Tazpit News Agency

Renewed talk of territory exchanges between Israel and a future Palestinian state as part of a peace agreement, a proposition championed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has left many Arabs who have Israeli citizenship worried about losing their status as citizens of Israel.

According to the Israeli daily Ma’ariv, Israel has proposed to the Americans transferring Israeli Arab villages and towns to the Palestinian Authority as part of a land swap that would place Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria under Israeli sovereignty. The proposal means that some 300,000 Arabs with Israeli citizenship from some 10 towns would be allowed to stay in their villages in the “triangle” area along the border with Judea and Samaria, finding themselves living under the jurisdiction of a Palestinian state.

This proposal has been strongly and continuously rejected by leaders of the Israeli Arabs, who expressed outrage over the idea. “This is an imaginary proposal that relates to the Arabs as if they were chess pieces that could be moved around according to the wish of the players,” said Ahmed Tibi, an Arab member of the Knesset. Another Arab Knesset member, Afu Ighbarriyeh, said, “Citizens of a democratic state are not tools or hostages in the hands of their government.” Both Tibi and Ighbarriyeh are from towns in the triangle area; Taybeh and Umm al-Fahm.

Writing on the topic, journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, explains that what the Arab Knesset members are not saying openly is that they do not want to wake up in the morning and discover that they are citizens of a Palestinian state. It is much easier for them to accuse Israel of racism than to admit that they do not want to be part of a Palestinian state.

Tibi was interviewed on Israel’s army radio along with MK Tsipi Hotovely (Likud). Tibi, who served as Yasser Arafat’s adviser for many years, stated such a suggestion is offensive, claiming that the Arabs are natives of the land who have always been here. He said he is a Palestinian by all aspects, culturally historically and by national identity, yet was unable to explain why he desired to stay an Israeli citizen. He kept on citing his rights to his land, a point not contended by the proposition of land swaps. He claims Palestinian negotiators have discussed the proposition with secretary of state Kerry and have rejected it.

Hotovely believes such a move is an historical mistake, as are all territorial concessions. As for the Israeli Arabs rejection of the proposition, she said: “They want to enjoy both worlds, Palestinian nationals enjoying the life in Israel. If they suffer so much from Israeli oppression they now have a golden opportunity to receive Palestinian citizenship. The reason they oppose the move is because they want the high standard of life and the democracy Israel has to offer them. They can’t hold on to both options,” she concluded.

A public opinion poll conducted by the Arab Center for Applied Social Research in November 2007 found that more than 70% of Israeli Arabs are opposed to any proposal to annex towns and villages in the “triangle” area to the Palestinian Authority in exchange for the annexation of parts of Judean and Samaria to Israel.

TheKnesset members are fully aware that they would lose most of their privileges under most Arab regimes, and this according to Toameh, is the real reason why they are strongly opposed to the latest proposal. The Palestinians have their own parliament in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but it has been paralyzed since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. In most Arab countries, parliament members who dare to criticize their rulers often find themselves sitting at home or behind bars.

Toameh argues if the Arab Knesset members are so worried about becoming citizens of a Palestinian state, they should be working toward integration into, and not separation from, Israel. The Arab parliamentarians need to listen more to what their constituents are telling them and not to the voices of Fatah and Hamas.



Arab Members of Knesset are protesting the standardization of Jewish visitation rights to the Temple Mount at a session of the Israeli Knesset Committee for the Interior.

Deputy Minister for Religious Services Eli Ben-Dahan said during the meeting that he is seeking an agreement on the visitation rights with Israel’s chief rabbinate. But MKs Ahmad Tibi, Jamal Zahalka, and other Arab MKs who attended the meeting threatened dire consequences, including a new intifada, if any proposals on the issue would be agreed upon.

“There is no Temple Mount. There is only the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” shouted Zahalka, according to the Jerusalem Post. “You’re playing with fire and you’re starting an inferno,” he added. Tibi said that “because of you [another intifada] will break out again, also because of Al-Aqsa.”



Photo by By Jill Granberg


Continuing with the theme of debunking accusations that Israel imposes institutional racism and apartheid on the Arabs of the region is a story by the AFP on a senior Bedouin tracker in the Israeli army.

Lt.-Col. Magdi Mazarib, the highest ranking Israeli Bedouin army tracker, is featured in the story. He tells the news agency that compared with neighboring countries, the status and position of Arabs in Israel “is better…It’s a different league.”

When asked if, as a Muslim, he is bothered serving an overtly Jewish state, Mazarib responds, “The flag of England also has a cross on it, and the Jews there are fine with it.”

The article highlights the fact that, despite their Arab Muslim background, Mazarib and other Bedouin trackers are the “gatekeepers” of the Jewish state. It is they who guard against infiltration and who guide every Jewish-dominated military patrol defending the borders.

