3: “Communist” Attempts to Conceptually Articulate Conjunction between Arabs and Jews Parallel to Israel’s Ideology
The interest of the Arab "Communists" in both the more radical Ashkenazi left and Israel's mainstream Left institutions was manifest in their reaction to a mid-1970 nurses' strike that went ahead despite pleas from Israeli PM Golda Meir. al-Ittihad newspaper sought out all signs that the strike was likely to continue. The paper reacted with irony but perhaps also some ambivalence to attempts to end the strike by the leadership of the Histadrut and the Minister of Labor, viewing the trade-union confederation perhaps somewhat realistically as an instrument of the government and system more than an independent power-center that primarily sought the welfare of the working-class. The two could not persuade the nurses to end their strike because neither was prepared to accept the reasonable demands that had sparked the strike action.
The demands of the - overwhelmingly Jewish - male and female nurses as projected by the Arabic paper had affinities to the promotion of modest group interest that recurs amid all the militancy and macro-history of this Rakah-Arab synthesis of micro-nationalism and communism. The nurses had demanded a mere one percent increase in their annual wages to cover the increased labor being demanded of them, the increase to be retrospective to September the previous year. The Arab paper argued that the demand had been under discussion for a long time, and that it was the procrastination by the health system authorities that had finally sparked their resort to "the weapon of the strike".
For all its hostile irony, the article contained a certain ambivalent openness to the possibility that the Histadrut could be brought back to its original verbalistic purpose as a source of power and welfare for all the working class, and that Arab Israelis could affiliate. Histadrut bodies that had taken part in negotiations with the nurses' union had recognized the justice of their demands, but demanded that they end strike action as the means to secure them, accepting retrospective payment of increment to their salary from April 1970 only.
The Histadrut officials threatened the nurses that if they continued their strike action, then the Histadrut would "lift its unionist, social and moral protection from all those who do not comply with its decisions". The article excerpted a speech by a Jewish representative of the Rakah Communist party before the Histadrut executive committee in which he urged it not just to recognize the justice of the demand of the strikers but recognize the strike they had announced, pay financial support, argue the strikers' case, and if this bore no fruit that the Histadrut executive committee then assume the leadership of the strike until its aims were achieved ["al-Mumarridat Yatahaddayna, bi-Idrabihinna, al-Tahdid wal-Irhab" (The Nurses Challenge, with their Strike, the Threats and Intimidation), al-Ittihad 9 July 1970].
Left Zionism, whether around the ruling Labour (Mapai) party or in the Mapam Party that liked the Soviet Union more, had no drive to overthrow the state or system that the Ashkenazi Zionist Jews had set up to advance themselves. Their leftism for the Israeli context was rhetoric, and discourses to fine-tune the Israeli state so that it would improve the life of the Western Jews in Israel even more, and advance some European-Jewish groups that had been left behind. Nonetheless, this constructive Zionist Socialism under which a state mustered its power and resources to foster an ethnos, had skill in delivering welfare and construction of a society. Many Arabs in Israel, alert to chances to become modern and build prosperity, admired these institutions and facilities of the Israeli system, and wanted to win them for themselves.
The perhaps only quasi-Communist Haifa paper al-Ittihad and the Israeli Arab “communists” were working against the Israeli system more than most Israeli Arabs. Still, they too had to address the openness of many in the minority to the Israeli system’s welfare apparatus.
Some proto-humane interaction between Palestinians and incoming Jews had led the editorialist - perhaps al-Ittihad editor Emile Habibi himself - to wish for a humane community between “the two peoples” in a joint homeland, that then might in turn lead to a tighter Israeli single nation. The fact of a shared homeland, the joint experience, did legitimize Ashkenazi Jews to him to some extent. This gave Habibi some ability to objectify the Palestinian-Jewish struggle and place it in a relative position in macro-history. “We do not want to ignore the complexity of the Arab-Israeli conflict and its sufferings. The Zionist movement inflicted tragedies and segregation upon Arab and Jews equally. But the [Israeli governing elite's thesis of] the inevitability of enmity between the two peoples and the difficulty of reconciling them are not theories peculiar to the Zionist movement but the [standard] theory of the chauvinist expansionist national bourgeoisies in all times and countries”. [DW: Arab World Communists sometimes denounced Nasser and his regime, and his bourgeois Arab nationalists, as “chauvinist” in the 1950s and 1960s].
The articles of Emile Habibi in al-Ittihad were a mix of Arab ethnic militancy and a wish for a settlement in Israel and in the general Middle East that would end the unbearable vulnerability and marginality of Israel's Arabs/Palestinians. Also latent may have been the Christian background of many of these atheists who had heard folk-apprehension vis-à-vis Islam in history, when they were kids. The article’s normalization of "ruthless actions" (=Zionist bouts of ethnic cleansing against "Arabs"/Palestinians) went further when the editorialist observed that “the process of the formation of nations has not always been clean and ideal. Rather, it has often in history been accompanied by crimes and bloodshed” [“Juhaynah” (=Amil Habibi?), “al-Faza’ min al-Mustaqbal ilal-Madi” (Flight from the Future back to the Past), al-Ittihad 27 September 1968 p. 5]. This relativization of violence and expulsion by Israel against Arabs at her birth could, in its psychological impact on his readers, reduce both (a) the impression of formidable might of the Jewish state that towered before them, creating a sense that its Ashkenazi Jews would have to negotiate at some point, and (b) soften the image of Israel as uniquely evil in the expulsions and massacres with which it had hit its victims, “the Arab Palestinian people”. Clearly, though, Israel’s acts of violence and dispossession had left a gulf of hard feelings among Palestinians that would be very hard to bridge so that negotiations could begin.
Considering that the later 1960s and early 1960s were a period in which tensions between the subordinated Oriental and the ruling Western Jews steadily sharpened, the nominally Communist Arab Israeli intellectuals must rate as unalert to this ethnic split within Israel's “Jews”. This lack of insight and interest was although Arab Israelis had considerable interactions with Oriental Jews who spoke Arabic. The Marxism-tinted Arab intellectuals rather continued to pin some hopes on the mainly Ashkenazi workers who were really a pampered labor aristocracy. To an extent of a thinking modified by Marxism and Soviet print-culture, the Marxism-tinted Arab-Israeli intellectuals showed less empathy for Oriental Jews who were trying to establish themselves as small businessmen. The oppositionist Arab writers were prisoners of (a) Marxist paradigms inappropriate to Israeli society and perhaps (b) old Arabo-Muslim ethnic stereotypes that all Jews are one undifferentiated entity.
The Birth of Counter-Violence/Terrorism among Israeli Arabs
Until the middle of the 1980’s, the only structured protest leadership or institution allowed to Israeli Arabs was the two Israeli Communist Parties. Despite the at least formal commitment that Israeli Arab members gave to that Party’s radically secular and indeed, in part, atheistic tenets which could be articulated without any inhibition in Israel, many members continued to take part in at least some rituals of their religious communities of birth.
The peasant and working-class Arab masses gave a pronouncedly Islamic tone to the rituals of ethnic protest in which the Communists took part, or largely organized. An instance was the 1968 twelfth Commemoration at Kafr Qasim of that village’s fifty Arab “martyrs” (shuhada’) whom the Israeli military shot dead in 1956. The Communist mouthpiece al-Ittihad hailed the two hours-long march as “a vast demonstration against the policy of aggression, massacres and national persecution.” Community member’s on “the Committee to Commemorate the Martyrs of Kafr Qasim” made all possible use of the lectures they delivered at the site to heighten the ethnic militancy of the village population that attended - and no doubt highlight the Israeli Communist Party as the leadership for that militancy.
The village’s Local Council, sensitive to the government’s wishes, had tried to head off the communist politicization of the villagers’ fury by stipulating in advance that the commemoration be confined to reading the opening chapter of the Qur’an (al-fatihah) over the graves of the martyrs. The Council had also threatened not to allow the Communist committee to organize a march at all. The march itself was a political syncretization of (a) parochial Israeli Arab Rakah Communists and (b) the recent anti-Jewish Muslim fundamentalist movement that the communists were striving to control and direct. Thus participants in the march chanted “Party odes” through a loud speaker, while wreaths were laid and the fatihah read at the graves of the martyrs. At the site of the massacre, greetings were read from the Central Committee of the Communist Party sent by the poet Tawfiq Tubi. The Communist participants were careful to voice sympathetic gestures towards Palestinian nationalism and to the harassed local Islamic fundamentalists. Among the resolutions passed was a demand for the withdrawal of the Israeli forces from the occupied Arab territories, a condemnation of the assaults against Arab workers and citizens, and a condemnation of government incitation against youth who pray in the Kafr Qasim Mosque and have committed no crime or sin except to say “Our Lord is Allah” (Rabbunallah) [[“Kafr Qasim Ahyat Dhikra Shuhada’iha bi-Masirah Dakhmah” (Kafr Qasim Commemorates Its Martyrs with A Vast March), al-Ittihad 1 November 1968]].
These Kafr Qasim greenhorns were portents of the radical salafist Islamist revivalists who were to wrest leadership of minority protest from the Rakah Communists from the early 1990s Here, the Arab Communists were trying to drain off, at least locally, the decades of ill-feeling among practicing Muslims at the “atheism” of the Party, and to establish a basis for joint local political action. Among its leaders, Rakah in 1968 was also focusing the way that things were developing at the grass-roots in villages following all the harm that the 1967 defeat by Israel had done to the credibility of the fairly secular pan-Arab regime of Nasser in Egypt, among Palestinians. Henceforth both secular particularist Palestinian nationalism and an Islamist struggle would evolve among Palestinians in general, including to some extent among Israel’s Arab minority.
