A Chance to Be Uncomfortable

A march through Umm Al-Fahm would do us some good.

Dr. Tzipora Pinner,

OpEds guest
Arutz 7

There is it again, this uncomfortable feeling in my stomach. It started the day before, when I read a short news
The Arab villages in the Galilee, in a way, just don't exist in the Israeli public consciousness.
item saying that the High Court of Justice has granted permission for a planned right-wing march through the Arab-Israeli city of Umm Al-Fahm.

Just why does it feel so uncomfortable?

The gray morning light sneaks in through the window and I try to block it with my pillow in order to catch a few more minutes of sleep. Suddenly, it dawns on me. That march feels so uncomfortable because it might disturb our sweet dreams.

The dream is that everything is alright in the "Triangle", that part of the Galilee that has a growing Arab majority. The dream is that the very active northern branch of the radical Islamic Movement is not headquartered in Umm Al-Fahm. The sweet blanket of forgetfulness covering the fact that this place has for decades been a hotbed of hatred against Israel; and that before the construction of the security barrier, terrorists infiltrated into Israel through Umm Al-Fahm and used it as a base for attacks on Jews in the Wadi Ara region. The sleepy silence that answers calls for Arab political autonomy in the Galilee, openly made by protesters during the latest Arab "Land Day" rallies.

If it weren't for those rightists who now want to march through the place, no one would ever think of it. The Arab villages in the Galilee, in a way, just don't exist in the Israeli public consciousness. It's a no-go area, physically and psychologically.

And that very much goes both ways. Although these towns and villages are a part of "Israel proper" (within the greenest of Green Lines), the majority of their inhabitants don't see themselves as part of Israel. Israel, so to say, has no place in their consciousness either.

That's why the intended waving of Israeli flags during the demonstration is, to the mayor and inhabitants of Umm Al-Fahm, the height of provocation. It's the flag of the country they live in. It's the flag of the country they absolutely don't identify with.

The planned march through Umm Al-Fahm is a good opportunity to pull these issues out into the daylight. Maybe we should thank those right-wingers for their wake-up call, instead of condemning them.

That the Arab inhabitants of Umm-Al-Fahm squarely oppose the march is natural and understandable. On the Israeli side, the little "sleep disturbance" has more than one side to it. It raises not only those unpleasant questions connected to the Galilee "Triangle", but it also challenges some cherished political concepts.

The organizers of the march themselves dubbed it a "Jewish Pride Parade", thereby referring to the controversial annual "Pride Parade" of the gays through Jerusalem. They claim that if there is freedom of expression granted to that controversial event - under heavy police protection, despite threats - then this should go for other controversial events as well.

And, like it or not, they are right on that. Freedom of expression implies that it is granted equally to all. If one side of the spectrum is chronically silenced, that's the opposite of freedom.

A word on what I've heard about the march's organizers. Their opponents point out that some of them  once were members of the Kach party, which was later outlawed. But does that imply that these people have to be forever excluded from expressing any political opinion or showing up in public? What should people do who are again and again prevented from presenting their ideas in a normal, public manner? Isn't it true that suppression promotes radicalization? Barring people from democratic means of participation and expression does not make them more democratic. On the contrary, it creates an underground mentality.

I heard some people oppose the planned march with phrases like: "...because it's racist." If the participants would hold up placards with racist slogans, that would be understandable. But in case they don't, then what about those who want to forbid a Jewish demonstration in an Arab town in Israel? Does that not somehow resemble racism?

There is yet another way to see it. A short time ago, the second boat in two months with self-proclaimed peace activists violated Israeli sovereignty along the Gaza coast and docked there. Why did Israel let this happen? Among the reasons given for permitting both incidents was the consideration that by simply waving the illegal boats through, the matter would lose most of its appeal. And so it was. Sometimes, letting the "impossible" happen simply reduces everything to its normal size, be it a fish trawler with a handful of possibly Hamas-friendly
If one side of the spectrum is chronically silenced, that's the opposite of freedom.
"peace promoters" or any other kind of demonstration, parade or march.

Let the right-wingers have their Jewish Pride Parade. Don't be afraid. You disagree with them? That's okay; it's called pluralism.

Israel didn't collapse because of the Gaza boats. It also didn't collapse because of the gay parades through Jerusalem (even though I personally strongly disagreed with both events). Israel surely won't collapse because of Umm Al-Fahm.

Security concerns? Thanks to thorough planning and the work of the police, the threatened wide-scale riots against the gay parade in Jerusalem never materialized. It can be done if there is sufficient will to do it.

Let's see this little disturbance of our pleasant sleep as a chance for dragging some unpleasant questions out from under the carpet. The keywords are "freedom of expression" for the entire political spectrum,  the forgotten but silently smoldering "problems of the Arab Triangle" in the Galilee, and "dealing with the impossible." May Israel grow stronger from this.