The October 7 attack by Hamas terrorists was a turning point for many Arab-Israelis, who make up about 20% of the population of Israel. The attack, which killed over 1,400 people and abducted 240 more, targeted not only Jews, but also Arabs, Bedouins, Druze, and foreign workers. Among the victims were 32 Arab-Israelis, who were killed in the Nova music festival, the nearby kibbutzim, and the border crossings. The attack also sparked a war between Israel and Hamas, which has been ongoing for more than three months.
The attack and the war have had a profound impact on the Arab-Israeli community, which faces a complex and contradictory reality. On one hand, they are citizens of Israel, with equal rights and obligations under the law. On the other hand, they are ethnically and culturally connected to the Palestinians, who are suffering under the Israeli occupation and the Hamas rule. They are often torn between their loyalty to their country and their empathy for their people.
The Challenges and Opportunities of Being an Arab-Israeli
Being an Arab-Israeli involves understanding the language and history of the “other side”. This phrasing highlights the oppressor-oppressed dynamic, with one side having one of the most powerful armies in the world and the other being a minority. Arab-Israelis have to deal with discrimination, racism, and marginalization from the Jewish majority, who often view them with suspicion and hostility. They also have to cope with the violence and instability that plague the region, and the threats and pressures from the Palestinian factions, who sometimes accuse them of betrayal and collaboration.
However, being an Arab-Israeli also offers some advantages and opportunities. Arab-Israelis have access to education, health care, and social services that are not available to most Palestinians. They also have the freedom to express their opinions, participate in politics, and pursue their interests and aspirations. They have the chance to learn from and interact with the Jewish society, and to contribute to the development and diversity of the country. They have the potential to serve as a bridge between the two peoples, and to promote peace and coexistence.
The Future of Arab-Israelis in Israel
The future of Arab-Israelis in Israel depends largely on the outcome of the war and the prospects of a political solution. If the war continues or escalates, the Arab-Israeli community may face more violence, hatred, and isolation from both sides. If the war ends with a ceasefire or a truce, the Arab-Israeli community may face more uncertainty and frustration, as the underlying issues remain unresolved. If the war leads to a diplomatic breakthrough or a peace agreement, the Arab-Israeli community may face more opportunities and challenges, as they will have to redefine their identity and role in the new reality.
The future of Arab-Israelis in Israel also depends on their own choices and actions. Arab-Israelis have to decide whether they want to be passive spectators or active participants in shaping the future of the country. They have to decide whether they want to be divided or united, whether they want to be isolated or integrated, whether they want to be hostile or friendly. They have to decide whether they want to think like an Arab-Israeli, or like an Israeli-Arab.