Friday, January 23, 2009

Did You Know...?

Contrary to what you see in the news, not all Arabs hate Jews and Israel - especially those Arabs who live in Israel. In fact, many Israeli Arabs recognize that this is the only place in the Middle East where they can have true freedom and liberty. Here, for example, Arab Christians are free to be Christians without any fear of governmental interference or harassment (harassment by Muslims, though, is another story touched on here). Even Arab Muslims are free to be the type of Muslim they wish without fear of reprisal from the government (reprisal from their own community is another story all together). In short, despite Israel being a Jewish state, the relative freedom for the Arab community is unparalleled in this part of the world.

Many Israeli Arabs do not like or agree with Israeli policy or politics. But that too is the beauty of the democracy here: the freedom and right of minorities to openly disagree with the ruling government without fear of suppression. No matter one's personal politics, there are a lot of Jews and Arabs in Israel who understand the need and benefit of living together in peace. Most understand that life is too short to hate, and that underneath people's different opinions are human beings just like themselves who want to make the best of a difficult situation and live life as best as they can.

One such article from two weeks ago, right in the middle of the Gaza fighting, was a rally of Jews and Arabs for peace and coexistence.

Hundreds of Jews and Arabs from the north and center of Israel gathered near Kfar Kara'a on Highway 65 Saturday in a rally for peace. The only sign present at the demonstration read "Hand in hand – neighbors for peace".
Those present stressed that they were not for or against the military operation in Gaza. They wore white and held hands to create a human chain along the road for one hour, without disrupting traffic. The demonstration was declared a success and organizers said they would hold a similar one next Saturday.

"The political views remain on the sidelines," Guy explained. "We the people want to continue to live side by side in friendship and harmony and not to open up another front inside Israel."
Even a few days before, an Arab leader spoke out against Israeli Arabs who protested Israel's operation in Gaza.
Arab protesters who demonstrate against Israel are traitors, Arab-Israeli community leader Ali Jarushi said in a special interview with Yedioth Ayalon and Mynet, Ynet's local authority website.

The Ramle resident, who serves as a local leader and mediator in the Arab community, characterizes himself as a "peace-loving and humanity loving man." He says that Arab protests against the Gaza operation across the country anger him and contradict his worldview – namely, he believes that Arab-Israelis should respect the State and even send their children to serve in the army.
That's right, Arabs should even serve in the Israeli army. Though Arabs do serve in the army if they wish, it is strictly voluntary and, unfortunately, not many from the Arab community end up serving. There are more Bedouin and Druze that serve regularly in the Israeli army and Israel has even enlisted some to help explain and defend Israel's positions to the world.
A Druze ambassador and a Bedouin deputy consul general have positioned themselves at the forefront of Israel's PR battle in the US.

Reda Mansour, Israel's consul general to the southeast US, and Ismail Khaldi, San Francisco's deputy consul general, have made round-the-clock appearances on television and radio interviews, published articles, and stood before Muslim protesters who accused them of traitorous behavior.
Deputy Consul General Ismail Khaldi was somewhat less satisfied with the atmosphere in San Francisco, where numerous anti-IDF protests were taking place. ... Khaldi explained that these opinions make his job nearly impossible. "Even the most educated don't know the history of Israel," he said. "They feed off of press that is biased against Israel. Yes there was destruction in Gaza, but they don't understand the reason, and we are always on the defensive."
That's the beauty of Israel. As a minority one can be pro-Palestinian, pro-Israel, or whatever and be free and unafraid to say it. Try that anywhere else in the Middle East and see what disasters befall you.

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