Last week, the Israeli Arab parliamentarian Mansour Abbas—who broke precedent this year by leading his Islamist Ra’am party into the governing coalition—made headlines again when he told an interviewer:
The state of Israel was born as a Jewish state. That’s the people’s decision. . . . It was born that way and that’s how it will remain. . . . We [Arabs] have to decide whether we want to engage in campaigns that have a chance of succeeding—and then we’ll be able to develop as a society and prosper, and be an influential sector of society—or whether we want to be in an isolationist position and continue to talk about all these things for another 100 years.
Yet, notes Ruthie Blum, Abbas has also made statements of a different sort in Arabic to his supporters, and just recently one of his fellow Ra’am parliamentarians appeared publicly with a notorious terror-preaching religious leader. Nonetheless, Blum writes,
it’s not for nothing that [Abbas] had to hire private bodyguards to protect him from Arab citizens angry at him for “selling out” to the Zionists by vowing to place legislative work for his community above Islamism and Palestinian activism. Ditto regarding the Knesset guard’s order earlier this month that he be provided with a security detail, due to threats on his life for being part of Israel’s governing coalition.
Even after being attacked by Arab Israelis and Palestinians across the spectrum, Abbas—who last month told the Nazareth-based Kul al-Arab newspaper and news site, “whether we like it or not, Israel is a Jewish state, and my central goal is to define the status of the country’s Arab citizens”— refused to retract. In fact, he doubled down. . . . These words, from an Islamist party leader, are significant in and of themselves. That he uttered them unapologetically, publicly, and in Arabic makes him not only courageous, but credible.