Understanding the Roots of Israeli Arab Unrest

Feb. 14 2022

Last spring, few Israelis were surprised when terrorists in Gaza started bombarding their homes with rockets and other deadly projectiles—but felt both shocked and betrayed when Arab citizens of Israel attacked Jewish neighborhoods in Haifa, Lod, and other ethnically mixed cities. In a symposium on the causes and origins of those riots, and what can be done to prevent their recurrence, Yossi Kuperwasser argues against attempts to attribute the violence to socioeconomic factors—which, in his view, played a secondary role to national and religious sentiment:

[M]any Israeli Arabs see themselves as Palestinians and as part of the Palestinian people. As Palestinians, they fully adopt the Palestinian narrative. They deny the very existence of a Jewish people and its sovereign, historical connection to the Land of Israel. They believe that the Palestinians are the only indigenous people in this region. They expect that the Jews will eventually be forced to leave and to return to the countries from which they came, while the Palestinians will fulfill their claim (“right of return”) to their homes from which they were temporarily displaced in the Nakba (disaster) of 1948.

Two other phenomena set the stage for the riots. One is the continued erosion of the state’s governance of Israeli Arabs. Certain sectors of the Israeli Arab public have become accustomed to the state not interfering in their affairs and ignoring their criminal behavior, especially in the Negev. This sense of Israeli Arab omnipotence and government impotence seems to have been a conscious component that contributed to the riots. It is unclear whether the handling of the May riots’ participants can make a difference in this consciousness.

The second phenomenon is the tension within Arab society in Israel in light of the Arab Ra’am party’s decision to withdraw from the Arab Joint List, to run independently in the Knesset elections, and then to join the government coalition.

According to Kuperwasser, Arab opponents of Ra’am wish to show that they reject compromise by embracing protest—and violence—which they see as better ways to redress their grievances than participation in the Israeli political system.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Guardian of the Walls, Israeli Arabs, Israeli society


Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy