Socioeconomic Improvements Won’t Bring Political Moderation to Israel’s Arabs

In the past several years, Israeli Arabs have attained rising wages and standards of living as well as greater levels of education; they have also become more likely to learn Hebrew and to join the IDF. Mansour Abbas has led his Islamist Ra’am party into the governing coalition, and shifted attention away from the Palestinian cause—long the centerpiece of Israeli Arab politics—and toward the bread-and-butter issues facing his constituents. Yet there have also been less encouraging signs, particularly the riots that took place last year in cities with mixed Arab and Jewish populations, and the participation of Israeli Arabs in the recent wave of terror. Efraim Karsh sees in these last developments a disturbing trend that began with the Oslo Accords:

Within a month of his arrival in Gaza [in 1994, Yasir] Arafat had secretly ordered the extension of the Palestinian Authority’s activities to Israel’s Arabs, allocating $10 million in initial funding (in addition to $20-25 million for real-estate purchases in Jerusalem) and appointing Ahmad Tibi, an Israeli citizen, to head the subversive operation. In subsequent years, the interference of the PLO and its Palestinian Authority (PA) proxy in Israel’s domestic affairs would range from mediation of internal Arab disputes, to outright attempts to influence the outcome of Israeli elections, to the spread of propaganda calling for Israel’s destruction.

These incendiary activities had their predictable effect. By the time of the 2009 national elections, some 40 percent of Israeli Arabs were denying the existence of the Holocaust while one in two were opposed to sending their children to Jewish schools or having Jewish neighbors. Small wonder that the 1990s and 2000s saw the demise of Arab votes for Jewish/Zionist parties and their diversion to militant purely Arab parties that were openly opposed to Israel’s very existence, and this process gained considerable momentum in the 2010s.

Moreover, Karsh argues, increasing economic improvements are unlikely to change the Arab political trajectory:

If poverty and marginalization were indeed the culprits, why . . . did Arab dissidence increase dramatically with the vast improvement in the Arab standard of living in the 1970s and 1980s? Why did it escalate into an open uprising in October 2000—after a decade that saw government allocations to Arab municipalities grow by 550 percent and the number of Arab civil servants nearly treble? And why did it spiral into a far more violent insurrection in May 2021—after yet another decade of massive government investment in the Arab sector, including a 15 billion-shekel ($3.84 billion) socioeconomic aid program in 2015 in all fields of Arab society?

The truth is that, in the modern world, socioeconomic progress has rarely been a recipe for political moderation and intercommunal coexistence. . . . In 1937, a British commission of enquiry observed: “With almost mathematical precision, the betterment of the economic situation in Palestine meant the deterioration of the political situation.”

Read more at Middle East Quarterly

More about: Israeli Arabs, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Yasir Arafat

Ordinary Gazans Are Turning against Hamas—and Its Western Sympathizers

In the past few days, difficult-to-confirm reports have emerged of unrest in the Gaza Strip, and of civilians throwing stones at Hamas operatives. A recent video from Al Jazeera showed a Gazan declaring that “God will bring Qatar and Turkey to account” for the suffering of Palestinians in the current war. Being an agent of the Qatari government, the journalist turned away, and then pushed the interviewee with his hand to prevent him from getting near the microphone. Yet this brief exchange contributes much to the ongoing debate about Palestinian support for Hamas, and belies the frequent assertion by experts that the Israeli campaign is only “further radicalizing” the population.

For some time, Joseph Braude has worked with a number of journalists and researchers to interview ordinary Gazans under circumstances where they don’t fear reprisals. He notes that the sorts of opinions they share are rarely heard in Western media, let alone on Al Jazeera or Iran-sponsored outlets:

[A] resident of Khan Younis describes how locals in a bakery spontaneously attacked a Hamas member who had come to buy bread. The incident, hardly imaginable before the present war, reflects a widespread feeling of “disgust,” he says, after Gazan aspirations for “a dignified life and to live in peace” were set back by the Hamas atrocities of October 7.

Fears have grown that this misery will needlessly be prolonged by Westerners who strive, in effect, to perpetuate Hamas rule, according to one Gazan woman. Addressing protesters who have taken to the streets to demand a ceasefire on behalf of Palestinians, she calls on them to make a choice: “Either support the Palestinian people or the Hamas regime that oppresses them.” If protesters harbor a humanitarian motive, she asks, “Why don’t we see them demonstrating against Hamas?”

“Hamas is the destruction of the Palestinian people. We’ve had enough. They need to be wiped out—because if they remain, the people will be wiped out.”

You can watch videos of some of the interviews by clicking the link below.

Read more at Free Press

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion