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COLUMN SEVENTY-SIX, OCTOBER 1, 2002
(Copyright 2002 The Blacklisted Journalist)


MOHAMMAD DARAWASHE

STORY OF AN ARAB 'PEACENIK'

Subject: [Givat-Haviva] Conflict Takes Growing Toll On Arab-Israeli Community Longtime Friendships
Date: Thu, 15 Aug 2002 13:10:21

From: "Mohammad Darawshe" <dovergh@inter.net.il>
Reply-To: Givat-Haviva-owner@yahoogroups.com

To: info@blacklistedjournalist.com

The Wall Street Journal - August 9, 2002

Conflict Takes Growing Toll On Arab-Israeli Community Longtime Friendships, Business Ties With Jews Undergo Enormous Strain 

By KARBY LEGGETT
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

IKSAL VILLAGE, Israel -- Mohammad Darawshe's family goes a long way back in this Arab village in northern Israel -- 27 generations, to be exact. His family has held a prominent place in the community ever since, and, like many of the one million Arabs living in Israel, he long ago pledged allegiance to the State of Israel.

But in recent years, Mr. Darawshe has noticed an important change in how Jewish Israelis view him and his fellow Arab Israelis: "The Jews see us more and more as an extension of the enemy that lives within their state," says Mr. Darawshe.    "We're viewed as part of the regional majority and no longer as the national minority."

Nearly two years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting has wrought tremendous damage.   At least 2,074 Israelis and Palestinians have been killed. Hundreds of millions of dollars in property have been destroyed. And tension between Israel and the Arab countries that surround it has climbed to its highest level in nearly a decade.

Yet, largely overlooked amid the fighting is the toll the conflict has taken on ties between the Jews and Arabs of Israel. Once viewed as a model of tolerance for the entire region, the relationship is now rent by a level of tension and anger not seen since the early 1950s. Jewish and Arab individuals have seen their friendships frayed. Once-promising business ties between the two communities have deteriorated, and cooperation has been replaced by mutual suspicion.

The vast majority of Arab-Israelis are adamantly opposed to Palestinian terror attacks. But a handful of Arab citizens has lent support to such attacks over the past year, convincing many Jews that Arab citizens can't be trusted.  This week, for instance, Israeli police arrested two Arab-Israeli women for failing to notify authorities of a pending suicide attack. The women were riding a bus but disembarked after being warned by the Palestinian assailant.

The arrests came a day after Israel's interior minister announced a plan to revoke the citizenship of any Arab-Israeli involved in carrying out attacks on Israelis. The plan, which received the backing of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, doesn't call for similar punishment for Israeli Jews involved in terrorist plots.

The widening divide among Israel's Jews and Arabs poses difficult questions for Israel. Many of the country's Jewish citizens, who make up about 80% of the population, believe the country is first and foremost a nation for the Jews.  But the high Arab birthrate is altering the demographic makeup, raising the possibility that Arabs could someday constitute a majority.

That has given rise to ideas that could challenge the foundations of Israel's democracy. One such notion is referred to as "transfer," whereby Arab citizens would be forcibly removed to another country or region. Another idea calls for Arab-Israelis to be denied voting rights, thus ensuring Jewish citizens maintain control of the government. Yet another calls for Israel to redraw its borders in a way that would make many Arab-Israelis citizens of the new Palestinian nation, assuming a final peace deal is reached.

For now, these ideas remain largely fringe concepts, embraced mostly by far-right Jewish politicians and citizens. But as the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has intensified, these ideas have left the realm of unthinkable and begun working their way into daily conversation. And the result is deep concern among Israel's Arabs. Says Shawki Khatib, the mayor of an Arab village outside Nazareth: "The Jewish establishment is trying to kick us out."

Not too long ago, relations between Israel's Jews and Arabs were improving. But in September 2000, it suffered a devastating blow following Mr. Sharon's controversial visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Riots ensued and 13 Arab citizens were killed when the army was called in to quash the uprising.

Arab Israelis such as Mr. Darawshe have watched the events in the following months with fear and dismay. A former politician in the Arab Party, Mr. Darawshe now helps run the Jewish-Arab Center for Peace [at Givat Haviva]. Since graduating from an Israeli university, he has waged a personal battle against intolerance and anger among the country's Jews and Arabs. For the first time, he fears he is losing the battle.

His work at the peace center, for instance, has been dealt a blow by the Israel government, which scaled back the center's budget, and by nervous Arab and Jewish parents, who are reluctant to allow their children to interact with one another. The maelstrom has complicated his personal life, too. Returning from work on a recent evening, Mr. Darawshe says he was stunned when his seven-year-old son told him he wanted to become a militant when he grows up.  His relatives in the West Bank, meantime, regularly criticize him as too pro-Israel.

"These things don't happen in a vacuum ... they are the result of everything that's going on around us," he says.

For Mr. Darawshe, the troubled relationship is rooted in economics: After rising through the mid-1990s, government investment in Arab villages is again tailing off---even as more money goes to Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.

Visiting a classroom of young Arab students in Iksal on a recent morning, Mr. Darawshe points to textbooks that are still used by Arab students but were replaced years ago at Jewish schools. Back outside, he points to a clogged sewage system, dilapidated roads and a handful of unemployed men loitering on the sidewalk---all the result of a government investment budget that heavily favors Jewish neighborhoods, he says.

Says Mr. Darawshe: "I want to help Israel, but if this is how the government treats its own Arab citizens, how can it convince other Arab countries that it will be a good neighbor?"  ##

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