As soon as Israel started its war on the Gaza Strip, it became all too clear that the nation’s Arab minority, long shunned and distrusted, was to be seen as traitors for their opposition to the attacks. They were arrested for protesting, their political parties were banned, they were threatened. The war may be over, but the sense of alienation will endure.
According to Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld, some 763 antiwar protesters in Israel were arrested for causing disturbances, the vast majority of them Arabs. He added that dozens of others were detained before the protests even took place and “warned ahead of time not to cause trouble.”
The war was so widely popular in Israel, where eager sightseers brought their families to the Gaza border to watch the war and take pictures, that to oppose it publicly was to court trouble. To do so while Arab was to risk being condemned for treason.
With anti-Arab sentiment riding high during the war, the right wing even managed to do what they’d aimed at for months: they banned the two Arab parties that had representation in Israel’s Knesset. The ban is being opposed, and Israel’s Court of Justice may yet overturn it, but even the attempt is leaving a bad taste in the mouth of many Arabs.
Israeli-Arab MP Ahmed Tibi complained during today’s Supreme Court hearing that at a time when America is swearing in a black president, Israel’s Arab minority (which actually constitutes a larger percentage of the overall population than blacks in the United States) is being banned from even running for office.
Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, who was instrumental in the ban, warned the court against overturning the Knesset’s decision, cautioning that they might revoke the citizenship of the Arab MPs to prevent them from running for reelection. Lieberman added that in his opinion “we need to treat some Arab MPs like we treated Hamas.”