I read with interest your blogpost objecting to having been included in Haaretz’s list of 66 Israeli Women You Should Know, published by that newspaper ahead of Yom HaAtzma’ut. Of course, respect your right to self-definition, and your desire to be known as a Palestinian, not as an Israeli (although I would point out that to the best of my knowledge, you have not renounced your Israeli citizenship. Why not? Would that not seem to be the strongest possible statement of affirmation for your feelings that you are “not an ‘Israeli woman’, not an ‘Israeli Arab’”)?
To a large degree, I understand where you’re coming from: As a Jew who grew up in a non-Jewish atmosphere in southern California, I well understand your desire to maintain your national identity while surrounded by a non-Palestinian majority culture. It is a tough, but ultimately worthwhile struggle to find the common ground between your Arab ethnic nationality and your Israeli political one.
But that issue is yours, not Israel’s. Like it or not, with an Arab minority that makes up 20 percent of our country, you and your community are most definitely part of our society, and we Jewish Israelis must not fall into the trap of ignoring the Arab community. In a way, it would have been very convenient for you had Haaretz published its list with no Arab names: You would certainly have pointed to that decision as “proof” of Israel’s “racist” nature. Sorry to tell you, Abir, but it just isn’t true. The Arab community in Israel is not invisible.
Furthermore, as an Israeli woman who enjoys voting rights in Israel while also serving as a senior spokeswoman for the Palestinian Authority, you are most definitely an Israeli woman that Israelis should know about. ,
No, Israel is not perfect: One need only travel five minutes, from the unpaved roads of the town of Furedis to the magnificent Jewish town of Zichron Yaakov to illustrate the gap in conditions in the Arab sector in Israel in comparison to those in the Jewish community. Nor do Israeli government officials turn blind eye to this inequality. To quote Natan Sharansky, former Prisoner of Zion and Minister of Industry and Trade, “Israel is not tough enough with the elements of the Arab community that wish this country ill, but we are not generous enough with the overwhelming majority of Arab Israelis who just want to live their lives and to ensure a future for their children.”
But nor the situation of Arab Israelis completely black. Arabs shop freely on HaMeyasdim and Herzl Streets in Zichron Yaakov, on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem, in the Renanim Mall in Ranana and around the country. There is virtually no area of Israel that an Arab woman would think twice about wearing traditional hijab clothing. As the hot summer approaches, Arab and Jewish families will swim (simultaneously, if not exactly “together”) at the pool at Kibbutz Shoresh and at natural springs around the area of Bet Shean. They will play at public parks together and will benefit from Israel’s health care system together. Unfortunately, these facts don’t play so well for your BDS campaign, so you choose to ignore them, in favor of proclaiming your “non-Israeliness” to the world. But they are objective facts, nonetheless
Sorry, Abir, but Haaretz was 100 percent correct to include you on their list of 66 Israeli Women You Should Know About. Your inclusion on that list is a statement about the openness of Israeli society, not about your self-definition. It is too bad that you have chosen to throw your lot with the Palestinian sector that yearns for the destruction of Israel instead of utilizing your considerable abilities to maximise opportunities and civil rights for Arab citizens in Israel