An Honorable Arab: Riad Ali Reflects on Israeli Arabs’ Choices

An Israeli Arab, reporter for the Israeli TV station Channel 1, writes an editorial in Ha-Aretz that offers a glimpse of what might be, were integrity and honor to prevail among a people who, alas, seem to have lost their moral compass. Note the description of Arab-Israelis caught up in the enthusiasm for the war on Israel, and Ali’s eloquent description of how that’s a losing game even if they win… dare I say it, honor’s poisonous allure. My great admiration to Riad Ali for a morally (and physically) courageous and clear-sighted essay.

In the name of Allah

By Riad Ali

It tears one’s heart and stills one’s breath to see the images coming from Lebanon. The same goes for the images in Israel, and this is not added for the sake of balance.

But sorrow and grief over the war’s victims shouldn’t blur its prime objectives, both in Lebanon and in the Palestinian territories. When the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza adopted suicide bombing as their strategy in fighting Israel, I concluded that their war against the occupation is over, and an indiscriminate war on Jews has begun. I was convinced then, as I am now, that at that moment, the Palestinians lost the war, at least in the moral sense.

In one of my reports from Gaza, I talked to a Palestinian boy by the name of Haled. He was 10 years old at the time. He said he wanted to be a teacher. When we switched to the topic of the intifada, Haled said that he had another dream – to be a shahid. I asked him how could he be a teacher and a shahid at the same time. Ten-year-old Haled had no answer. He was only a child. It was then I realized that the Palestinian people have lost their inner compass. A whole generation of children was born and reared in their midst, and all their hopes and aspirations are to die a holy death.

A Palestinian moral-ethical debate on the status of the suicide bomber never took place. The saboteur was and remained a shahid, with all of the positive attributes that the word carries in Islamic terminology. Palestinians who still opposed the bombings did so on tactical grounds; that is to say, if it had furthered their cause, they would have seen no wrong in it.

A similar process happened with Hezbollah. If before 2000 the organization could have had the benefit of the doubt and claim it is fighting Israeli occupation of Lebanon, today it is clear to see that its war is against Jews wherever they may be. You have to be deaf in order not to hear the voice of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as it emerges from Nasrallah’s throat, and naive in order to believe that the purpose of the arsenal Nasrallah has accumulated is the release of prisoners and the liberation of the Shaba Farms.

This is the time to address the Arab citizens of Israel, and tell them that the time has come for them to decide where they stand. And they should do so for their own sake, and not for the sake of the Jews. For the sake of the values they want to instill in their children. For the sake of retaining their intellectual dignity. It is clear to all that a Hamas-led Palestinian government and a Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon will not bring democratic societies with a flourishing political and social pluralism. It is clear that in regimes such as those, the rule of law, human rights, the freedom of religion and worship, women’s rights, the freedom of creation, the freedom of movement, the freedom of expression and thought – all will be alien, ridiculed concepts, to say the least.

Ideological Islam has long been master of the Palestinian society’s agenda in the West Bank and Gaza. But what worries me is that the same Islamic agenda that rules there rules also here in Israel, and crosses all parties and movements including those who consider themselves to be secular. The spirit of battle has overtaken the believers, and all who consider themselves as part of the Islamic nation also have to take part in its war. If not with guns, then with funds, and if not with funds, then through words, and if not through words, then in heart, as the Muslim preachers tell the masses.

I am not at war with the Jews, nor with the people of Israel. I have an argument with the Jews, and I have an argument with the State of Israel. On one point I do not argue, and that is the right of the Jewish people to their own independent state. To the best of my understanding, this war, as with the intifada, has to be judged from this perspective.

Arab citizens of the state who truly believe in the principle of two states for two peoples and those who believe in a democratic liberal society must ask themselves if the Islamic ideology that is leading the war today against Israel and the West in the guise of a war against the occupation and heathens is representative of their ambitions. We must separate the pain and sorrow for the innocent victims from the purpose of the war, as seen by those who lead it – in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and in any place where people seek to liberate land in the name of Allah.

One Response to An Honorable Arab: Riad Ali Reflects on Israeli Arabs’ Choices

  1. Mark says:

    Bless you for your moral clarity. May we stand together for sanity, and for the existence of a pluralistic Israel in which Muslims and Jews may live side by side in peace.

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