The Arabs of Israel

The Arabs of Israel

As the mass media focus our attention on international relations in the Middle East, we are too often distracted from equally explosive internal affairs. Time bombs tick away and jolt us only when they erupt. (Perhaps an early warning system of sympathetic criticism is in order.) The condition of Israel’s Arabs, those within the Green Line, or pre-1967 borders, provides a particularly serious case in point.

Who are these Arabs, these “full citizens of a democratic and pluralistic state”? They are descendants or survivors of an Arab minority that somehow remained in 1948 when a majority of their brethren fled the new nation of Israel. Those who stayed on numbered about 125,000. Now, merely by natural growth, they are over half a million strong, constituting 15 or 16 percent of the total population. Already proportionally a bigger ethnic group in Israel than blacks in the United States, their continued increase is taken for granted. Demographers who study the large families and growing life expectancy of these people project a figure of 1 million Arabs in the Jewish homeland by 1990. Golda Meir is said to have exclaimed that for some time she lost sleep every night thinking about the birth of another Arab child in Israel. And David Ben Gurion, at least in his official capacity, never visited an Israeli Arab village. His attitude, benevolent enough in its way (Zionist leaders have always pointed with justification to the greater economic wellbeing of Arabs inside than outside Israel), was still compounded of distance and delay. “Let there be peace and the problem will solve itself.”


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