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Arabs who pledge allegiance to Israel
Nine of 15 Arab Israeli Members of Knesset swear an oath, four make a scene
Israel today held a swearing-in ceremony for its 24th Knesset, during which at least four Arab-Israeli MKs made a scene by refusing to pledge allegiance to the state and saying, instead, that they commit to fighting Israel’s racism and ending its occupation of the West Bank. They then stormed out before the Israeli national anthem was played.
While their theatrical behavior might suggest that Israel’s Arab minority, which makes up around one fifth of the population, is angry at the state of Israel, a closer look shows otherwise.
Of the 120 members of the Israeli Knesset, 15 are Arabs. Of those 15, five are Zionist, and include Esawi Freij and Ghaida Zoabi of the Meretz Party, Ibtisam Maraana of the Labor Party, Hamad Ammar of Israel Beiteinu and Fateen Mullah of the Likud.
Four more Arab Israeli legislators, in the 24th Knesset, belong to the Islamist bloc Raam. These are Mansour Abbas, Saeed AlKharumi, Waleed Taha and Mazen Ghanaim. This bloc has been in talks with the Likud and its rival bloc over their possible joining of a ruling coalition.
Raam’s leader, Abbas, did not attend the swearing-in ceremony. He was hospitalized for Kidney stone issues. Abbas, whoever, had earlier addressed Israelis — in a televised primetime speech — describing himself as a “proud Israeli citizen.” The three other Raam MKs attended the ceremony.
While not Zionist per se, Raam has recently broken ranks with traditional Arab Israeli politics and decided to become realistic and use their Knesset voices to leverage demands for the Arab sector.
Arab neighborhoods in Israel suffer elevated crime rates and deteriorating infrastructure. Raam has said that it is willing to trade its alliance with whichever ruling Zionist coalition in return for Israeli government largesse needed to fight crime and fund schools, hospitals and roads in predominantly Arab areas. Raam clearly thinks that the assimilation of Arab Israelis has been long overdue.
The remaining six Arab Israeli MKs belong to the Joint List bloc, which is anti-Zionist and anti-assimilationist. Unlike the other nine Arabs in Knesset, at least four of this blocs MKs refused to pledge allegiance to Israel and instead proclaimed their commitment to fighting racism and ending occupation of the West Bank.
When these Arab Israeli MKs made a scene during the swearing-in ceremony, media captured their behavior and projected their stance on the majority of Arab Israeli lawmakers, made of Zionists and assimilationists.
Meanwhile, a survey showed that 48 percent of Jewish Israelis “favor government with support from Arab parties,” up from 23 percent only a year ago.
The majority of Arab Israelis today support pledging allegiance to Israel, while close to half Israelis seem to agree with, or appreciate, such position and, as a result, now support Arab Israelis playing bigger roles in the formation of Israeli cabinets.
So, next time you read that Arab Israelis oppose their state, remember that media often looks for "man bites dog,” and that a closer look would show that the opposite is true: A majority of Arab Israelis want to be part of Israel, and only a minority of these Arab Israelis are agitators who enjoy theatrics and the status quo.