Israel's Arab Citizens

[Hudson Institute New York] Khaled Abu Toameh - I have been working as a journalist for the past 27 years in the Palestinian areas. I am an Arab Muslim living in Jerusalem. I am also an Israeli citizen because my father belongs to the Israeli-Arab community inside Israel which numbers nearly 1.4 million people. I also happen to be a Palestinian because my mother is a Palestinian from the West Bank. We Arabs have been exposed to many good things inside Israel. We learned about democracy. We learned about freedom of debate. We learned about freedom of the media. When I used to work for a PLO newspaper, we used to say that we hope one day we will have a free media like the one these Jews have, where a writer can bring down a minister through an investigative report. But things have been going in the wrong direction ever since the peace process began. The concept of the Oslo Accord and the two-state solution is wonderful, although it is not practical and will never work. The way it was implemented brought disaster to both Jews and Arabs. The assumption back then in Israel, in America and in Europe was that if we bring Yasser Arafat into the West Bank and Gaza, give him billions of dollars and guns, he will do the job for us and there would be nothing to worry about. Arafat will even fight Hamas, prevent terrorism and foil suicide bombings. So they established the Palestinian Authority, a one-man show run by Arafat and his corrupt cronies. Instead of building a hospital, Arafat built a casino, as if the Palestinian revolution has been aspiring for 40 years to build a casino. Arafat drove many Palestinians into the open arms of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. By establishing a corrupt regime, by cracking down on human rights activists, newspaper editors and political opponents, Arafat actually boosted Hamas' popularity among the Palestinians. The international community gave Arafat money to open a TV and radio station and Arafat used the media to tell his people how bad and evil the Jews are. So the Palestinians said to themselves, "Well, that means Hamas is right about the Jews. If these Jews are so evil and so bad, why are we making peace with them?" Israel is a wonderful place to live and we are happy to be there. Israel is a free and open country. If I were given the choice, I would rather live in Israel as a second class citizen than as a first class citizen in Cairo, Gaza, Amman or Ramallah.

2009-05-22 06:00:00

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