Opinion: How Israeli Arab leaders distort the meaning of democracy

Arab-Israeli leaders use the cover of “democracy” and “equality” to pursue their goal of Israel’s elimination.

By Daniel Krygier, World Israel News

Anti-Zionist Israeli Arab leaders and their leftist supporters distort the true meaning of democracy by blurring the line between civic equality and national rights.

Addressing the crowd during a recent opposition rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Arab party leader Ayman Odeh repeated a familiar mantra:

“I am here today because I believe that without equality there is no democracy.”

On the surface, this statement appears entirely reasonable and just. A fundamental principle of democracy is to grant civic equality to all its citizens, regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion and political affiliation.

However, Israeli Arab leaders like Odeh are not genuinely interested in civic equality between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel. Arab radical politicians in the Knesset ultimately seek the dissolution of the Jewish-nation state under the cover of “democracy” and “equality.”

The Jewish State embraces civic equality between its Arab and Jewish citizens. Israeli Arabs enjoy the same freedom of speech, the right to vote, the right to education and the right to healthcare as Israeli Jews.

Israel has over the years invested heavily in integrating its Arab citizens. While it remains a work in progress, there are undeniable achievements. At the time of Israel’s rebirth in 1948, illiteracy was widespread among its Arab citizens. Today, the vast majority of Israeli Arabs are literate and an increasing number of young Israeli Arabs pursue higher education in academia.

Much of Israel’s Arab community has undergone a dramatic modernization and Westernization. Politics aside, in terms of mentality and lifestyle, young modern Israeli Arabs have increasingly more in common with young Israeli Jews than with their supposedly Arab brothers and sisters in the neighboring despotic Arab-majority societies.

Ironically, the main opposition to fully integrating Israeli Arabs into Israeli society has come from radical Arab politicians in Knesset and extremist Muslim imams. While claiming to represent Israel’s Arab citizens in parliament, Arab leaders like Odeh focus disproportionately on the external Arab-Israeli conflict.

Israeli Arab leaders sound more like a mouthpiece of the Abbas regime in Ramallah than as true representatives of their Israeli Arab constituency. Research shows that an increasing number of young Israeli Arabs no longer feel that the Arab parties in the Knesset represent them.

If Ayman Odeh and his ilk genuinely cared about civic equality between Arab and Jewish citizens, they would focus their efforts on bringing Israeli Arabs further into Israel’s modern economy and society.

Odeh and his comrades won’t openly say that they oppose the existence of a Jewish nation-state. However, behind their moderate façade, they want the destruction of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish nation. This is the reason why they and their leftist supporters oppose the Jewish Nation State Law, which simply states the obvious: Israel is a democratic Jewish nation-state.

“Equality” to people like Odeh and Tibi means replacing the Jewish state with a “neutral state.” By embracing the “right of return” for millions of hostile, foreign-born Arabs, the ultimate goal of Odeh is to eventually transform Israel into another Muslim Arab majority society.

While Hamas seeks Israel’s destruction through military means, Arab MKs like Odeh seek Israel’s destruction through political and demographic means.

The type of “democracy” and “equality” that they demand does not exist in any other democratic nation-state. There are no democratic countries in the world that are “neutral” in terms of identity, culture, religion and language. Nobody demands that states like Denmark or Japan choose between their national and democratic components.

While being a liberal democracy, Denmark is clearly Danish. Its only official language is Danish and its official religion is Lutheran Christianity. A Christian cross dominates the Danish flag, which is one of the world’s oldest national flags. Like Israel, European democratic nation-states like Denmark, Germany and Sweden have large ethnic and religious minorities from the Middle East and elsewhere.

However, Arabic is not an official language in Sweden and Turkish is not an official language in Germany. Minorities in these countries are expected to integrate and respect the majority society’s values and traditions. European democracies have largely failed in properly integrating the growing number of North African and Middle Eastern immigrants in their midst. However, few question whether Denmark can be both Danish and democratic.

The French Revolution led to Jews and other minorities becoming citizens. While Jews were granted freedom of religion, they were expected to assimilate and fully embrace French identity, culture and language, which they largely did.

Israeli Arabs deserve equal civic rights in Israel. The path to its full implementation is further integration and not demands for the destruction of the world’s only Jewish nation-state.