Because of their vulnerable position as a minority in Israel, and because many of them had established at least some links to the Israeli mainstream, most Israeli Arabs accommodated themselves to the Jewish state. However, a minority, strong among the more educated, was so alienated by the extreme experiences that the system ran them through before they could get higher education, that they opted for retaliatory terrorism.
In October 1969 a wave of bombs in residential areas hit Haifa: they were al-Fatah's reply to massive demolition of Arab homes in the occupied territories. In ‘Arrabah slogans had been written on walls exalting the al-‘Asifah and al-Sa’iqah military wings of Fatah: the Rakah paper and MPs were glad that local residents informed police of the identities of the chalkers, and the police promptly arrested 50. The snitchers, though, had included an Arab Mapai elections official. The Rakah issued a statement in Haifa condemning the explosions as did the heads of Arab sects in the town.
But the Israeli government seized on it to jail Communist party members and activists, and not only in Haifa. It was blatant petty parliamentarist politics - one aim was to undermine Rakah's campaign in the national general elections. The government would hold Rakah supporters for 15 days “for investigation”. In simultaneous sweeping arrests in Nazareth, Umm al-Fahm etc the police and intelligence did not even bother to interrogate many of the detainees. The Mapai representative Abraham Dayan intervened to release some of the detainees if they offered to vote for the Mapai's Arab list in the coming elections [See “The Communist Bloc has Exposed the Provocationist Arrests by the Police” (al-Kutlat al-Shuyu’iyyah ‘Arrat I’tiqalat al-Bulis al-Istifzaziyyah), al-Ittihad 24 October 1969 p. 6].
Communist theories of protest mobilization of a coherent working class drawn from many ethne were not coming true in "Israel" and the territories as the struggle between the Israeli and Palestinian nations-in-formation took other courses. al-Ittihad in an editorial condemned terrorism like that in Haifa designed to intentionally harm civilians - men, women and children. “Our Communist Party condemns these hideous acts intentionally meant to harm civilians, men, women and children, and which do not serve the cause of struggling to achieve a just resolution and settlement of Arab-Israeli relations, and for the sake of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian Arab people”.
This position exposed the political bankruptcy of the Rakah Communist Party which, although maneuvering to win space and opportunities for the Arab minority, in the upshot was trapped in the role of keeping the Israeli Arab minority within the confines of the system, just below explosion point. The Arab "Communists", whether real Marxists or veiled Arab nationalists of a Nasserite type, saw events pass them by, and all their hopes of coming to lead the Arab (Palestinian) population in Israel. al-Ittihad could only condemn terrorism as "liable to strengthen the control and influence that those who promote the policy of aggression and adventurism have over the Jewish masses, large sectors of which had started to move to oppose the adventurist policy of the rulers". The illusions of some in the Rakah (but most Arabs in it had always been cynical) were falling to pieces! The bombings would harm “the friendship between the two peoples”, essential for reaching “the settlement for which the masses of both the two peoples yearn”. The editorial may, though, have harbored a sub-text that the Haifa bombings by al-Fatah were retaliatory in its stress that “our Party has condemned the policy of the rulers of Israel - the policy of war, occupation, annexation, to violate the rights of the Palestinian Arab nation, of air-raids, of blowing up houses and villages, which too destroy innocent civilian victims”. It only wanted, it said, some form of resistance other than [PLO] counter-bombings that would keep the cycle going.
It is to be noted, though, that al-Ittihad in switching from terms such as “Israeli Arab minority” to the terminology of “the Arab Palestinian People” (al-Sha’b al-Arabi al-Filastini) had less than two years after the comprehensive Arab defeat of 1967 jumped from both pan-Arab nationalism and Israel integrationism to a position itself near the fore of the surge to pan-Palestinian particularist nationalism within the minority and among the Palestinian diasporas in the Arab states. [Editorial: "Laysat hadhihi hiyal-Tariq" (No - this is Not the Way), al-Ittihad 24 October 1969; cf. "The Communists Establish Arab-Jewish Brotherhood - the Hope of the Future" in same issue].
The pattern of alienation, hide-away militancy, bursting into terrorism was holding among Israeli Arabs a decade later. In mid-1979, Israeli security forces arrested three Israeli Arab students at Tel Aviv University on charges of setting up a new terrorist organization hostile to Israel.
The three detainees, Israel charged, had intended (a) to assassinate President Sadat during the forthcoming visit he was due to make to Israel to conclude a separate peace with the Jewish State; and (b) to urge Arab youth in Israel and the occupied territories to join the established Palestinian resistance organizations. The three were all from the "triangle", a heartland of Israeli Arabs: Mahmud Salih Hasan Ahmad from Umm al-Fahm, 'Umar 'Abd al-Ghafir from Gat village, and Khudayr Jamil Kamil from 'Arrah village. ["Three Arab Students at Tel Aviv University Charged with Setting Up a Hostile Organization", al-Ra'y 27 May 1979].
Left Zionism, whether around the Labour (Mapai) party or the Mapam Party that liked the Soviet Union more, had no drive to overthrow the state or system that the Ashkenazi Zionist Jews had set up and crafted to advance themselves. Their leftism for the Israeli context was rhetoric, and discourses to fine-tune the Israeli state so that it would improve the life of the Western Jews in Israel even more.
Nonetheless, this constructive Zionist Socialism under which a state mustered its power and resources to foster an ethnos, had skill in delivering welfare and construction of a society. Many Arabs in Israel, alert to chances to become modern and build prosperity, admired these institutions of the Israeli system, and wanted to win them.
Dualities and Ambiguities in “Israeli Arab” Left Discourses in the late 1960s
Some masked pan-Arabs around the Rakah Israeli Communist Party hoped that “Israel” would be defeated and that the Party could make a modest contribution. These were a minority. Most members and supporters, getting more and more acculturated to the Jewish state, knew its strengths and that it was built to survive. Their verbal resistance to the State was limited and sometimes just formalistic. Given its strength, these “Arab Israeli” writers drew a transgressive pleasure from critiquing (Ashkenazi) leaders in the Israeli establishment and indicating the human suffering into which their alleged “expansionist” policies were charged to have led both Arabs and Jews. While ruling figures such as Moshe Dayan defined expansion and conflict with Arabs as inherent to the settler Zionism and its aims, al-Ittihad stated a hope that that enterprise could have taken another path that would have created joint interest and a kind of community between “Arabs” [=Palestinians] and Jews.
Speaking at the graduation of a new batch of Israeli military officers in September 1968, Moshe Dayan in response to a wish for peace among a growing number of individuals in his Ashkenazi constituency, may have himself toyed with the concept, but mounted an elaborate argument that peace was impossible. He referred back to the “ethical Zionists” among the pioneers who wanted to build a Hebrew speaking nation in Palestine without harming its Arabs and in harmony with them. Dayan cited Dr Glatzkin Rubin (d. 1942): he represented Rubin as having come to realize that the construction of the Yishuv (Jewish settlement) could not but radically harm the interests of the local Arabs. “In every place where we settle a land, this must inevitably lead to the banishment of those workers currently there”. Given that most of the Jewish immigrants were “persons who had no resources, they might well come to take the bread from the mouth of the Arabs.” Rubin finally came to conclude that it was impossible for the Zionist settlement to win the agreement of the Arabs, and that the Arabs would violently resist the Jewish immigration from time to time: thus, the Jews had to prepare for blood-sacrifices.
Dayan was citing the career of Rubin as intellectual and analyst to argue that mutual understanding could not be attained through negotiations with the Arabs, which were thus pointless. Rubin had concluded that “what we can take from the Arabs with their consent we do not need, while what we need we cannot take from the Arabs with their consent.”
Although al-Ittihad did not highlight this much, it is clear that Dr Rubin after he had hardened, and now Moshe Dayan in 1968, were arguing against a substantial minority tradition in the Zionist settlement that wanted to develop normal constructive relations with the neighboring Arabs. Dayan in 1968 through his lumbering review of a bygone pre-statehood Zionist, was trying to close readiness, now Israel so clearly had the upper hand, to try to reach some sort of settlement with “the Arabs” (who in reality were many groups in the region, including the Palestinians among them).
al-Ittihad read Dayan as one of the Zionists who pursued territorial expansion: it was this drive that would foreclose any genuine negotiations. Those inclined to peace and the compromise settlement among Ashkenazi Israelis were ready to consider that the Zionists had taken a wrong fork before the independence, and that the way should be taken back to it [“al-Faza’ min al-Mustaqbal ilal-Madi” (Flight from the Future to the Past), al-Ittihad 27 September 1968 p. 5].
It is not so easy to decode all attitudes of individuals who wrote this and other items in al-Ittihad. Yet it had in it at least some truths in regard to sincerity and to clairvoyance or prescience. While these Arab Communist or mock-Communist writers did not much like the state of Israel, they had become bound to it through the intellectualism in neo-Hebrew that they admired but also enjoyed, and through certain material interests of the Arab populations for which they wrote and orated. Despite labor-segregation, the Histadrut did offer some services to Arabs and Muslims in Israel. These writers may have been sincere in calling for a humane joint community of Jews and Arabs who might have joint interests, characterized by al-Ittihad in narrow-minded class interests that were outdated in the context of “Israel”. It tried to evoke this option for which Israelis could opt as “the peace of the peoples through realizing the rights of the peoples”, “the line of proletarian internationalism and the brotherhood of the peoples, the line of the workers and the toilers, both Jews and Arabs, whose interests do not diverge, and who have a single future. It is the line of our Communist Party, which by no coincidence is the sole [mixed] Arab and Jewish party in this country. The people will speak.”
