The Rise of Palestinian Nationalism Among Israeli Arabs
February 20, 2022

By Kobi Erez, ZOA Michigan Executive Director

(FEBRUARY 18, 2022 / JNS) For years, before Naftali Bennett became the prime minister of Israel, he warned that an Israeli government formed in conjunction with an Arab party that supports terrorism would be a strategic threat to Israel. In fact, just a few days before the March 2021 elections, Bennet took to national media claiming that he would never form a coalition with the Arab Ra’am Party. Depending on Ra’am, he claimed, would prevent Israel from taking necessary actions to defend itself from enemy attack for fear of the government falling.

Despite his lofty promises, shortly after the elections, Bennett went against his own policy and formed a coalition in partnership with the Ra’am Party, a group that has historically called for the destruction of Israel and supported Palestinian terrorists.

In May of 2021, during the Israel Defense Forces’ “Operation Guardian of the Walls,” while the Jewish state was busy protecting its citizens from more than 4,000 rockets being fired from Hamas in the Gaza Strip, something new and even more dangerous was happening. Thousands of Israeli Arabs took to the streets chanting “Death to Israel.” These protests soon escalated to violent riots across Israel. Some Arab Israelis shot at anyone who even looked Jewish. They burned and otherwise destroyed synagogues, Jewish businesses and homes. Due to the riots, main roads in Israel became dangerous to the point where it was unsafe to travel through them unless escorted by the Israeli army.

The connection here is clear. Since Bennet’s partnership with Ra’am, there has been a sharp rise in Palestinian nationalism and terrorism among Israeli Arabs. A growing number of zealous Israeli Arabs have recorded themselves in large groups carrying Palestinian flags, singing the Palestinian national anthem and protesting for the release of Palestinian terrorists. According to Yoav Galant, former commander of the Southern Command in the IDF and a current Knesset member, thousands of Jewish businesses in the Negev and the Galilee have become victims of Arab protection rackets, where business owners are forced to pay Arab citizens in exchange for avoiding damage to the business and staff. Many businesses such as restaurants, stores, farms and construction sites refused to pay, and they were burned down or damaged. Arab racketeering against Jews is so common, in fact, that insurance companies refuse to cover any business that is under the threat of extortion, leading to the business owners losing everything.

But it’s not just extortion and protests Israelis have to worry about. Thousands of IDF guns and more than a million IDF bullets have been stolen by Israeli Arabs in recent years. Israeli Arabs represent 20% of the population but account for 85% of all gun-related murder cases. Israeli police estimate that 400,000 illegal guns are currently in the hands of Israeli Arabs. According to Efraim Eitan, former Israeli brigadier general, in the next war with Hezbollah, these stolen weapons will most likely be used against Jews on a large scale that Israel is not prepared for. The IDF has recently confirmed this concern stating that in the next war, the army will not allow its convoys to travel through Israeli Arab towns for fear of attack.

Of course, there are Israeli Arabs who want to live in peace, but the dangerous rise of Palestinian nationalism among many Israeli Arabs and its inherent threat to Israel cannot be ignored. Similarly, a political partnership with an Arab party that supports terrorists and calls for the destruction of Israel simply cannot be accepted.

Kobi Erez has served as the executive director for the Zionist Organization of America‒Midwest Region since 2011.

This op-ed was originally published in JNS and can be viewed here.

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