Israeli Arabs prove theyre no longer a loyal minority group

Are the Israeli Arabs a loyal minority, or are they a potentially dangerous subversive element in the heart of the Jewish state?

That question, debated among Israeli Jews for the better part of the past quarter of a century, is hard to answer, for who can tell what lies in the hearts of other men and women?

Enlightened Jewish opinion had it that despite mounting evidence of local Arab participation in Palestinian terrorism in the heart of Israel and the rise of a vociferous Israel-hating Islamic Movement, the overwhelming majority of Israeli Arabs were loyal, and the above phenomena only represented the work of "bad seeds."

The sorry events of the past two weeks have totally demolished whatever basis there may have been for that enlightened opinion. A large minority of Israeli Arabs — apparently including a significant majority of the young males among them — proved that they were ready to resort to the most outrageous violence against any Jew who came their way, not out of frustration over their economic situation, but in clear support of the Palestinian radicals in the territories. These radicals are dedicated not merely to the realization of an independent Palestinian state that would live in peace alongside a Jewish Israel, but to the annihilation of that hated Zionist entity.

The slogans that the rioters shouted, the frenzy with which they attacked anything Jewish or Israeli and the exquisite coordination of their uprising with that of the terrorist Tanzim in the regions are all damning evidence that what we have here is not an understandable eruption of a downtrodden minority. Instead, this is an Arafat-sponsored internal rebellion against Israel.

This evidence is further corroborated by Israeli daily Yediot Achronot's poll last week that found 66 percent of the Israeli Arab population declaring they would clearly support the Palestinian side in any confrontation with Israel; only 13 percent said they would support Israel.

That would explain the really bad news of the uprising in which the overwhelming majority of the Israeli Arabs — first and foremost their 10 Knesset members — made not the slightest effort to rein in the rioters. Either they were too spineless, too terrorized by the anti-Israel radicals in the streets of nearly all Arabs towns and villages, or secretly proud of the rioters, although too cowardly to join them.

Did that justify the police shooting down the rioters "like dogs," as Arab spokesmen claimed? Certainly not. But that is not what happened. Vastly outnumbered police first tried normal riot control methods, then tear gas and rubber bullets, and only then, in life-threatening situations, resorted to live fire. As they should have. That police restraint is why there were "only" 10 Arab rioters killed.

In connection with the worst rioting, in Islamic Movement-controlled Umm el-Fahm, it is critical to make the following tragic but unavoidable point: Umm el-Fahm lies on one of the most critical internal security roads in the country, the Wadi Ara road. Every mother and father in this town should be aware that in the case of a future war, if there is the slightest attempt by "innocent" Arab villagers to slow up Israeli reserves rushing to the front, Umm el-Fahm will be razed to the ground, with a massive loss of life.

True, Israel is a democracy, but it is a democracy under threat by an increasingly militant Arab minority. We must henceforward predicate our attitude to that minority on the assumption that it harbors dangerously subversive elements in its midst. Until proven otherwise, Israeli Arabs are not loyal.

It is understandably difficult for most of us, with our memories of being Jewish minorities, to internalize that new reality. But we must do so.

The mind boggles at the fact that until two weeks, Prime Minister Ehud Barak was seriously considering basing a narrow coalition on the mostly subversive 10 Arab Knesset members. What should be done now is to declare the Islamic Movement illegal and dissolve all Arab municipalities headed by Islamic Movement mayors — first and foremost that of Umm el-Fahm.

Much more difficult, but equally essential, is adopting legislation that would withdraw Israeli citizenship from those who declare their foremost allegiance to our Palestinian enemy, and who will refuse to serve in the Israel Defense Force or a parallel national service, which must be developed speedily.

Israeli Arabs may have a "right" to identify with their Palestinian brethren; Israel has even more of a right to take extreme measures to defend itself against its Palestinian and other Arab enemies.