Stop calling us ‘Israeli Arabs’

The phrase ‘Israeli Arabs’ is meant to divide us from the rest of the Palestinian people. Thankfully, more and more young Palestinian citizens are no longer scared to openly confront their own Pharaoh and reclaim their story.

Activists demonstrate against the Prawer Plan at Herod’s Gate in East Jerusalem, November 30, 2013. The Prawer Plan, if implemented, will displace tens of thousands of Bedouin citizens of Israel. (Photo:
Palestinian citizens of Israel demonstrate against the Prawer Plan at Herod’s Gate in East Jerusalem, November 30, 2013. The Prawer Plan, if implemented, will displace tens of thousands of Bedouin citizens of Israel. (Photo:

“So explain it to me again,” Amanda repeated. “How can it be that while Israel celebrates its independence, or whatever they call it, there is no public discussion on the occupation? Or the fact that Israel has been controlling another nation for nearly 50 years? The hypocrisy is staggering!” Now try explaining Israeli society’s denial and blindness to a friend from New Zealand whom you haven’t seen for years. And all I wanted to talk about was my upcoming trek.

I decided to explain to Amanda about the Israeli duality, relevant to so many aspects of day-to-day life in the Jews’ democratic state, in the hopes that it will help her understand that blindness, hypocrisy and Israelis actually do go hand-in-hand. Perhaps then she would understand why we ignore the occupation. I brought up the example that has come up over and over again these past few weeks, especially since the remarks made by the prime minister of the most democratic country on the planet on election day: the synthetic term “Israeli Arabs” — a brilliant Zionist invention that destroyed our narrative, and trapped many Palestinians in Israel in a horrible identity crisis. “Netanyahu against Israeli Arabs,” “Netanyahu apologizes to Israeli Arabs.” We’ve been hearing these statement too often recently.

Since the elections, I’ve had the chance to be interviewed in several international media outlets. Most of the interviews referred to us as “Israeli Arabs,” and all the hosts wanted to know what we thought about the prime minister’s remarks or what we thought about his apology. However, instead of responding to their questions, I found myself correcting the hosts over and over again. “What don’t you understand? Even the prime minister is publicly speaking out against Palestinians in his own state, and you still calls us Israelis?

The truth, to be honest, is more complicated than that. It is easy to demand that an international journalist respect our identity and call us Palestinians. Asking that of Israelis is more difficult. The fact that so many, including in the sad joke called the “Zionist Left,” will continue referring to us as Israelis, since Netanyahu’s remarks capture something so very Israeli: course, blind, hypocritical and full of contradictions.

Let me explain. Assume for a moment that we really are Israelis. Let’s even go so far as to imagine that we were also brought here from far away, just like the Europeans who came to “make the desert bloom” or the Arab Jews who came from Arab and Muslim countries, in order to work the desert until it bloomed for the Europeans. Since the Israeli people are a light unto nations, they are also a very patriotic people. Therefore, anything that has to do with Israel must bring great pride to every real Israeli. On the other hand, any time someone degrades an Israeli symbol, expression or idea, Israelis will certainly take offense.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in front of a painting of former Likud prime minister Menachim Begin. (Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

So when the prime minister speaks out against us all while referring to us as Israeli, the entire country is supposed to cry out against such an insult to the Zionist ethos. Both right and left — everyone must have, at the very least, demanded the racist be investigated, not to mention forced to resign. How can we let him insult something so Israeli?

The phrase “Israeli Arabs,” however, is first and foremost based on Zionist propaganda meant to divide us from the rest of the Palestinian people. The fact that such a large number of Israelis are not able to see the contradictions and understand that imprisoning us in this fabricated identity while showing depraved forgiveness for those who publicly disparage us is sad, yet so very expected. It demonstrates the duality that lies at the heart of the Zionist collective consciousness — “We will call Palestinians ‘Israelis,’ and they better thank us. Equal rights? Allow them to define themselves as anything but Israeli? Not on our watch!”

When one’s consciousness is so riddled with contradictions and lacking any self-awareness, it is possible to understand how this same nation can celebrate independence, imprison and deport asylum seekers and refuse to speak about the occupation of the West Bank and the siege on Gaza. There is no way around it: Israelis act a lot more like Pharaoh.

How symbolic that just before the Jewish celebration of liberation, a term whose goal is to imprison Palestinians in a fake identity is mentioned so often. Unfortunately, there is no lack of Palestinians in Israel who have accepted the shackles of Zionist identity and identify as Israelis. This is a sore subject, but over the past few years, there is growing awareness on this issue, as more and more young Palestinians are no longer scared, and are openly confronting their own Pharaoh.

This explanation convinced Amanda, yet left her slightly confused. “But wait, one last question. What about the Arabs that were present when Netanyahu apologies for his remarks? Aren’t they Palestinians?” she asked.

“Those poodles? No. Those are Israelis.”

Read this article in Hebrew on Local Call here.

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