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The fragmentation of Palestinian society, the ripping of the Israeli social fabric: “The Arabs in Israel,” by Sabri Jiryis


By Sam Bahour

‘….We have been here too many times before.

The one seemingly new aspect of this violent episode shaking everyone’s sense of security in Israel, more than the indiscriminate missiles falling on Israeli cities, is the outburst of civil unrest in Israeli communities across Israel.

From mixed Arab-Jewish cities like Jerusalem, Lod, Jaffa, Akka, and Haifa, as well as Jewish-majority Israeli cities where Palestinians work and study, like Tel Aviv, the social fabric of Israel is being ripped apart at the seams by mobs and violence threatening persons, some as they sit in their homes, and property.

Despite seeming calm throughout the years, those seams were never truly stitched together properly.

The aftermath of this breakdown will have a long-lasting impact on how Israel develops. It is up to people of conscience everywhere, especially in Israel, to ensure the impact is positive and results in corrective actions of the accumulation of state wrongs.

But one must ask here the same that was asked regarding Israel and Palestinians under military occupation: “Is anyone seriously surprised?”

The seeds of today’s turmoil across Israeli cities have been well-documented for many years, actually decades. My longtime friend Atty. Sabri Jiryis wrote a classic in 1966 titled, The Arabs in Israel. One of the first law graduates of the Hebrew University and a prominent Palestinian activist, the first edition of his book was written in Hebrew only to have the Israeli military censor block its publication.

It was subsequently updated and published in Arabic and translated into English and numerous other languages. In painstaking detail, this book revealed the system of governance that Israel installed since its establishment in 1948. What was bound to follow is what we are witnessing today, a painful societal collapse based on decades of wilful Israeli discrimination.

When I last visited Sabri in his home in his Palestinian village of Fassouta in the Western Galilee in 2012, I wrote this about what I experienced, “The Galilee First, if the world is serious about Israel and Palestine!” There was no question that Israel was continuing to apply the methods of military occupation inside Israel that it perfected during the military rule it placed Palestinian citizens in Israel under from 1948–1966.

Israel has a population of slightly over nine million people, about 20% of those are Arab citizens, Muslims and Christians. Add to that the population of five million Palestinians that Israel controls by force in the occupied territory, and Israeli statistician predictions are proving true, that between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River the populations of Jews and non-Jews are converging.

There is a fundamental problem with this demographic equation, Israel has ensured “Jewish supremacy” in Israel and Palestine, either by rule of law or the rule of military might.

Anyone questioning my use of the words “Jewish supremacy” need only to read Israel’s latest addition to its Basic Law in 2018, the “Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People”. In short, this law told Palestinian citizens in Israel, this place is not yours to claim as home…..’

You can read the rest of Sam Bahour‘s article, entitled “Israeli Social Fabric is Ripping at the Seams: Israel has reached apartheid, the antithesis of Judaism’s long tradition of social justice” at Portside. A version of this article was originally published at Plus61JMedia on May 18, 2021.

Monthly Review Press published “The Arabs in Israel” in 1976.


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