This passage conveniently overlooked the clear racial-ethnic lines along which the Israeli Communist Party had split into two. Yet neither successor party was solely Arab or Jewish in leaders or membership, and each remained inherently integrationist in its theoretical ideology. Communism may not have had in it enough cordiality to humans to have sustained real universalism or humanism. But it had enough constructive features to get a hearing among an “Israeli-Arab minority” that needed some portion of real community with the two Jewish ethnic groups to tap enough resources to grow, and which had the yearning for community and culture beyond their ethnos that most individuals of a minority do have in any state.
al-Ittihad and the Israeli Arab “communists” were working against the Israeli system more than most “Arabs”, but had to address the openness of many in the minority to benefits that the Israeli system's welfare system had to offer them. Interaction between Palestinians and incoming Jews had led the editorialist - perhaps al-Ittihad editor Emile Habibi himself - to wish for a humane community between “the two peoples” in a joint homeland, that then might in turn lead on to a tighter Israeli single quasi-nation of the USSR or USA style in which the nationalities draw together. The fact of a shared homeland, the joint experience, did legitimize Ashkenazi Jews to him to some extent. This gave Habibi some ability to objectify the Palestinian-Jewish struggle and place it in a relative position in macro-history. “We do not want to ignore the complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict and its sufferings. The Zionist movement inflicted tragedies and segregation upon Arabs and Jews equally. But the [Israeli governing elite’s thesis of] the inevitability of enmity between the two peoples and the difficulty of reconciling them are not theories peculiar to the Zionist movement but the [standard] theory of the chauvinist expansionist national bourgeoisie in all times and countries” [=includes the white-collar Nasserites and Ba’thists of the Arabic World also?].
The article's normalization of more ruthless actions by Israel - bouts of ethnic cleansing? - went further when the editorialist observed that “the process of the formation of nations has not always been clean and ideal. Rather, it has - in history - been accompanied by crimes and bloodshed.” This relativization of violence and expulsion by Israel against Arabs at her birth could, in its psychological impact on his readers, (a) reduce both the impression of formidable might of a Jewish state that for a time towered militarily over the neighbor polities, creating a sense that Israelis would have to negotiate at some point, and (b) soften the image of Israel as uniquely evil in all it had done to its victims, “the Arab Palestinian people”.
Clearly, though, Israel's acts of violence and dispossession had left hard feelings among its Palestinian victims, and fear of retribution in its own ranks. Did any procedure or outlook or ideology exist that could bring together two groups that had had such violent relations? At least formally speaking, Amil Habibi or whoever else may have written the editorial argued that “a magic formula” that was “practical, simple and humanistic ... based on mutual respect for the rights of the two peoples to freedom, stability, peace and progress” was the answer. That approach had in it clear provision for Jews to continue to exercise some form of state sovereignty, albeit modified, alongside the other, Arab, states.
The writer lessened that responsibility of nations for their acts, or regarded those acts as amenable to negotiated settlements, but also put a range of nations together in macro-history in a way that might leave few illusions about any of them. He at any rate was explicit that the Zionist bourgeois nationalism as yet dominating the Israelis was expansionist and a source of endless wars. In this, through, he [=Habibi] could have been echoing a theoretical position of the Marxism-Leninism of the Soviet state to which he was affiliated in the dubious RAKAH fashion. al-Ittihad had to build up its readership among the Muslim majority of Israeli’s Arabs that was cold towards its principles: the paper seldom criticized Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasser or his pan-Arab nationalism. Did Amil Habibi in private regard Nasser’s regime as at the head of another jingoistic nationalist bourgeoisie that had helped cause the 1967 explosion that enabled Israel to expand? Did he want a change of leadership in the Arab countries towards the left as he called for “Israel”? But could some alienation by him from Arab as other nationalisms have gone even further to the extent that, as a born Orthodox Christian, Habibi might have regarded the first formation of the classical Arab nation amid expansion and empire in the name of Islam as having entailed blood and victims like Israeli’s birth had?
Certainly, the empathic posture of Middle Eastern Communists towards discontent and aims among Kurds in ‘Iraq frankly critiqued all forms of Arab nationalism and Arab nationalism regimes, left as well as right, in the period. The theme of the bourgeoisie’s nationalist state of Israel that there was no alternative approach that could bring the two parties together “is only the theory of the chauvinist-expansionist nationalist bourgeoisie in all time and countries” – a formulation that at its letter could be applied to some Arab nationalist movements or government. Were, then, the Arab states part and parcel of Palestinian suffering along with the Israel they only opposed half-heartedly and incompetently? Were they part of the status quo? At its close, the editorial warned that “the people will say its word” as history already had: this phrase at this point may have been starting to lose duality and to bracket all citizens of Israel without duality in a unifying electoral politics.
The editorial bore some identification with the Arab States in their successive defeats at the hands of the Zionists. On the other hand, and although this was still 1968 and Israeli’s 1967 crushing of the Arab regimes was still recent, it had in places leaped over from the formalistically unitary pan-Arab national identification in the region to “al-sha’b al-‘Arabi al-Filastini” - “the Arab Palestinian people.”
Acculturation to Ashkenazi Jews, and joint economic and political life with them that had preceded the 1948 birth of Israel, gave the Arab editorialist some human sympathy towards Jewish “Israelis”. He had a sense that they had been temporarily misled, rather than being irredeemably hostile, and that they could be led by at least their own interests to choose other leaders who would suit the interests of Arabs as well as their own. Dayan’s stress on the inevitability of blood sacrifices in a continuous war with the Arabs, reflected “Juhaynah”, had been crafted by him to control “growing doubts in the people about the benefit of his policy which had not maintained security, but rather widened the bloodshed”. Dayan had announced that the policies of his government had not caused the relationship of warfare in which Arabs and Jews were not caught because “fate has decreed this for us”, “inflicted it on us”. This “Communist” Arab here had a sense of Ashkenazi Jewish Israelis as co-victims of an altruist Zionist leadership of politicians and a manipulated false consciousness.
How serious was this “Arab” writer about building peace between Arabs/the Arab states and Israel? Real concerns, as well as international PR, may have prompted the insistence of the Israeli state that the Arab states prove they desired to live in peace with Israel. This Arab writer, at least at points, did not try to consider their viewpoint. The difficulty in achieving peace was all a matter of Israel accepting UN resolutions. The UN Security Council on 22 November 1967 had passed a resolution that would guarantee - in return for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the occupied territories - the abolition of states of war, and implement the right of all states in the region, including Israel, to exist within secure borders. In return [for Israel allowing a] solution of the problem of the refugees, Israel would gain the right to free navigation through international waterways. The majority of the Arab states had agreed to that United Nations resolution.
The editorialist condemned post-1967 “Israel” for rejecting the Arab nations’ recent acceptance of the UN’s 1947 partition recommendations as a basis for a settlement. He scored a hit when he noted that Dayan rejected as not offering enough to Israel the new UN resolution also [“Juhaynah” (=Amil Habibi?), “al-Faza’ min al-Mustaqbal ilal-Madi” (Flight from the Future back to the Past), al-Ittihad 27 September 1968 p. 5].
The Israel state of Levi Eshkol and Moshe Dayan may have wanted to hold on to most of the Arab lands it had occupied in 1967. Nonetheless, the various international negotiations for a peace settlement that al-Ittihad highlighted in this period to paint Israel as extreme and irredentist had an odd texture insofar as the Arab states were in effect negotiating with Israel through the intermediary of the Western and Communist states. They were trying to get the Powers to pressure Israel into returning their lands to them. Israel argued that the Arab states had not shown a basic change of heart under which they would open diplomatic relations with Israel and thus inaugurate real normal relations with Israel. Others could argue back that non-recognition of Israel and a refusal of economic transaction with her was the only bargaining chip that the Arab states had to bring to Israel to a point where she might evacuate the Arab lands that she had seized in order to have normal neighborly relations that would serve its own interests.
Exercise of Political and Statal Power by Western
Jews in Israel in the 1950s and 1960s:
Voices from Arabic-Speaking Minorities
Some flexible, and indeed liberal, Arab nationalists declared that they did not wish to send any recently-arrived Jewish populations out of Palestine. Yet, rejecting the Israelis’ thesis of a Jewish nation scattered around the world, they argued that most Jews in Israel were (a) either Arab - and this was true for first language, the mother-tongue of Jews who had come in from the Arab countries and were the majority - or that they (b) would become so through social interaction in a joint state with repatriated Palestinians. But the writers of al-Ittihad were more flexible and more open towards change and new realities than that. The Arab followers of what passed for Communism in Israel were accepting of the development that was taking place in the new state of a new Israeli people molded by Ashkenazi Jews from Europe – Jews whose literateness the pink Arabs admired and tapped, and to whom they wished to get closer to maximize the resources and benefits that they could derive in the shared state and society.
al-Ittihad had an eye for fluidity and new chances in mixed contexts that was unlike the insistence on fixed principles and rights of linguistic nationalists, Arab or Zionist. It seems that what Marxist texts and Soviet communications they dipped into, and their spirit that was so in accord with middle-modernism, had helped them after all. The attention al-Ittihad gave to uncertainties and metamorphoses in national identities may have had in it some hope that if the new Israeli nation forming became different and separate enough from the West, and localistic enough - then it might admit the Arab citizens, or nearly. (In the upshot, in our new 21st century the Arabs who remained after 1947-1949 continue to be separated as undesirable resident aliens in the Israeli system, although with some rights in the center’s electoral politics that blacks did not have in apartheid South Africa).
