The Webster dictionary defines: “Xenophobia – fear or hatred towards strangers and foreigners, or towards something strange or alien”. The dislike for strangers may become so strong that it can damage not only foes but friends and even the hater himself.
There is an old parable about the hostility between two tribes. The hostility was uncompromising and seemed endless. Once God proposed to the chief of one of the tribes: “Ask me for anything you wish. I will give you all, but take into account: your counterpart will receive twice as you”. The task was hard. But the chief considered it carefully and said: “Knock me out one eye”.
On October 29 a conference took place at the building of the Arab-Jewish Theatre in Jaffa. The topic of the conference was “Racism and Xenophobia in Israeli society”, and it was organized by the Forum of NGOs against racism. Sofi Sasonov from “Our Heritage – the Charter for Democracy” was the host, and the most successful one. The participators were members of various communities, human rights activists, researchers, people conducting public opinion polls and monitoring of mass media, including electronic media. The speakers representing different groups talked on negative stereotypes, on discrimination, ethnic enmity, crimes caused by ethnic hatred. Eddi Zhensker, for example, spoke about xenophobia towards the Russian-speaking community, about “limited admittance” of the FSU citizens in Israel.
The Round table on the problems of xenophobia in mass media and blogosphere was hosted by Olga Birman and Bayan Majadla from the “Agenda” organization. The presentation of monitoring research data and the following discussion revealed:
1. there were much more xenophobic incidents during the recent municipal elections than in the course of general Knesset elections;
2. mass media in Hebrew is more tolerant and “leftist” than public opinion on the whole, while mass media in Russian is far more radical and “rightist” if compared with the “average” public opinion of the “Russian” community.
3. although Hebrew media are today more tolerant than their Russian counterparts, xenophobic trends are on the rise there; in Russian media the tendency is opposite.
During the conference I had conversation with the chairman of the “Mossawa” NGO Jaffar Farah.
- Meaning of “Mossawa” is “equality”?
- That’s right.
- Tell me, why the Arabs do not struggle for equality in the course of general elections to Knesset? Why do they vote far less actively than the representatives of other sectors?
- It’s because the Arab citizens of Israel do not feel involved in Israeli politics. Why should you strain yourself if you know that you cannot influence? Why should you try to participate if you are always excluded. People feel they are not equal partners…
- But protest voting is also possible.
- In the meantime numerous Israeli Arabs express their protest by boycotting elections. It doesn’t matter what is the number of voters, how many mandates the Arab sector obtains… For the last 65 years there was no single minister representing the Arab sector. It means our representatives are not legitimate partners in ruling the state.
- Your information is out of date. Haven’t you heard about Raleb Majadla, the Minister of culture?
- Majadla is not a member of the Arab party. He is an Arab representative in the Labour (Avoda) party. It’s a Zionist party. Most of the Israeli Arabs are not Zionists.
- What is to be done to make Arab voters come back?
- We need a new discourse. One should offer the Arab citizens of Israel a new approach which would enable them to feel that they participate in important political decisions and not only pay taxes.
- Several days ago I saw on the Knesset TV channel a wrangle between the Arab deputies and the Likud ministers. The ministers alleged that the Knesset members from the Arab parties do not represent the Arab community, that they are much more radical than their electorate. Do you agree that the Arab deputies do not reflect the stand and interests of their voters?
- I don’t think so. They represent their voters who elected them. They are Arab deputies – not “Russian” ones, for example. Besides, generalizations are not always correct. There are “Russian” deputies from “Yisrael Beitenu” – and from Labour party.
- Already not…
- Right you are. But I speak in principle. Why, all “Russian” deputies were fascists? Certainly, not. All of them were right-wing radicals? Some of them were, others weren’t. One should be careful with generalizations. Russian accent of the deputy does not prove that he is a fascist. Deputies are diverse, because there are different parties, different political platforms, different voters. The Arab community in Israel is also not uniform.
Thanks God, we have no deputies accused of bribery by Prosecutor office. Thanks God, we have no deputies making over businesses to their daughters. There never was in Israel an Arab deputy caught at criminal offence, in contrast to Jewish deputies, ministers and even ex-president. And once again, in spite of these incidents, we cannot conclude that all Jewish deputies are corrupted, exploit their official standing for personal needs or do not represent their electorate.
- Why Arabs are rather passive not only during general elections but also in the course of local elections? The main event of the recent municipal campaign was the battle for Jerusalem between Nir Barkat and Moshe Leon. Both of them struggled for the votes of ultra-orthodox sector. No one competed for Arabs though they have suffrage in Jerusalem. It is known that they never vote.
- The refuse to vote in East Jerusalem was caused by not “municipal” but political reasons. It means denial of occupation legitimacy. It’s a political decision. When we pass on to elections in Israeli cities and towns, the picture is quite different.
- 70% of voters in Nazareth…
- In several Arab settlements the percentage reached 90%. In mixed towns the situation was similar. In Nazareth Illit the Arab representation in local council raised from 2 to 3 mandates. And it is the town were the mayor’s office conducted a racist campaign, trying with all its strength to chuck out Arabs from Nazareth Illit.
- In Russian newspapers, blogs and social networks I often face discussions on what can be done in order that Arabs will not migrate to Nazareth Illit, will not live there. What would you like to tell these people?
- First of all they should remember that Nazareth Illit was built on Arab land. Second, those who came to live in Nazareth Illit, came to live in the Arab neighborhood. More generally, people who decided to settle in Israel, in the Middle East could not expect that they would leave among Swedes. Is it something new? Didn’t you know that here you would live in the Arab surroundings? In Nazeret-Ilit, in Haifa. In Jerusalem, even in Tel-Aviv you will have Arabs as neighbors. It seems so simple but many are not able to get used to the idea.
And in addition, it’s worth to understand that many Arabs migrate from Nazareth to Nazareth Illit not since they so much love this town but because there is no dwelling in Nazareth. Because Ministry of the Interior suppresses Arab settlements. Because new construction is forbidden there. Nazareth Illit is not an optimal decision for Arabs but people have no choice.
- The last question. Do you think that the confrontation of Israeli Arabs with “Russians” is more acute than with the Israeli society on the whole?
- No. I think the Russian-speaking community in Israel was on purpose stirred up against Arabs. It was easy to manipulate new immigrants, to inflict them uncompromising stand.
It is not wise and not just to consider the Russian-speaking Israelis as sharp antagonists of Arabs. New immigrants of the “last wave” did not drove Arabs away from their land in 1948, they did not take part in the following robbery of the Arab property. They were not concerned with the military rule the Israeli Arabs were subjected to for 17 years. They did not participate in most of wars and military operations.
Yes, new immigrants from the FSU were stirred up against Arabs. This happened not only due to efforts of extremists and instigators, not only for lack of basic information. One of the reasons was the failure of the “left camp”. Left-wingers failed vis-à-vis different sectors of the Israeli society, including the Russian-speaking community.
Original in Russian from Relevantinfo