There are currently thousands of Israeli Bedouin serving in the IDF, and like Mazarib, they proudly lend their expertise and risk their lives to protect the Jewish state.

Interestingly, the AFP article was carried by the typically anti-Israel Saudi-owned news agency Al Arabiya, demonstrating that many Arabs around the region are fully aware that the claims of apartheid are nothing but a propaganda ploy.




jJERUSALEM – The Arab population in Israel has signaled a rather apathetic attitude towards tomorrow’s elections. And this is not because of hostility toward the Jewish state, but more toward their own Arab representatives in the Israeli parliament.

“We are desperate. Every time we send our Arab representatives to the Knesset, they only seem to care about the Palestinians (in the disputed territories), but not for the Arab citizens of Israel,” Jamal Hadsh from the Arab town of Tamara told the Israeli daily Maariv.

Mussa Abu Lah from the Arab town Shefaram also told the same newspaper that Arab Knesset members do not care about the Arab population of Israel. “Neither Ahmed Tibi nor Haneen Zoabi are interested in us. They only help themselves, not us!” Indifference within the Arab population grows and harms democracy.

Arab voter turnout in Tuesday’s election is expected to drop below 50 percent for the first time. Many more Arabs are turning to Jewish parties.

“Like me, many of my friends and relatives refuse to vote for the Arab parties,” Mohammed from Seipha told Maariv.

A surprise beneficiary of this trend has been the right-wing Jewish Home party, which under its charismatic new leader, Naftali Bennett, is attracting many new Arab and Druze voters. Druze and Arab supporters held a rally for Jewish Home in northern Israel last week.

To combat this phenomenon, the Arab League on Sunday appealed to Israel’s Arabs: “We call on the Arab population to participate in the elections in Israel. Only with a high turnout of Arab voters…can the Arabs hope to curb the racist right-wing government.”

The Arab League said it hoped to increase Arab representation in the Knesset from 10 to 20 seats (out of a total 120 seats).

Several sources told Israel Today that it was the current Arab Knesset member who asked the Arab League to put pressure on Israel’s Arab population to get out and vote for the Arab parties.

Whether or not the scheme will work is highly doubtful. In conversations with Arabs, it is made clear again and again that they appreciate life in Israel, especially amid the bloody uprisings in neighboring Arab countries.


Does the Arab Jew still exist?


GENEVA – The growing rift between Israel and the Arab world makes it hard to imagine that Jews and Arabs once coexisted across the Middle East. At one point these identities could be found not only in the same neighborhood, but even in the same person.

Is it an oxymoron to be an Arab Jew?

An Arab Jew refers either to a Jew living in the Arab world or whose ancestors came from Arab countries. This term flourished once in the Middle East but is not widely known today. Not long ago there were Jews living in the cities of the Middle East who were integrated into their societies and held influential roles in their communities and economies.

My grandfather, Baba Yona Mashiah, was such a figure in Baghdad. He was, I would say, an Arab
Jew. My childhood was sprinkled with stories of his grand personality, power and business acumen. He was a prominent land and real-estate developer and in the 1940s contributed to building “Baghdad el Jedidah,” a chic neighborhood in the Baghdad suburbs. His partners were mostly Muslim and some were prominent government officials.

Over the years I have accumulated stories about Baba Yona like pearls on a string and play with these beads, just as he played with the beads on his misbaha,the traditional Muslim prayer beads. My father recalled how he used to accompany my grandfather, who was also known by the Arabic name Abu Fuad, to meetings in cafés and the respect that people showed him.

Baba Yona was an integrated member of Baghdad society and its business world, yet he was a Jew.

In the 1950s the Jews of Baghdad experienced an exodus from Iraq. A reluctant exodus, I would claim, which was brought about by a combination of increasing Zionism, antisemitic propaganda, envy of the privileged life Jews had when Iraq was under British control and the creation of Israel. The displacement of thousands of Palestinians and the humiliating defeat of the Arab armies were the final blow.

Life had become unbearable for the Jews and even those who had wanted to stay were compelled to leave. Jews were assumed to be a fifth column and turned into scapegoats following the defeat of Arab armies by the Israeli Defense Forces. Baba Yona watched his empire crumble. His peer and neighbor, Mr. Addas, another influential Jew, was hanged in the square. He himself was imprisoned for three months, accused of having Zionist connections.

At a certain point the Iraqi government offered a deal for Jews, inviting them to escape to Israel if they would renounce their citizenship and relinquish their property. Baba Yona was forced to leave Baghdad with over 100,000 other Jews to the one country that would accept them at the time – Israel. Ironically, the Zionists, whose movement played a part in alienating Muslims from their Jewish compatriots, were there to save them.

So as they were airlifted out of Baghdad, did my nine year-old father know where he was headed? Was it en route to Cyprus and during the eventually landing in Israel that he stopped being an Arab Jew?

In Israel the younger generations became embarrassed by their Arabic-speaking parents. My father, Sabah, was given a Hebrew name, Shaul; but his brother who had arrived in his late teens, too late for a name change, is called Jamil until this very day.

In fact, my father’s Arab identity was totally effaced in Israel. It was a combination of external pressures and self denial. Thus he became successfully integrated into the dominant culture in Israel of that period.

My interest in my Arab roots began about 10 years ago when I established my business, which focuses on economic cooperation between Israel and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Many Israelis asked me why I had chosen to do so. The notion that Israel should forge economic ties with other countries in the MENA region is not self-evident within Israeli society.

Their questions led me to excavate my own identity and connect with my grandfather’s world. I am discovering more and more young Jews like myself who have been able to distance themselves from their parents traumatic experiences and proudly reclaim their Arab roots.

I recall one day when I brought home old records of Abdul Wahab, a famous Egyptian singer, and put them on the phonograph. My father Shaul transformed back to Sabah and sang all the words. He did not understand how I could be interested in this music. My curiosity for the poetry and music is deep-rooted to an extent that baffles him.

Today when I ask my father if my grandfather was an Arab Jew and he proclaims, “No way, there is no such thing,” I beg to differ.

Naava Mashiah is CEO of M.E. Links, focused on the transfer of technology from Israel to the MENA region, Senior Consultant at ISHRA and the editor of MEDABIZ. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service.

Arab rock attacks on Jews increase

Stone throwing Arabs

Israel Today

JERUSALEM – The month of September saw a 33 percent increase in the number of Palestinian stoning attacks against Israeli Jews, according to figures published by the Israeli Army.

During the first nine months of 2011, Palestinian stone throwers attacked Israeli soldiers and Jewish motorists in Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”) a total of 3,484 times, or an average of 387 times per month. In September, there were 498 attacks, or at least 16 attacks every day.

The most serious attack occured on September 23 when Arab stone throwers near Hebron caused Asher Palmer to lose control of his vehicle resulting in a crash that killed both Asher and his infant son, Yonatan.

And the attacks have continued. Israel National News reports that over Yom Kippur, a husband and his pregnant wife were greeted by a hail of stones as they raced through the streets of southern Jerusalem to get the expectant mother to a hospital.

With the streets clear of nearly all traffic, local Arab youths quickly set upon the lone Jewish target, confident that most of the police were taking the day off. The couple managed to reach Hadassah Hospital unharmed, but police officers there were reportedly uninterested in their story.

Sadly, the response to the Jerusalem attack is typical of how most people in Israel, and nearly all in the international community view stone throwing against Israelis. But, as the Palmar car crash demonstrated, stone throwing is NOT a peaceful form of protest.

The blog Israel Matzav correctly asked: “What do you think your town would do if there were 10 [daily] rock throwing incidents at cars in your town?”

In Israel, the answer is “nothing.”

Arabs apply to IDF, Mossad

Israel Today

JERUSALEM – Beneath the revitalized layer of exaggerated hatred for Israel spreading over the Middle East dwell thousands of Arabs who are willing to help and even love the Jewish state.

Thanks to the “Arab Spring” revolutions in surrounding nations, a growign number of Egyptians, Syrians, Jordanians, Iraqis, etc are realizing just how good and decent Israel is compared to their own totalitarian societies, despite the fact that many were raised from childhood to view Israelis as blood-thirsty monsters.

Acting on that realization, and desirous of fleeing new regimes that may actually be worse than the previous rulers, thousands of foreign Arabs have sent requests to Israeli government agencies requesting asylum, visas to visit and even offering to serve the Israeli army and Mossad.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry told the Yediot Ahronot newspaper that it is receiving requests even from “members of Arab parliaments, members of political movements and other important political figures.”

Many of the letters arriving demonstrate that those Arabs not content to simply be spoon-fed a diet of anti-Israel propaganda have come to understand the reality of the Jewish state.

“You are the only country [in the region] that respects personal freedom,” wrote Dawoud, a computer technician from Iraq seeking political asylum in Israel.

“The people of Israel are the strongest and most cultured in the region,” wrote another young man from Iran who wants to move to the Jewish state with his whole family.

Houmam from Iraq wrote in to ask for a loan for treatment for his sick father, noting that “I know you [Israelis] love to help others.”

Many more wrote in simply wanting to do business with or travel to Israel, activities that are currently forbidden by their own governments.

Most of the requests are submitted via the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s Arabic website, though others also write directly to the Mossad and IDF.

The phenomenon is yet further evidence that while it may be far from perfect, Israel is recognized even by many Arabs as the most decent nation in the region, and certainly not deserving of being singled out as some kind of pariah.

It is also reminiscent of the Arab immigration to the British Mandate area from 1922-1947 as a result of the prosperity being created by the growing Jewish community. British records show that during those years the Arab population in the area increased by 120 percent, far outpacing the community’s rate of natural growth.