In a 1968 editorial, al-Ittihad looked for margins of discourse and law where the very tight connection between (a) religion and perceived race and (b) nationality or nationalities in Israeli life looked to be becoming attenuated and that it could snap. Controversial margins where the connection between Judaism racially transmitted through a mother and Jewish nationality could start to unravel in the Jewish state offered hope for desperate Arabs in “Israel” that place, and a localistic radically secular emerging form of culture could solder Arabs and Jews together in a real joint citizenship. Arab “Communists” were ready to hope because they took left Zionism on its own face value that it was a system that had almost purged community of religious belief and practice. These secularized Arabs did not see the direction in which Israeli’s polity and society would shortly head –-- to religious revivalism and a strong attempt to impose a theocracy. There were one or two items in al-Ittihad, though, that did glimpse the expansionist theocratic chauvinism that was to come.
An exceptionally full sitting of Israel’s Supreme Court had just examined an appeal by naval officer Binyamon Shalit that his children by his Scottish non-Jewish wife be registered as of no religion but of Jewish nationality. The Arab editorial griped that the religious laws that the Israeli state applied in civic matters had obliged the Minister of the Interior to declare the children of the Officer Christians in religion and Scots in nationality: they could not be Jews either by religion or as nationality.
The conventionalization of the formation and evolution of community that the officer evinced had great appeal for the Arab “Communists”. It was that nationalities are not inherent or inherited but that they evolve through coincidences, socialization, places where people happen to come together, and choices, or not making choices. Since neither the Jewish Israeli officer nor his wife believed in any religion, he argued that only nationality was at issue. He wanted to let the social and cultural factors of their Israeli setting determine the nationality of his kids as Jewish. al-Ittihad editorialist “Ibn Yaqut” did not expect the Israeli Supreme Court to decide in an open way on Shalit’s case, but solely by the laws it had to implement. Instead, he tried to formulate “a scientific non-judicial study of the national question in Israel”. Posing the question if it were valid to use the term “Jewish nationality” to describe the nationality of the people who now had come to live in Israel, al-Ittihad denied that definition by classical Zionist ideology. At the same time, al-Ittihad recognized the solid successes that the Zionists were by then notching up in integrating a real new nation in Israel, increasing the chances of that state to survive.
To some extent, in contending that there was no global single Jewish nation, that Jews in the USSR, the USA etc are “nationally part of the nations in which they live, economically, culturally, socially and politically,” the editorial linked itself to Marxist assumptions, and also to common sense and some realities that were developing in the USA at least. While the Rakah activists’ Communism did not have a strong texture to it, they had hit it off with the Russian and Bulgarian women during the conferences. They wished the Soviet Union well, and it would have been embarrassing to admit that the particularistic Jewish elements of identity in Soviet Jewry were somewhat to outweigh Soviet integrative ones, and so finally took a large number of ex-Soviet Jews to Israel as migrants from the 1980’s. The editorial was in search of margins to Zionist-Israelis discourse that would cut down the size of the nation that the Palestinians faced and bring the conflict down to manageable internal proportions. It cited the old vision of Dr Jacob Glatskin that (a) as the Jews became established in Palestine/Israel, while a large number of Jews continued to live outside for a long time to come, that would lead with time to (b) a division in the Jewish people in which the Jews in Israel would become a distinct nationality. The al-Ittihad editorial also cited Dr Nahum Goldmann (1895-1982: President of the World Jewish Congress 1951-1978) when he opened the Zionist movement’s recent world conference that the Jewish youth outside Israel had turned its back on Zionism and its ideology and that their progressive sections were joining in humanitarian battles at the side of the other youth in their countries. Goldmann had no doubt sharply attuned himself to the mood of Jewish-American youth whose pink and radical members had indeed sunk themselves heart and soul into the struggle of African-Americans to win civil rights, without much thought of Judaism or for the faraway state of Israel in the Middle East. In any case, Goldmann, a veteran of the Zionist movement to settle Palestine who never took Israeli citizenship, was looked upon as a soft maverick in Israel and in the global Zionist movement because of his push for a peaceful compromise by Israel with the Arab states and peoples.
The Arab-Israeli writer was validating the title of the Israeli naval officer to live in the same country, and legitimizing the existence of his non-racial, infidel Jewish political nationality when he stated that “the naval officer was right to want to have the nationality of his children decided by the framework of the cultural and social conditions of their environment. In his case, they are the conditions of the Israeli nationalism, not some religious Jewish one.”
The passage of the decades has placed this Arab writer who sneakingly wanted to be an Israeli in a pitiless perspective. How sweetly modernist he was in his assumption of the continuous Progress and perfectibility of Man, that no preceding hard-and-fast long-term molds could hold back the advance and freedom of humans to choose. The editorial was soaked in not so much the bygone Communism’s drive to eliminate all religions as by high-modernism’s benignity to organized creeds that had withdrawn forever from the governmental and public sphere. This item saw the Israeli system’s reference to some old Jewish law as an anachronism, but in so doing shared that system’s pervasive modernism and atheism:
“It is a truly great irony that clerics should rule/dominate in any place in the twentieth century --– and even more ironical that it should dominate in a land whose leaders claim that they have transferred civilization from the West and distributed it in the East.”
The watery-Communist editorial questioned if Israel lived up fully to its secularist principles, and its arrogance towards Arabs who were indeed more backward. But it did not truly question these modernist principles from the West to which the al-Ittihad intellectuals themselves more than warmed. Simple diametrical, categorical green branches and the quick-circulating sap of adolescence and early adulthood in which everything seems possible! - even to end a racism bolstered by a religion few in the majority credit, but which still fatally hems in minority humans [“Fikrah fil-Qawmiyyat al-Isra’iliyyah al-Iklirikiyyah” (Thoughts on Clerical Israeli Nationalism,) al-Ittihad 23 July 1968 p. 3).
In coming decades, the Judaism that had looked to be dying in Israel would expand in Israeli politics and government, sometimes in new protean mutations.
The Rise of Political Islam and the Death of Palestinian Thin Marxism
An external development in international relations - the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan - solidified perceptions among the Arab Muslim masses that the communist Rakah political bosses did not represent them. The Rakah organ al-Ittihad published a variety of articles in increasingly desperate attempts to stem the fierce reaction against the USSR - and against their own local Israeli communist Party at grass roots level in the Arab villages - that the Soviet Union’s occupation of that Muslim country had unleashed. The rear-guard Arab Communist holding action had as its main objectives:
a) Restore the shattered image of the Soviet Union as an ally and friend of Arabs/Muslims against the West’s hegemony
b) Refocus on imperialist America as “the basis of all evil in our world”, and specifically as the enemy of popular hopes in the Middle East and ally of Israel.
c) Discredit as allies of the hated Americans (and thus indirectly Israel) two rather different Muslim revivalist forces influencing Arab Israelis: Iran’s Khomeiniites and the conservative peninsular Arab Islamic states, especially Saudi Arabia.
d) Mount very cursory, pro forma, defenses of the communist central government in Afghanistan, “the victorious democratic-patriotic revolution in Afghanistan that works to lead the people out from the darkness of feudalism to the horizons of the 20th century”. 1950 binary modernism and developmentism in its Stalin manifestation in 1986, the outset of the post-modern world!
e) Smear the Afghan Mujahidin as linked to Israel.
Representative was the strident late 1986 article by Salim Jubran: “Israel … Protector of Islam? Shamir … Head Religious Shaykh of Islam?!!” This propaganda barrage from Jubran at no point mentioned that any Soviet troops had ever entered Afghanistan. Given the unpopularity that the Soviet Union had created for itself by its invasion among Arabic-speakers in Israel as elsewhere, this indirect “defense” could not even mention its name. It defined the conflicting parties in Afghanistan tendentiously and facilely: since the “triumph of the democratic–patriotic revolution in Afghanistan”, a struggle had raged between the government, striving to bring the people out of the darkness of feudalism into the twentieth century, and the feudalists and reactionary tribal chiefs and all those suckers of the blood of the people whom the new equality and campaigns against illiteracy threatened. These “mock-refugees” had regrouped for training by America in the Pakistan of Ziya’ ul-Haqq, “eater of the flesh of humans, the hangman of Pakistan”. [Ziya was a military dictator who sometimes executed people, but was he that bad?] The Arab-Israeli communists’ attack or counter-attack mixed (a) the jargons and motifs of current Soviet propaganda but also (b) earlier anti-Sa’udi and anti-Pakistan themes that Nasser’s Egypt had installed much more deeply in the minds of Arab Israelis in the villages through the “Voice of the Arabs” broadcasts with their mass audience in the 1950s and 1960s. Despite the attempts of the “Rakah” Communists to draw on the more indigenous but dwindled ethos of radical Nasserite pan-Arabism to smear the Afghan resistance as instruments of American “imperialism”, and its instruments the Arab monarchies and Pakistan, the defense of Soviet expansionism would not resonate much among the Arab Muslim masses in Israel. The credibility of Islamists in “Israel” who denounced Soviet expansionism in Afghanistan to the masses dismayed al-Ittihad. “Every one who tries to fight Communism, Progress and Liberation under the mask of religion when religion is unconnected with him must be unmasked by the masses so that his real politically and socially reactionary features are revealed”. [=At that point, the Arab masses in Israel were giving an open-minded hearing at least to neo-fundamentalists in their communities who denounced the atheistic Soviet Union and Communism]. The article was primarily written to check the defection of the wide sector of Arab Israelis who were practicing Muslims and who had never been attached to the “atheistic” Rakah for more than some narrow needs and benefits that it did deliver. Accordingly, writer Salim Jubran made much play on the Muslim Arab minority’s consciousness that it was “the rulers of Israel” who are the one’s who “destroyed mosques, plowed under Islamic cemeteries and usurped the awqaf” (Islamic endowments) [- not the Soviet Union whose name Jubran kept out of his discourse]. If the Communist paper could convince a fair number of even the pietists in its audience that the Jewish state aided the Afghan resistance, Islamic solidarity with the Afghans and the rage against the Soviet Union would both evaporate at once. The article accordingly excerpted a report published in the Yugoslav communist newspaper Nin that Israel had been among the main foreign suppliers of arms to the Afghan Mujahidin.
