I’m grateful to the Israeli security personnel who captured the escaped terrorists, including arch terrorist Zakaria Zubeidi. But the story of their capture has an interesting twist.
The terrorists captured as of this writing were in Nazareth, one of the largest, if not the largest, Arab-populated cities in Israel. A perfect place for terrorists to find cover, one might think. And indeed this was their escape plan. They relied on the assumption of a support system in the Arab city of Nazareth.
Imagine these escaped terrorists, abandoned, wandering the streets of Nazareth, searching for food and shelter, expecting to be cared for by fellow Arabs. After all, Nazareth is a hospitable town and community. Israelis know. They were in need of support after the tragedy last Lag b’Omer in Meron, and Nazareth was one of the local Arab communities whch received the fleeing Israelis with warmth.
Of course, everyone in Israel knew of terrorists on the loose, including in Nazareth.
Instead of sheltering these escaped terrorists, Arabs in Nazareth — reportedly tens of them — called Israeli police to report them in their midst. These calls became integral to Israel’s capture of the escaped terrorists.
When the news of the helpful collaboration between Nazareth residents and Israeli personnel spread, Nazareth’s radicals were up in arms. They planned a “protest of wrath” against these “traitors.” Out of a town of 80,000 or so, all of 100 people showed up to the protest.
The majority of Nazareth was sane.
Yet, most of Nazareth’s residents are silent due to the great risk to their lives for aligning with the country of their citizenship, Israel. The radicals in their midst are bloodthirsty, overcome by hate for Israel and also motivated by a culture that financially incentivizes terrorism.
It took incredible courage for the Israeli Arabs of Nazareth to tip off Israeli police. These courageous Arabs could be viewed as “collabor-ators” in the negative sense of the word. Their names could appear on a hit list, whether for violance or social isolation and shunning.
In fact, a couple of outspoken Arab Israelis have unfortunately received direct threats to their lives. One is Yoseph Haddad of Nazareth. His leadership serves as a model of the kind of coexistence that maybe one day can be a reality. Mohammad Kabiya also serves as just such an inspiration.
These Nazareth residents did not coordinate their calls to the Israeli police. It was instinctive. It was clear to them, you report rather than protect roaming terrorists.
Certainly, the term “Arab Israeli” is a complex one. Arab Israelis are not a monolithic group. There are Druze Arab Israelis, there are Muslim Arab Israelis, there are Christian Arab Israelis.
What is interesting is to see the possibility of the lines being redrawn in the Arab Israeli community.
Israeli Arab Knesset Member Ayman Odeh’s response to Israeli personnel arresting the escaped terrorists was his dream for every Palestinian terrorist to be freed. Some radical leftist Israelis also began to question the ethics of Israel jailing Palestinian terrorists. It almost seemed like the lines of the radicals met, be they Arabs or Israeli, while the lines of the sane majority also met, be it Arab or Israelis. The sane acted to ensure that murderers belong in jail.
I wonder, then, what the alignment in Israeli society will look in a few years. Will the primary distinctions continue to be between Arab Israelis and Jewish Israelis? Or perhaps are things changing? Will an alignment emerge of both Arab and Jewish Israelis supporting law and order, standing against terror?
Even if so, Arab Israeli hate for Jews is, sadly, alive and well, too.
Just the other day at a sports stadium in Haifa, terrible slurs and borderline incitement to killing Jewish Israelis were openly shouted from the bleachers by Israeli Arabs. This was not some outlier incident. Nor was it at a private gathering in the home of an Israeli Arab family. We’re talking out in the open for all to see. No shame. No inhibition. At an Israeli sports complex.
Recently, during the war in Gaza last May, the veneer of peacefulness between Israeli Arabs and Jews was shattered, starting with the rioting in the city of Lod that then seemed to spread across mixed Arab-Israeli towns like wildfire. Tensions between Arab Israelis and Jews are real.
But I also see an emerging divide among the Arab Israeli community. There is a battle within the Arab Israeli community itself, not just between Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews.
I hope it is true that there seems to be a live, strong, sane, moderate, normal Israeli Arab population, who wants to live a peaceful Israeli life. Perhaps they don’t have loyalty or love in their hearts, but a pragmatic desire to live a good life as Arab Israeli citizens of the state of Israel. That’s fine.
These Israeli Arabs are not followers of MK Ayman Odeh. He does not represent them. Unlike Ayman Odeh, these Israeli Arabs don’t dream of a day when Arab terrorists go free. These Israeli Arabs believe in a state of law and order and of imprisonment for terrorists.
I hope that more and more of these Arab Israelis and Jews can find a way to live and align as one, living as neighbors in peace and security.
We are stronger together when the good people of the world who value life and freedom reach out in helping hands to one another.
Just as the majority of the Nazareth community did this past week.
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