Tuesday, May 18, 2004

 

If only we could just make one exception for one of the good Arabs...

In today's Haaretz, Uzi Benziman writes about the case of Atallah Mansour, an Israeli Arab journalist whose daughter cannot return to Israel because she married a Jordanian. Unsettled by the situation, Benziman writes:
To dismantle the barricades of alienation and suspicion nourishing the conflict and condensing it, we must overcome our prejudices and distinguish between a potential terrorist and the Jordanian son-in-law of Atallah Mansour.
It seems that Benziman has missed the boat. Terrorism (and stopping potential terrorist from entering Israel) has very little to do with these kinds of restrictions on Israeli Arabs (restrictions on who can live in Israel, who can enter the country, who can buy land and where, who can build and where, etc.), other than to be trotted out by Ariel Sharon and others to explain away the treatment of Arab Israelis as second class citizens. The problem Israel faces is maintaining its Jewish identity while at the same time holding onto its status as the Middle East's only democracy (of which we are constantly reminded). Marriage, citizenship, and property ownership laws and regulations are set up and enforced to encourage Israeli Arabs to move elsewhere and to discourage them from staying in Israel. If terrorism were the real issue (and not maintaining the current demographic dominance of Jews in Israel), this is the kind of institutionalized racism that turns some Israeli Arabs from productive citizens (like Atallah Mansour and his family) towards the potential for terrorism.
I am glad that Benziman sees the need to get beyond prejudices, but to truly break down the barricades of alienation and suspicion on must dismantle the intitutionalized racism that is at the foundations of these walls, not simply make exceptions for those one knows personally to be "one of the good Arabs".

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