Sabri Jubran’s article was reluctant testimony to the pervasively Islamic terms in which many Muslim “Arab Israelis” had come to view the Israeli government and international relations by 1986. The main religion of the minority and (b) politics both internal and regional had now pervasively blended in the minds of a growing sector of “Arab Israelis”.
The “Islamic Revolution of Iran” was drawing even more support from ordinary Muslims in Israel than the holy Afghan warriors fighting the atheist Russians. Iran’s Khomeiniites legitimated themselves as the intransigent first enemy of America and Israel, although also (but this was only for a time) Russia. When the Irangate scandal exposed America’s and Israel’s secret shipments of arms to Khomeini’s Iran, it was a major windfall for the Arab “Communists” in Israel. The links between hard-pressed Israel and America on one hand and Iran on the other effectively discredited the anti-imperialist Islamic credentials that Khomeini’s “Islamic revolution” had hitherto commanded among a growing number of Arab Israelis.
The Rakah “communists” denounced America as much as they did Israel, although there was more to that than diluted Marxism. Wrote al-Ittihad: “America does not want the ‘Iraqis or Iranians to build a factory for any worker or engineer, or any house for a family, or a school for a child. What America wants is for the Islamic and Arab Easts to remain a barren land that will grow only ignorance and oil, hunger and oil, weakness and oil”. Thus, Jubran’s article took up some of the terminology of the new, coming “Islamic current” in Israel, in its preparedness to use for sake of that argument “the Islamic World” as a category of discourse [Salim Jubran, “Isra’il… Hamiyat al-Islam? Shamir… Shaykh al-Islam?!!” (Israel … Protector of Islam? Shamir … Head Religious Shaykh of Islam?!!), al-Ittihad 28 November 1986 p. 7].
These 1986 articles in al-Ittihad were a straw in a wind that was to become very fierce - the transfer of leadership over the most alienated in the Arab minority from (a) the aging “Communists” and pan-Arabists to (b) new youthful salafist Islamic fundamentalists.
The local government elections in “Israel” in early 1989 showed how hard it had become for the ideologically non-indigenous communists to hold onto their influence and representation in the face of the development of mass Islamic revivalism. About 90% of the voters turned out in depressed Umm al-Fahm, the second-largest Arab City in the Zionist entity. The so-called “Islamic fundamentalists” won the mayoralty and 12 of 15 seats in Umm al-Fahm municipality, sweeping aside the Arab communists who had run the city for 15 years [Lachlan Shaw, “Election Success for Likud and Muslim Hardliners”, Melbourne Age 2 March 1989 p. 8].
Truncated Interaction with the Outside Arabs
By the end of the 1980s, the Arab Communists in Israel had managed to achieve a hearing of sorts in the Arab states - even oil-rich ones vocal in their religiosity - via left-wing and radical secularist elements active in Arab journalism. One of these hearings, with pluralistic scrutiny, occurred in Saudi Arabia itself and drew in the Islamic right. Kuwayt's Islamic al-Mujtama’ magazine was appalled in 1989 that Emile Habibi and a Communist peace conference in the declining Soviet Union could be projected in the Mecca quality paper 'Ukkaz. Yet the Islamist Kuwayti journalist Sa'id al-Ghamidi did not stretch his mind to consider Habibi's particular Arab-Israeli situation as well as viewpoints on their own merits: he instead tried to seize on the matter to destroy the relatively secularist or modernist litterateurs in Sa'udi Arabia who were drawn - some only aesthetically - to the Israeli Arab's discourse.
Akh, this is all just arguments in cafes! Not very open to radically new or dissonant views or data, the “fundamentalist” al-Mujtama’ defined “treason” in a multi-dimensional and rather comprehensive way. In its political sense, treason means to conspire with the enemies against the safety of the country. A graver form of treason, though, is direct or concealed attack against Belief and Religion, and those central assumptions open to no negotiation or dialogue. The 'ulama' of Islam have unanimously ruled that anyone who mocked even the smallest aspect of Islam is an unbeliever: thus, anyone who defends such an enemy of God and His religion as Emile Habibi - or is just complicit to that with silence (=Arab liberals who didn't consider Marxist sniping against religion worth wasting time to refute) - must be an apostate and a traitor to the Muslim states. al-Ghamidi defined Habibi as from youth an atheist who never ceased to strive to impose the dictatorship of the proletariat: a stereotype that took little account of how one man changes in his life, and how profoundly Arab was Habibi beneath all his papier-mache masks and all the permutations of his decades.
A Soviet-organized conference in Ashkabad, Central Asia, had occasioned exchanges between Israeli and Arab delegates that led a chain of Arabic newspapers and magazines in a range of Arab states to seriously consider the views of the Israeli Communist Party veteran Emile Habibi for perhaps the first time. Habibi, an idiosyncratic stylist in Arabic, had been building up a modest reputation as a modernist innovator among Arab World literary critics on the rather limited base of a few slim novels. Held in May 1989 in Ashkabad, the capital of Soviet-occupied Turkmenistan, the intellectual and political seminar had had the title "The Role of Cultural Figures in the Establishment of Peace and Understanding in Asia".
In its furious response to the critics and creative writers who were defending Habibi (in Saudi Arabia!), al-Mujtama’ magazine showed that it had a detailed file of the Israeli Arab's biodata, describing him as one of the Christians of Palestine who in 1940 became one of its communists. The Communist Party, which had been founded by only Jews in 1922, had few Arab members until the Comintern told it to recruit Arab cadres in 1930. In 1947, a split occurred in the League of National Liberation ('Isbat al-Taharrur al-Watani) (which had been formed from Arab members who had split off from the Communist Party) as a result of support given by the Soviet Union to such “Jewish rights” in Palestine as immigration, and then by the Soviet ambassador to the UN's partition resolution of 1947. The Islamist writer categorized Emile Habibi as among those who stood with the Soviet position as against others who opted to oppose it.
al-Ghamidi accurately reconstructed that due to the Marxists' support for the partition resolution, "the masses of the [Palestinian] Muslims rose up against them and burned the premises and facilities of the League." The memory among veteran Israeli Arab Communists that the violence that hit them in 1947-1950 came more from their religious fellow-Palestinians than from nascent Israel, long tended to make them wary towards Arab nationalism, not to say Arab revivalist-Islamist movements. Islamist al-Mujtama's sharp focus on the minutiae of Habibi's career as a member of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) to 1972 and as editor of al-Ittihad, had the frozen, intimate, mortal hatred worthy of some Jewish intelligence agency out to destroy him meticulously.
The contributor to the Kuwayti Islamist journal had read (a) the recent controversies about Habibi in the Arab presses, (b) a book by two Westerners reviewing the positions of various Arabs and Muslims on Islam, and (c) an edition of Habibi's novel Ukhtiyyah. In an uneven and sometimes garbled way, then, Habibi had at last got the wide Arab World audience of which all isolated Arab Israeli authors dream.
Habibi's radical secularism, his gung-ho, off-hand dismissal of Ikhwanite Islamic revivalism, goaded Sa'id al-Ghamidi into paroxysms of fury. The latter did not consider that Habibi may have been targeting the Israelis and Islamophobic Westerners rather than his neighborhood Islamist opponents when he observed that "cultural backwardness is not confined to the Arabs who have the Muslim Brotherhood and other organizations: the Jews also have fanatical religious parties that win cabinet posts". Habibi sidestepped and danced around his two Western interviewers with effortless ease when they tried to pin him down on Muslim neo-fundamentalism: "why do we not study the matter of the religion most widespread in our world, namely Buddhism, and examine its awakening?" [=Many Westerners were Islamophobes]. When asked whether the Islamic system of government should be applied by the Arab peoples he answered: "As far as I am concerned, religion is a personal matter that when it passes beyond those bounds becomes a slogan. However, we Arabs in the Occupied Territories refuse to struggle in the name of religion".]
