As a growing number of Arab Israelis – citizens of the State of Israel -- have brutally taken up arms against their fellow citizens who happen to be Jewish, with the full support of Arab elected officials holding positions as high as Member of the Knesset, those of us with a less nuanced view of democracy than the Israeli Government are having a hard time understanding the political landscape. In a democracy, the costs of citizenship are almost always outweighed by the benefits. That’s why democracies exist and flourish. But there are still some costs, the overriding one being loyalty to the state. Except in Israel.
The benefits of citizenship to Israeli Arabs are enormous. Apart from the right to vote in a free and uncoerced election, something found nowhere else in the Middle East, Israeli Arabs get the kinds of “free stuff” that even Obama can’t deliver to his constituents. Not only do Israeli Arabs receive free health care at the hands of first rate doctors (who scrupulously treat all patients the same regardless of religious or political belief), but they can, and in large numbers do, attend world class universities for next to nothing in tuition. And, of course, this educational opportunity is afforded to all Arab men and women – try finding that in another Arab nation.
Israel demands nothing of its Arab citizens in exchange for these services. Nothing. The most serious obligation of citizenship – the obligation to serve in the defense of one’s country – is waived for Arab citizens. But Israel demands even less. It does not even require that Arab citizens, at a minimum, observe some level of loyalty to the State of Israel and renounce violent opposition. It does not prohibit Arab students from being taught the false narrative of their alleged victimization, perpetuating their hatred of Jews. It does not prohibit Arab citizens from observing the “Nakba” – their
You may ask, “isn’t all of this, no matter how offensive, permitted in a free and open society”?
The answer is no. In the United States, the greatest democracy in history, every new citizen and every elected official is required to confess their “faith and allegiance” to the government and to “support and defend” the Constitution “against all enemies foreign and domestic.” Moreover, notwithstanding the First Amendment and its sacrosanct protection of free speech, it is a federal crime, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, for anyone to simply advocate the overthrow of the government by force or violence. Remember, this is in America, which borders the docile nations of Canada and Mexico and is separated from the world’s hotspots, on either side, by three thousand miles of ocean.
Israel’s enemies are on its doorstep and it is threatened from all directions and from within. Its policy of schizophrenia – of criticizing disloyal Arab citizens while simultaneously bestowing upon them the benefits of citizenship, simply isn’t working. As in every other democracy, including the United States, there is a modest burden of citizenship that accompanies the benefits. It is the burden of every citizen – and even moreso elected officials -- to support the state and to refrain from the advocacy of seditious and violent behavior. It is a very small price to pay and it is high time that it be paid.