Mount, say
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
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
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