Some among the Arab delegations to Ashkabad had proposed that the recommendations of the conference should include one defining Zionism as a racist movement. The Kuwayt Islamic revivalist magazine depicted Habibi as speaking on behalf of the Jewish representative in his two-man Israel delegation in opposing the resolution, which Habibi was reported by al-Sharq al-Awsat to have described as "an attempt to sabotage the peace that could save children from death and which Israel seeks". The newspaper even depicted Habibi as bridling at a paragraph in the closing statement of the conference that condemned Israel for introducing nuclear arms into the Middle East. As a spokesman for the left-nationalist Arab forces in Israel, Habibi's cutting critiques of racist features of Israeli ideology and polity would enrage Israel's leaders well into the 1990s. Yet even such a truly international Arabic journal as al-Sharq al-Awsat could not in 1989 catch the nuances of his discourse. Emile Habibi as Israel's stooge is hardly credible, although he always accepted the shared humanity of most Ashkenazi Israelis on some plane, and he may have wanted to demonstrate to the egregious Likud government of 1989 that the oppositionist Israeli Arabs could also be constructive about the conflict, that they could be helpful in ending it, if the Israeli system gave them that chance.
The Gulf Islamist writer al-Ghamidi was furious that Habibi "outrightly" called on the Arabs to recognize and deal with Israel as a real fact. Habibi wanted his own special Arab social group to survive and found it hard to get across the communication gulf. "You may not understand that our [crucial national struggle] after the Catastrophe and after the establishment of the state of Israel was simply to win Israeli nationality so that we would not be considered infiltrators. Please try to understand me: we used to organize strikes and demonstrations to win Israeli nationality". The Kuwayti Islamist writer's sarcasm refused to recognize as struggle the survival strategy of an Arabo-Muslim group threatened by a situation beyond anything Kuwayt had ever known - with expulsion by the Israeli state a daily possibility. Yet some in the sovereign Arab states were giving Habibi's experience and responding ideology at least a hearing. al-Ghamidi fumed that the writer and the newspaper "did not mention the positions of Ahmad Yasin or any other of the figures of the Muslim uprising in Palestine". In 1989, the Islamist writer al-Ghamidi still saw his ideological group as the underdogs whose discourse even on so perceivedly religious a cause as Palestine tended to be drowned out by other discourses by intellectuals in what was a pluralistic situation. "It is as though the issue meanders back and forth between the communists and the secularists and the Christians and the Jews" with public debate controlled by "pseudo-Muslim writers who make what is allowed forbidden and what is forbidden allowed". al-Mujtama’ voiced explosive anger that "this article, and others like it, could be printed prominently in the weekly cultural supplement of a [Saudi Arabian] paper that comes out in the vicinity of" Islam's holiest sites.
The Kuwayt-based Islamists registered with concern the great respect that Arab literary modernists voiced towards Habibi's slim novels, which they consider the truest portrayal of the Palestinian condition. In 1974 he serialized in al-Ittihad al-Waqa'i' al-Gharibah fi Ikhtifa' Sa'id Abil-Nahs al-Mutasha'il. In 1985 he brought out al-Ukhtiyyah. al-Ukhtiyyah had a fantastic iconoclastic whimsy that deconstructed if not everything at least many things. It implied that the Qur'an's prohibitions of pork and female infanticide did not register any prevalence of those two practices in the Arabian Peninsula overall. Habibi was charged by al-Mujtama’ to have implied that keeping females veiled all their lives even into the twentieth century had affinities to burying them alive on birth and that the veil under classical Islam was a practice confined to well-to-do strata, and not practiced by laboring peasant women (akkarat fallahah) who toiled with their men in the fields. The peasantry and workers were the real builders of classical Arab civilization, not “the gluttonous amoral Caliphs” (mad'uwwul-khilafah al-akkalun al-nakkarun). [Sa'id al-Ghamidi, "Namudhaj Akhar min Namadhij al-Hadathah" (Another Instance of Modernism), al-Mujtama’ 11 December 1989 pp. 49-51. al-Ghamidi's article mainly drew on a defense of Emile Habibi published in the literary supplement of Ukkaz no. 8488 10 - 4 - 1410H. It also drew for its own purpose on coverage of the Ashkabad moot from al-Sharq al-Awsat (London) no. 3836 30 May 1989. Natan Zakh was the Jewish member of the Israel delegation. al-Ghamidi also constructed a certain image of Habibi's attitudes to Islam from interviews of the latter by Luk Barbulsku and Philip Cardinale, Ra'yuhum fil-Islam tsd Ibn Mansur al-'Abd Allah (London: Dar al-Saqi 1987)].
I think that al-Ghamidi was right that Emile Habibi had a certain alienation from Islam, but he exaggerated it for his own salafist purposes - ie. to destroy liberal Muslims. Habibi wrote about the Qur'an like a non-Muslim, which he was by his orthodox Christian birth and by his subsequent formally atheistic Communism (if he ever really believed it as a system). Habibi was absolutely right that swine meat was not much eaten in Arabia prior to the advent of the Prophet Muhammad. al-Ghamidi could have argued back that the limited relevance of that prohibition, locally speaking, bore out that the Qur'an was a book to structure universal history from God: that neither Muhammad nor the environment of Arabia composed it. It may be that in relativizing the killings and expulsions of the Palestinians by Israel as it came to birth, Habibi implied that the first Arab-Islamic conquests had had more violence than most Arab nationalists or Islamists allowed in the 20th century. If so, that alienation might have come from myths in Orthodox oral tradition that he could have imbibed in childhood in Haifa: those myths saw violence and destruction and forced conversions by the Arab conquerors that written historical sources disprove.
Emile Habibi was a politician who had to maneuver, and he seldom criticized Islam or Muslims. Yet he also has to be put in his context of some historically long-positive relations between (a) Islamist Palestinians and (b) Palestinian and neighboring Christians. We see this when the Jesuit-founded al Bashir in Bayrut publicized the pan-Islamic appeal of Abdul Qadir al-Muzaffar over Palestine (al Bashir 15 July 1922). This was an appeal of Palestinian Muslims to the ‘ulama’ of Egypt to come out against the Zionist programs of settlement: al Bashir further reported that the Muslim Palestinians sent a delegation to Makkah demanding the aid of all Muslim ‘ulama’, seeking from the Muslims on the day of their [sacred] pilgrimage that they unitedly support the Palestinians in their struggle to repel the menace of Zionism” ["The Muslims and the Future of Palestine", al Bashir 15 July 1922].
But although al Bashir may have momentarily sounded like a pan-Islamic paper, the items in fact showed the Catholic Church in a good and militant light in relation to international Islam: the Palestinian Muslims were "demanding of the ‘ulama’ of Egypt that they follow in the footsteps of the Holy See (the Vatican) in opposing the establishment of a Zionist authority of the Holy Lands” and were sending a delegation to the Pope as well! (ibid). Apart from the opposition to Zionism in the Maronite religious press, hard-cover literature of a more permanent nature was produced by Maronite clergy analyzing the issue from a heavily religious, Christian, angle. al Bashir on 4 January, 1921 advertised a book The Jews In History and The Holy Land and Zionism “by the Palestine scholar Father Bulus 'Abbud. The benefit of these lectures and speeches needs no explanation. The critical situation in Palestine increases their relevance. The fame and eloquence of the writer and his mastery of history, will guarantee their wide circulation. They can be purchased from Musa Afandi Satir’s bookshop at No. 1 Gouraud St, Bayrut” [Advertisement in al-Bashir 4 January 1921].
While reservations in Catholic theology of the time towards Jews played a role, past cultural self-expression by al Bashir and other Maronite Lebanese particularists worked to carry the campaign against Zionism beyond a mere publicity device crafted to whip up local support in restive Lebanon for France’s protective presence.
4: Israel’s Arab Citizens in the 21st Century in Two Aspects: Loss of the Land, and Culture Rights
Livelihoods: Tense Post-Modern Integration of Arabs and Jews in Israel
We have reviewed the drive of Israel’s system in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s to confiscate the lands of its Arab subjects and, while transforming them into a sort of lumpen proletariat, segregate them also inside special strips, and within special institutions such as Arab schools. Yet dispossession of the land did not end the previous village-communities and clans that place and those spaces had framed, because - as with some Zulus and Xhosa - some Arabs could commute from the Arabistans to the cities that the settler nationality built, to do menial work there. Yet an Arab half-proletariat took form that had face-to-face dealings with Jews on most days.
Face-to-face interaction around the nexus of work for money posed existential dilemmas for Israel’s more Zionist Ashkenazi Jews on two planes. “Israel” was constructed by Zionists to be unique in two ways: place in which a Jewish race would be the overwhelming majority, and a space in which Hebrew would again, after something of a gap, become the general language of daily speech and general print-discourse. Many Jews in both Israel and the West know how recent and how fragile are those two achievements. If the Arabs become too many, both the Jewishness of the State and its language could go.
