Meanwhile the Palestinization of the Israeli Arabs continued apace. In February 1978, scores of Palestinian intellectuals signed a public statement urging the establishment of a Palestinian state. Writes Efraim Karsh
As noted, not only did the vast improvement in the Israeli Arabs’ socioeconomic condition fail to reconcile them to their minority status in the Jewish State but the more prosperous, affluent, and better educated they became, the greater their leadership’s incitement against their state of citizenship to the point where many ordinary Arabs came to openly challenge the fundamental principles underpinning Israel’s very existence.
The process began with the June 1967 War, which brought the Israeli Arabs into renewed direct contact with both their West Bank and Gaza brothers and the wider Arab world. Family and social contacts broken in 1948 were restored, and a diverse network of social, economic, cultural, and political relations was formed. For the first time since 1948, Israeli Muslims were allowed by Arab states to participate in the sacred pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, thus breaking an unofficial ostracism and restoring a sense of self-esteem and pan-Arab belonging— and encouraging a correlative degree of estrangement from Israel.
Six years later came the October 1973 war, shattering Israel’s image as an invincible military power and tarnishing its international reputation. One result was quickly felt on the local political scene. During the 1950s and 1960s, most Arab voters had given their support to Israel’s ruling Labor party and/or a string of associated Arab lists. This had already begun to change by 1969, when Raqah, a predominantly Arab communist party and a champion of radical anti-Israelism, made its successful electoral debut. By 1973, in elections held three months after the October war, Raqah (or Hadash, as it was later renamed) had become the dominant party in the Arab sector, winning 37% of the vote; four years later, it totally eclipsed its rivals with 51% of Arab ballots cast. By the late 1990s, things had moved so far in an anti-Israel direction that many Arabs, apparently finding Raqah/Hadash too tame, were shifting their allegiance to newer and still more militant parties.
Things came to a head on March 30, 1976 in the form of mass riots in protest against the government’s announced intention to appropriate some 5,000 acres of the Galilee for development. Though most of the land was owned by either the state or private Jewish individuals, the announcement triggered a wave of violence that ended in the deaths of six Arab rioters and the wounding of dozens more. “Land Day,” as the disturbances came to be known, was thenceforth commemorated annually in renewed and increasingly violent demonstrations, often in collaboration with the PLO and its political affiliates in the West Bank.
Meanwhile the “Palestinization” of the Israeli Arabs continued apace. In February 1978, scores of Palestinian intellectuals signed a public statement urging the establishment of a Palestinian state. A year later, Israeli Arab students openly endorsed the PLO as “the sole representative of the Palestinian people, including the Israeli Arabs,” voicing support for the organization’s pursuit of the “armed struggle” (the standard euphemism for terrorist attacks), indeed for its commitment to Israel’s destruction.
By then, extremist politics and violence had become institutionalized, with the PLO funneling funds to Arab bodies and institutions in Israel and Israeli Arabs increasingly implicated in the sale of weapons and explosives to terrorist organizations in the territories.35 December 1987 saw the outbreak of the first widespread Palestinian uprising (intifada) in the West Bank and Gaza. Showing their support for their brethren in the territories, Israeli Arabs committed acts of vandalism (burning forests, stoning private cars, destroying agricultural crops and equipment) and launched armed attacks on Jews within Israel proper. In the course of two years, the number of such individual attacks rose sharply from 69 (in 1987) to 187 (in 1989), and acts of sedition from 101 to 353.
If the intifada years (1987-93) strained Arab–Jewish relations with- in Israel to their limits (till then), the Rabin government’s delusion- al embarkation on the Oslo “peace process” in September 1993 took this radicalization to unprecedented heights. In recognizing the PLO as “the representative of the Palestinian people,” Israel effectively endorsed the organization’s claim of authority over a fifth of its citizens and gave it carte blanche to interfere in its domestic affairs. Such a concession would be a sure recipe for trouble even under the most amicable of arrangements; made to an irredentist party still officially committed to the destruction of its “peace partner,” it proved nothing short of catastrophic. If in the mid-1970s less than half of Israeli Arabs defined themselves as Palestinians and one in two repudiated Israel’s right to exist, by 1999 more than two-thirds of them identified as Palestinians and four out of five repudiated Israel’s right to exist.
From the moment of his arrival in Gaza in July 1994, Arafat set out to make the most of what Israel had handed him, indoctrinating not only the residents of the territories but also the Israeli Arabs with an ineradicable hatred of Israel, Jews, and Judaism. His intention was made clear as early as his welcoming speech, which smeared his new peace partner with extensive references to “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and ended with a pledge to “liberate” Israel’s Arab citizens from their alleged subjugation. “I am saying it clearly and loudly to all our brothers, from the Negev to the Galilee,” Arafat proclaimed, “and let me quote Allah’s words: ‘We desired to be gracious to those that were abased in the land, and to make them leaders, and to make them the inheritors, and to establish them in the land.”’37 Within a month of his arrival in Gaza, Arafat had secretly ordered the extension of the Palestinian Authority’s activities to Israel’s Arabs, allocating $10 million in initial funding (in addition to $20-25 million for real estate purchases in Jerusalem) and appointing Ahmad Tibi, his political adviser and an Israeli citizen, to head the subversive operation.38 In subsequent years, PLO and PA interference in Israel’s domestic affairs would range from mediation of internal Arab disputes, to outright attempts to influence the outcome of Israeli elections, to the spread of vile propaganda calling for Israel’s destruction.
End of Part Five
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