Last month, Diana Buttu—an Israeli resident of Haifa and former adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organization—wrote an article for the New York Times arguing that the good relations between Arabs and Jews in her city are a “myth.” Combining lies, distortions, and half-truths, she concludes that her seven-year-old son has no future to look forward to in the Jewish state. Menachem Kellner, a prominent scholar of Maimonides who has lived in Haifa for 40 years, presents a different view of his hometown:
My wife and I . . . enjoy walking on Haifa’s beautiful beachfront. I cannot identify whether the large majority of the people enjoying the sunny stroll with us are Arab, at least not until they speak. The other morning we noticed a pair of armed security guards at the beach, speaking Arabic to each other. Despite [the outbreak of interethnic violence a few weeks ago], we discerned no tension in the air, or on people’s faces.
One of our Arab friends, . . . told us that his mother praises God every morning for living in the state of Israel. Her deceased husband had a brother who chose to flee Haifa in 1948. . . . Her husband, who chose to stay in Israel, made a successful life for himself and his family here and raised a son (our friend) who earned several academic degrees and is a highly regarded professional. Her husband’s brother, on the other hand, the one who had elected to flee to Lebanon, spent the rest of his life in a Palestinian refugee camp, denied by his Lebanese Arab brethren the rights of legal residence, not to mention citizenship.
It is true that Haifa suffered from one night of clashes between hooligans, both Jews and Arabs, at the beginning of the most recent round of fighting. Everyone in the city was shocked, embarrassed by the outliers in each side, and quickly came together to put a stop to it. . . . No doubt Buttu would reply to all this that it is easy for me, a Jew, to see Haifa through rose-colored glasses. Yet it is no less true that her own hatreds make it impossible for her to see beyond her falsehoods.