Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

What do Israelis think of Egpytian solidarity protests?

Palestinian citizens of Israel gathered in northern Tel Aviv in support of the anti-dictator uprising that has spread all across Egypt.  An Israeli journalist was on hand to ask the opinions of Israelis who gathered to observe the protesters. The results are shocking, but not in the surprising sense of the word.

This video evokes in me a great degree of sadness. Each one of the people interviewed is motivated, in large part, by their fear. Fear of the Palestinians, of the Palestinian flag, of the Arabic language, or of Egyptian democracy. In some people, the fear has clearly morphed into anger and hatred. 

Some of these Israelis refuse to accept the fact that those demonstrating in central Tel Aviv are in fact Israelis themselves. At the end of the video, those yelling at the Palestinian Israelis to return to their homes are just ignorant. The Palestinian Israelis are still in Israel because they were among the fortunate Palestinians who never had to leave their homes in 1948 or 1967. They are truly at home, but have been made a minority by the birth of Israel -- that's not necessarily a moral judgement, it's just a fact.  

Those interviewed have never had a friendship with a Palestinian, much less an in-depth conversation with a Palestinian, I can nearly guarantee you of that. 

It also struck me how self-centered and nationally-centered these folks were, which isn't unique to Israelis, but is (God forgive us) symptomatic of the human race. These Israelis interviewed believe Mubarak is good. Why? They believe Mubarak is good because he maintained peace with Israel, and Israel didn't have to defend itself against a hostile Egyptian state. Does calling him a man of peace have any relation whatsoever to the way he treated the Egyptian people?  Does his 30-year-long torture and repression of those who expressed public dissent have any relation to whether Mubarak was a good man, was a peaceful man? No, of course not. Mubarak was good if he was good to me. He should be kept in power because his rule was good for me and my countrypeople. 

Nationalism is a nasty thing. Racism is even nastier.


Anonymous said...

Your blog is informative, eloquent, and very thoughtful. Thanks for what you share here; I'm always grateful to read it, and I've passed it along to several friends.

One comment, if I may (not about your conclusions, but an element of the context). You've written in this post that "the Palestinian Israelis are still in Israel because they were among the fortunate Palestinians who never had to leave their homes in 1948 or 1967." This is not necessarily the case. Many, many Palestinians within Israel *were* forced to leave their homes in 1948, or saw their villages destroyed, or both; many, then, are refugees too, although they were able to relocate to other villages and cities within Israel rather than being expelled to the West Bank or to other countries. Among the most horribly successful outcomes of the Israeli occupation is to fragment their struggle from that of '67 Palestinians, and to define them according to their "fortune," despite their own history (and present) of loss and injustice. Most '48 Palestinians I know would never, ever refer to themselves as Israelis; they may be citizens, but they are Palestinians. And this, as you say, is in no way incompatible with being "truly at home."

Thanks, Sam (and welcome back!),

Samuel Nichols said...

Thanks you for the insightful comment. You're right that Israel has successfully fragmented the Palestinian people, between the Diaspora, Gaza, WB, and '48. That fragmentation is unfortunately too real, and we (I, in this case) fall prey to elevating the condition of one group of Palestinians over another, due to certain advantages or disadvantages that group may have due to their proximity to Israel's arm of control. Thanks for re-framing the conversation about '48 Palestinians as one of dispossession and loss.

'Fortunate' was an inappropriate word to use, thanks for helping to set the record straight.

Thanks again, Robin.
It's good to be back :)