Many Ashkenazim have never forgotten that the Israel state’s neo-Hebrew is a constructed language put together at breakneck speed that was made into a daily speech against very great odds by nationalists with superb energy and cultural skills. Neo-Hebrew was once an act of extreme will-power, and it is now being riddled by the English of globalization, in which the Israel state strives to install itself. The speaking of Arabic in Israeli public space by an Arab minority that is fast growing can trigger a touchy streak in Israel’s Ashkenazi Jews. In 2004 the fast food chain McDonald’s, “an equal opportunities employer”, ordered employees to speak only Hebrew to customers. It banned the use of Arabic, in the formality of the Basic Laws of Israel an official language with Hebrew, and in practicalities spoken by 20% of the population (not counting Oriental Jews). McDonald’s rule against Arabic was made after a McDonald’s worker, Abeer Zinaty, 20, a university student supporting her studies by serving, claimed that she was dismissed from the branch of McDonald's in Ramlah, near Tel Aviv for talking in Arabic on the job. Musawah (“Equality”), a civil rights group representing Arab Israelis, charged racism and raised the case in the Israeli parliament and with the Ministry of Employment: the sacking was then publicized in the major Israeli daily, Ma’ariv, Israel’s Arabic daily al-Ittihad, al-Ahram Weekly in Cairo, Britain’s Guardian, and Australia’s The Age. Arabs, Muslims and liberal progressives abroad engaged McDonald’s corporate headquarters in the USA with emails and protests. McDonald’s many branches in Egypt could face hostility over Zinaty. In the globalized post-modern world with its supra-national conglomerates, it has become much harder for a local clique, nationality or state to violate the cultural rights of minorities: discrimination in one place can affect global macro-profit. McDonald’s Israel said to Musawah that it had reversed its prohibition on its Arab workers speaking Arabic to each other and to customers, but its US headquarters continued to stonewall and provide contradictory information.
There are deformed elements in the Israeli system, and in past interactions between some Ashkenazi Jews and some Palestinian “Arabs”, and also new global processes, that could work to integrate the two language groups into equal co-citizens in Israel. The principle that Arabic should be an official language alongside Hebrew was one such element, alas not carried out enough in reality thus far. For Musawah in 2004, McDonald's was only one case where Arabs were banned by Jewish-run companies from speaking their mother tongue. Many Israeli Arabs and Palestinians from East Jerusalem suppress their language and identity to work in such establishments: Musawah was considering multiple legal actions. Yet economic joint activity, livelihoods in structures controlled by the dominant group, can amount to a deformed partial integration between two groups each of which sees the other as a separate race. The case of Abir Zinaty in 2004 showed that organizing ethnic advocacy groups, appealing to mainstream relatively liberal Hebrew newspapers, to the Israeli judiciary, and lobbying capitalist transnationals and media abroad, can win some redress and some chances and livelihoods for Israel’s Arab minority.
The thrust by Israel’s Arab citizens to integration with the majority has to be a hair-trigger thing at best. Suicide attacks during the second Intifadah made the Jews of Israel more distrustful of its Arab minority as well. Israeli politicians regularly spoke about the threat that Arab Israelis posed to the security of Israel. But much more important was the threat from them to the demography of Israel as the Jewish state. In the end, for the chauvinists among the Ashkenazim it is that the citizen Arabs exist, not what they might do or are unlikely to do. In December 2003, Benjamin Netanyahu, not looking as young as once and for the time just minister of finance, told a conference: "even if the Arabs integrate wonderfully with us, when their numbers reach 35% to 40% of the Israeli population, the Jewish state will at that point cease to exist" [Conal Urquhart (in Jerusalem), The Guardian, March 11, 2004].
There is a real risk of elements that have become central in political power in Israel suddenly snapping and expelling most Arabs from the territory of pre-1967 Israel. The Israeli Arabs exist - that is “the Arab problem”. They could come to speak only Hebrew even among themselves, make themselves unceasingly useful to the Israeli state, be very undemanding about the roles and livelihoods allowed them so long as they somehow make ends meet. Their problem is that they are not the right race. They are a problem for Jewishness, even if they like Jews - because the more they like Jews and Jewishness the more they’ll want to get in. About 30% of Jewish Israelis in opinion polls have regularly over decades endorsed the expulsion of Israel’s Arab citizens. The constant international scrutiny of Israel that inhibits her, but also the positive shards in Israeli historical memory, and some exchanges of culture elements like food, some splinters of cordiality between individuals, work in the other direction for Israel’s future.
The Bedouin in the Negev/al-Naqab: the Struggle For Landrights
The basic assumption of historical Zionists has been - and for many remains - that “the Land of the Jews” belongs of right only to the Jews, Ashkenazi ones in the first place. The Arabs are squatters and illegals. Our study has set out the early decades of the process of the Zionist nationalist confiscation of the landholdings of Arabs in Israel. The Israeli state’s segregation of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship within continuously contracting space has in our new century reached its final stage. The progressive confiscations have now triggered off a mini-intifadah among the Israeli Druze, the group that had more individuals who worked in with the Israeli system than other Arabic-speakers had had. Confiscation of lands of the “bedouin” of the Naqab (Heb: “Negev”) Desert and segregationist curtailment of space allowed them by the Jewish State has been another constant in the sixty-odd years of history of Israel that is now reaching its crescendo. We must note, though, “noble savage” images of the bedouin Arabs among some early Israelis that may have won some of them better treatment from the new State: Moshe Dayan sometimes put a group of them on display as his exotic private guard at functions of state and his own weddings. The texture is not the best, yet small openings might some day get Israel’s Arabs in.
Few groups remain stationary and stagnant over decades. Few groups are solely victims: even under highly racist systems they maneuver quickly and with intelligence to carve out some agency and often tragi-comical space that offer them some resources that they turn to their tenacious self-development. Even when they gained less knowledge through education, they are every bit as intelligent as the thankfully bored officials of the systems that circle them to take away even more. For survival, aboriginal groups make themselves amateur acute psychologists who build up intricate understanding of the settler nationality that takes their land but with whom they will have to live for the long term. The odds against the Bedouin becoming modern and literate in Israel were greater perhaps than for any other minority, yet in the 21st century they now have built a chance at achieving it.
We focus here the ethos and subjective identifications of the stratum of Negev Bedouin that is trying to institutionalize and modernize, as articulated in their Arabic newspaper Akhbar al-Naqab.
Once the Bedouin aboriginals (“Badw”) of the Naqab ranged with their camels across large expanses of semi-arid land. The six decades from 1950-2010 saw the progressive confiscation by successive Israeli governments of their grazing-lands, leading to an often desperate and bullied sedentary life, but one in which the dispossessed bedouin Arabs tried to achieve modern education. The emblem of the camel’s head staring forward out of the Akhbar al-Naqab had become for most [ex-]”badw” nostalgic memories of a disappeared era and of departed childhoods, a symbolic emblem of a social unit that is nonetheless continuing and carrying itself forward. By 2011, the Israel Badw, stripped of most possessions, had become so beaten down that it was in question if they now (this also applied to Israel’s Arab minority in general) had the will to seriously resist the system. Wrote Sa’id al-Kharrumi: “the Arab minority in the country lives in conditions that are unbearable, especially as regards their continued existence, title to possess lands, and housing [given the Israeli governments’] continuous destruction of homes”. Badw were about to take part with the other sections of Israel’s Arab minority in marches, seminars, strikes, and oratory to the masses, to commemorate the thirty fifth anniversary of the bloody “Land Day” demonstrations by Arabic citizens of Israel that had become an annual national commemoration for Palestinians around the world. But al-Kharrumi did not expect that the Israeli government would pay much attention to such demonstrations and sit-ins by the Arab parties and Arab minority civil society because only a portion of the minority would take part: demonstrations in local regions sometimes were by but a few hundred, while those intended to mobilize protesters across the Israel State as a whole sometimes do not draw more than a few thousand. Would “indifference” (“’adam uktiraath”) of ordinary Arabs beyond the activist organizations to the protest activities they organized continue?
Al-Kharrumi hoped that demonstrations could somehow eventuate in the South in which tens of thousands might take part. That would send a strong message to the Israeli system that it might have to take into account: it never had the usual rallies of a few hundred Badw against the demolitions of homes that the Israel State had kept up unremittingly for decades. al-Kharrumi wanted a strong turnout by the Badw (bedouin) of the Naqab that would be plugged into a huge “central” (markazi) mass-march of 100,000 or 200,000 in the main Arab population center of Galilee. Could “the Arab minority” develop such a mass politics again?
Recent demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of Egyptians had spotlighted the abuses of the Mubarak regime before the whole world, so that it tottered after the decades of its parasitical dereliction. Similar huge demonstrations by “our masses” across Israel might catch world publicity that could make Israeli governments think twice about putting into action some of their more wide-sweeping plans.
The racial minorities that send “strong messages” to systems under which they must live do so in the hope that the protests and demands might somehow change decades-ingrained abuse by a system so that it then might let them in. American Negroes, open as fellow-speakers of English to all the liberal spiels of American WASPs and the burgeoning Jews, sometimes took that “America” at its own valuation - they thought that provisions of the U.S. Constitution, the formal laws, its blue-eyed Christianity, the New York liberals, all might have some real good things to them, and that 'some' of their purveyors might harbor guilty consciences to have been but theoretical. They had to be shamed into living up to their formal principles. Non-violent protest, which pursued radical demands under its Americanist surface and resort to America’s laws, might shame and wear down America into letting a new professional class into Congress, the City and the big companies. Sa’id al-Kharrumi had something like that sense of African-Americans that the system had some positive prescriptions that could be extended into gains in treatment and chances by civilized action from the minority. The Badw section of Israel’s “Arab minority” had to make itself organized and with institutions in order to then make itself such a player in Israel. Sa’id al-Kharrumi in 2011 thought that the Badw had yet to do so. That the protesting associations, the charismatic leaders able to draw a hearing from the masses (“al-fa’’aliyyat al-jamahiriyyah”), the Badw civil society all had no unifying plan of long-term action dissipated all their protests and demands into inconsequence. The poverty-stricken general Arab minority in Israel lacked any general institution to which they could turn to get funds for challenges from the Israeli legal system, law-suits through Jewish lawyers, to hold off announced plans by Israeli administrations to demolish their homes. Poor though they were, the masses had to get together the monies to try to end their victimization [“Hal Nahnu (al-Aqalliyyat al-‘Arabiyyah)bi-Mustawal-Tahaddi?” (Are We, the Arab Minority, at the Level of the Challenge?), Akhbar al-Naqab 24 March 2011].
Thus, the "Akhbar al-Naqab" of the now IT bedouin nomads of the Negev saw some laws and some legal professionals in the Israeli system as neutral and able to help. It was the “Negev bedouin” and the “Israeli Arabs” in general that had to put together the institutions to try to tap help from that margin of the Israeli system to check its lust at its center for other people’s space and lands.
Hey now! Akhbar al-Naqab transmits itself onto the mobile phones of the Badw and of “Israeli Arabs” in general - a mass movement like that led by IT youth in Cairo really could be in the offing! (Albeit on a somewhat smaller scale).
Islamism in the Ideological Flux in the Arab Negev
In the past, the Islam of mainly illiterate bedouin Arabs was a few simple prayers and was in some ways lax. The gradual self-modernization of the Naqab Bedouin in the last three decades has had in it a process of acculturation to literate print-Islam from the whole Middle East, although some forms of salafi or Muslim Brotherhood or Jihadist Islam are glaringly sectionalized in the materials they recycle from classical Islam, and sometimes almost simple. Yet the new Israel “bedouin” take on their wider Palestinian nationality does perceive plural planes of identity, in which Islam is but one (although a central) layer. Identity is variously seen as pan-Palestinian, as a secular Arabness like that in pre-1952 Muslim Egyptian liberalism and in Nasser’s messianic pan-Arab Egypt, and among Cairo’s young IT protesters who have brought down Mubarak - and increasingly in Islamic terms that are realistically thought through. The young Arab intellectuals in the Negev towns are sharply, critically, aware of the practical difficulties of organizing constructive resistance, given the weakness and disorganization of all Arabic groups in Israel.
Those Bedouin activists who experiment with an Islamic orientation in resistance focus the practicalities to that, and the potential for harmful divisiveness that the world-wide “Islamist Reawakening” could have for the minority and in the Middle East as a whole.
As most in the Arab world did, Akhbar al-Naqab reacted with a sharpest focus when middle-class post-modern youth through their mass demonstrations and sit-ins brought down the hoary regimes of Bin ‘Ali in Tunisia and of President Mubarak in Egypt. al-Shaykh Dr Sharif Abu Hani was clearly a middle-aged individual who had followed the outside Arab and Islamic ideologies and regimes for decades - and who moderately saw some good in most of them. Abu Hani wrote in Akhbar al-Naqab that seeing the Egyptians singing en masse at their coming liberation [=on Arab satellite TV] “I, and as I believe all free-spirited and honorable people of the Arab and Islamic Nation (min abnaa’ il-Ummat il-‘Arabiyyah wal-Islamiyyah), found ourselves almost flying on the wings of delight towards Tahrir (Liberation) Square in the Egypt of Arabism and Islam to celebrate with them their joy at the ending of the regime of Husni Mubarak, that great tyrant-oppressor of the whole Arab Nation without any peer or competitor”.
Despite his sense of Mubarak as having suffocated “the religious and the non-religious” equally, Abu Hani saw the Muslim Brotherhood (“the Islamic project in Egypt”) as the main group that had opposed him and that he victimized over the years. Yet that repression was to stop the Ikhwan (Brothers) from getting into the central political system through parliamentary elections. Could a Brotherhood-influenced Palestinian like Abu Hani accept a plural parliamentary system in which a party can only hope to hold power for a time amid full scrutiny? “We [the Arabs in general] want freedom and democracy, not enslavement and tyranny. We want the rotation of authority - not for you tyrants to bequeath it to your sons. We want a free media, not bugles that glorify you day and night”. Throughout the Arab world there still was in early 2011 a pleading with Arab rulers to accept the demands of youth: “we want a peaceful democratic transferal of power, not one to come through revolution and force!!” [The Shaykh Dr Sharif Abu Hani, “Ya Layta Hukkam al-‘Arab Ya’lamun” (If Only the Rulers of the Arabs Can Come to Realize), Akhbar al-Naqab 15 February 2011, downloaded magazine’s website Akhbaruna].
Given the disintegration of long-established governmental systems in the Arab countries, the Sunni-Shi’i sectarian division in the wide Muslim world, and the fragmentation of the Palestinian authority between the PLO and Hamas, the Naqab bedouin and other Arab sectors in Israel could hope for no outside Arab center of strength or power to come to their rescue. Lebanon’s Shi’ite Hizbullah had been directing blows to Israel, with Iran as a sponsor, and Dr Abu Hani in 2011 after all those years and all those events still pinned hopes on Khomeiniite Iran. As a Sunni Arab in background, Dr Abu Hani - who would have liked to help cobble together some grand alliance of all Muslim peoples and states - tried to get to grips with all the hostility Iran had built up among Sunni Arabs since the Imam Khomeini won. He alluded to the numerical importance of the Shi’ah: 200 million of the Muslims of the world were Shi’ites. Ill-feelings were stirred up between Sunnis and Shi’ites by postings on the Arabic internet in which a Shi’ite would criticize some of the classical companions of the Prophet Muhammad (those who prevented ‘Ali from becoming first Caliph after the Prophet died) and a Sunni would retort. This Bedouin (Badwi) activist hinted that outside quarters (=CIA? Israel?) had concocted those posts and controversies on the web to divert the Islamic ummah (supra-Nation) with internal divisions from its serious tasks vis-à-vis “the enemies of the Ummah”. “The ulama’ of the Sultans” - ie. of the Sunni Arab regimes - the “ulama’ of the palaces” diffused further hate-discourse in service of the ruling circles of peninsular Arabian regimes that felt threatened by Shi’ite Iran. In part, Abu Hani was writing and netting to contain the Sunni clerics [and pro-Saddam pan-Arabists?] in Israel itself who retailed the outside denunciations of [pro-Khomeini] Shi’ites as enemies of Islam [The Shaykh Dr Sharif Abu Hani, “Nasihah ilal-La’ibina bi-Waraqat ‘Sunnah-Shi’ah’ “ (Advice to those who play the ‘Sunnah-Shi’ah’ Card), Akhbar al-Naqab 5 April 2011].
A part of the wise, ageing, Dr Abu Hani knew how problematical in themselves were the macro-Arab and macro-Islamic movements and state-units outside Israel. Israel’s Arabs might have to wait a fair time before anything at all out there might get its act together enough even to focus on the minority, let alone give it any type of help however modest.
Wresting Progress through Education
Like Ashkenazi Jews in a virulent Tsarist Russia, and African-Americans in the seven decades that followed the abolition of U.S. slavery, the Negev Bedouin developed a passionate resolve to make themselves as educated as the Ashkenazi Israelis and the outside Arabs. That was the audacity of their hope. There were years in the 1950s and 1960s in which few or no Israeli Arabs passed the secondary school’s Bagarut matriculation certificate that was the precondition to enter university study.
The segregated Israeli educational system gives some agency as well as many of the costs to the locals in developing its schools in Arab areas. Arab-dominated local councils in the Naqab have given priority and all funds that they can spare to facilities - e.g. computers, laboratories, chemicals - “to raise the ratio of those who pass the Bagarut in order to assure that our sons and daughters can continue into tertiary education” (Fa’iz Abu Suhayban, chairman of Rahat municipal council]. 48% of Israeli youth now pass the Bagarut, in the general Arab minority 39.3%, and among the Naqab Arabs 29%, the Bedouin activists focus. (However, the Israeli system has been moving against local councils in the Druze sector of “the Arab minority”: DW) [“Mu’addal Najah il-Bagarut fi Rahat li-’Am 2010 yartafi’u li-Yasila 47.2%” (The Average Figure for Success in the Bagarut in Rahat rises to now reach 47.2%), Akhbar al-Naqab 20 April 2011].
In my book Islam and the Search for African-American Nationhood: Elijah Muhammad, Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam (Atlanta City: Clarity Publishers 2005) I traced the use of Black Muslim nationalist schools as the matrix to produce a new generation with enough ethnic grit, a dash of the religion’s Arabic, and enough modern skills to forge into an American system not eager to have blacks. In regard to Israel’s Arabs, the statal schools themselves provide the basis for national identity by teaching something like print-Arabic. Yet Israel’s standard print-Hebrew curriculum is zealously pursued as the door to higher studies and good jobs for a new Arab generation. With a fig-leaf of protest Holy Arabic, U.S. Black Muslim schools too worked to drill WASP print-English into its pupils for a future that might be the very reverse of withdrawal from the system by a national minority.
All the macro-discourses that came in from Arab and Muslim ideologues and systems beyond the Jewish state over decades - Antun Sa’adah’s pan-Syrianism, Nasserite and Ba’thist pan-Arabism, Muslim Brotherhood Islamism after Israel and Egypt opened diplomatic relations, Saddam Husayn’s heartening broadcasts, the statal Islam of the peninsular Arab monarchs, the promises of empowerment that the Khomeini revolution held out to Sunni Arabs also - were all balm and vicarious liberation for the outnumbered, bullied Bedouin and Arab minorities in Israel. Basically, though, most of the educated among “the Arab minority” have looked to finesse resources for its modest material progress out of a system that does not like them.