Friday, February 6, 2009

Israeli Arabs

As you may have noticed, I recently added many links to the "Blog Roll" section to the right. Most of them lead to blogs but a few lead to journals or online newspapers. Many I have discovered only recently. I like to hear many different voices because I think that is the first step to understanding people, and since the Israeli Arab conflict is a people's conflict, hearing many Jewish and Arab voices is a natural step to bridge gaps, build relationships, and move forward in a constructive way.

Today I discovered that the Baltimore Jewish Times has a blog section. One of their contributors is Allison Mondell who writes from Jerusalem. I just read her latest post and I just thought that it was wonderful and articulate. So here it is in its entirety:

10:03 am every morning I race out of my apartment to catch the number 30 bus from Mt. Scopus to Talpiot. I try to pinpoint the places you can feel the change in atmosphere as I travel from East Jerusalem, the Arab part of the city, through the center of town to end in the wealthy American hub where my office is located. Yesterday, about three stops after I got on, one of the Arab custodians from my building got on. He’s probably about the same age as me and always smiles as he empties my trash can and vacuums the floor around me. After he got on the bus and gave his usual smile, he bypassed the empty seat next to me to sit on the back of the bus.

Israeli Jew. You never hear it used because it seems like a given. If you call someone Israeli, the assumption is that person is a Jew. Israeli Arab. You hear that all the time, but if being Israeli inherently means being Jewish, then isn’t Israeli Arab a contradiction? If it isn’t a contradiction, does it shown possessiveness? This Arab belongs to the Israelis…

The tension felt between the term Israeli and the term Arab is one that Palestinians living in Israel struggle with daily. Being born Arab in Israel means poorer quality education, high poverty and unemployment rates, and life as a second class citizen. Being born Arab in Israel also means equality for women, a voice (though it may be small) in the government and access to public education and services.

This duality, the pros and cons of each identity, makes the life of the Palestinian in Israel confusing. The reality is that they have very different goals then the Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank. Yes they want a two state solution, but many of them wouldn’t move. According to a lecture by Mohammad Darawshe, the Co-Director of The Abraham Fund Initiatives and leading expert on Jewish-Arab relations, (and my cab driver from last night; cab drivers here are really talkative) most of them would choose to not to leave Israel.

Mr. Darawshe used the actions and inactions of the Palestinians living in Israel as proof of this statement. He pointed to several Hamas leaders that called on them to begin the third intifada, and those calls were ignored. Demonstrations have been peaceful and contained and Muslim leaders in Israel are thinking about the day after. They realize they will still be living in Israel the day after.


Alli said...

Wow, I didn't realize anyone read my blog besides my parents! Thanks for sharing it with a wider audience. Since leaving Israel, I haven't posted anything new, but this just may be the inspiration I needed!

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