Arab Political Mobilization and Israeli Responses

By Khalifa, Osama Fouad | Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ), Winter 2001 | Go to article overview

Arab Political Mobilization and Israeli Responses


Khalifa, Osama Fouad, Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)


INTRODUCTION

IN A DEMOCRACY, THE SIZE of a minority group and its potential power is a positive factor. Political mobilization of such minority groups can be seen through their effort to establish political influence within the political atmosphere of the state. This implies that first, such a minority will try to increase its political clout through the decision making of the state that reflects the group's interest. Second, the interest of the minority is usually enforced and applied in an organized way in the political process of the state. [1]

Upon establishing the state of Israel, the Jewish leadership tried to further tighten the screws on the 150,000 Arabs who remained in the newly founded political entity. First, they made sure that the Arabs, who left their villages in 1948, were not allowed to return, and called the returnees, 'infiltrators'. Second, the government of the Jewish State imposed a harsh military regime in the region where the Arabs lived. Third, it continued the policy adopted by the Zionist agencies before independence in May 1948, of confiscation of Arab lands, the crops of which constituted the main income of the Israeli Arabs who were by far mostly rural people. This led to the eventual confiscation of over one million dunums (a dunum equals one-fourth of an acre) of land by the Israeli Land Administration, which belonged to the Arab citizens of Israel. This reduced Arab land ownership to an average of one dunum per head, whereas, during the British mandate, the average had been sixteen dunums per head. [2] Needless to say, the properties of those Arabs who had fled Palestine were never returned to their rightful owners.

The 1948 War resulted in a massive exodus of Arabs; out of a population of 900,000, about 750,000 fled Palestine to neighboring Arab countries. For those who remained in Palestine after 1948, it was a time of severe chaotic and catastrophic consequences. The fleeing Arabs included the political elite, professionals and the business class. Those who remained after the declaration of the State of Israel were mainly rural villagers, unskilled laborers and the poor who had no means to leave. Their normal cycle of life suffered from heavy, nearly catastrophic blows.

There was confusion and shock, mainly due to their new status as a minority. Over night, they had become leaderless and without any clear vision of what tomorrow would bring. In addition, they lacked reliable information about events around them, and the contradictory rumors, of either being killed, or driven from their homes by the newly created Israeli armed forces, further helped this state of chaos. [3]

The majority of Israeli Arabs lived in the northern part of the state. They were not a united minority mainly due to the fact that they suffered from such blows as being leaderless and economically dependent on the Jews in the newly created State of Israel, and unable to organize or mobilize. In addition, they were fragmented along religious and geographical lines, which the state helped accentuate. While the Druze and the Circassians were made to serve in the armed forces, Muslims and Christians were not allowed to do so. Israeli authorities introduced a separate ID card for the Arab Druze and replaced their Arab identity with a Druze one. This complete disarray, division, and confusion about their presence and future made the Arabs think of preserving what they have, their property and the safety of their families. They never thought in terms of plans to destroy the state or to connive with the Arabs in neighboring countries to help them in a future attack on Israel. Even the economies of the villages were in chaos and turmoil. Before May 1948, 50% of the Arabs in Palestine were employed in agriculture as small farmers and agricultural laborers. Their work primarily centered on the citrus groves, most of which were later confiscated by the Israelis. The loss of the Arab agricultural lands transformed a minority of villagers employed by Jewish agricultural private enterprises into laborers. …

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