‘Liberman’s proposals spoil the delicate fabric of relations between Arabs and Jews in Israel. They come from a man who paved his political path using right-wing statements, erecting barriers in the process of peace and leading us to fear and despair.’
By Riad Kabaha
I was born in the early 1950s as an Israeli citizen. I was raised and educated in Israel, where I acquired positive, beneficial things from Jewish society, such as: curriculum, language, clothing, sites around the country, academic studies, employment, Jewish friends, participation in Knessest elections, the ability to struggle for equality and rights, working together with the Jewish people and cooperation with Jews who believe in my way.
Thus, we became part of a new culture: Israeli culture on the one hand, while continuing to be an integral part of the Palestinian people on the other. Although separated from other Palestinians until 1967, we were able to keep our tradition, language, and culture.
The occupation of 1967 did not change the fact that we maintain our characteristics both as Israelis and as part of the Palestinian nation at the same time. This makes us unique and different from both the Jews and the residents of the occupied territories.
That is why Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s recent statements about exchanging territories and forcing nearly 300,000 Palestinian Arabs Israeli in what is known as the Triangle area (which stretches from Kfar Qassem in central Israel to Megiddo in the North, and includes more than 20 Arab towns and cities) to a future Palestinian state were received with contempt and rejection by all of the Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel.
According to the 1948 ceasefire agreement signed between Israel and Jordan, the Triangle was to remain part of Jordan. However, the Rhodes Agreement signed in 1949 placed this the region under Israeli sovereignty.
As a minority, we believe in the righteousness of our way of fighting for equality, partnership, and against discrimination.
At the same time we struggle for peace through organizations, through our political parties in the Knesset, and through our belief in the two-state solution.
And we dream that in a situation of peace, most of our problems of discrimination and inequality will be solved. Our dream is to be like the American Jewish people in the United States who support Israel and live as American citizens.
Liberman’s proposals spoil the delicate fabric of relations between Arabs and Jews in Israel. They come from a man who paved his political path using right-wing statements, erecting barriers in the process of peace, leading us to fear and despair.
We are totally different from Liberman and the settlers of the West Bank. They live on occupied land (which they do not own) that was taken by force, in large part by people who were not even born in the country.
It is not acceptable to compare us, as land owners who were born here, to them, neither historically nor morally.
In the contemporary era, there is no precedent in any country to give up its citizens in exchange for territory against their will. Any such move would be illegal and undemocratic.
We are aware that such plans would strengthen the Jewish majority in the Jewish state, yet there is still no accurate definition of who is considered a Jew. We are pleased that the Palestinian Authority has officially rejected Liberman’s statements, as they are contrary to the Palestinian vision which says that the Arabs who live in Israel are not a party to the conflict and cannot be transferred.
We were very pleased to hear that the Israeli president, government ministers and peace organizations have condemned Liberman’s plan. However, I am left wondering why I have yet to hear a condemnation from the White House
We are not afraid. We will continue to stand firm against racists, and we will keep fighting for equality and our rights, with the help of the Israelis working for peace and democracy.
We must show Avigdor Liberman that we will continue to learn, develop our communities, strengthen the status of women, believe in the two-state solution, and unite with those Israeli peace and democracy organizations that believe in the righteousness of our way. Our citizenship is not up for negotiation.
Riad Kabaha is the director of the Jewish Arab Center for Peace in Givat Haviva. He has been a peace educator for over 30 years, and is a resident of the village of West Barta’a.