Interesting and contradictory developments have taken place as Hizbullah dispatches about 150 missiles a day at northern Israel, where much of Israel's Arab population lives. Here are some of them:
Hizbullah calls for Israeli Arabs to evacuate Haifa: In a step eerily reminiscent of 1948, when Arab leaders called on Palestinians to get out of the way so they could invade and defeat the nascent state of Israel, Hassan Nasrallah of Hizbullah on Aug. 9 ordered Palestinians out of the way, so he can have a clear shot at Israelis. "I have a special message to the Arabs of Haifa, to your martyrs and to your wounded. I call on you to leave this city. I hope you do this. ... Please leave so we don't shed your blood, which is our blood."
Israeli Arabs say no to Nasrallah: One day later, a former Hadash (communist) member of the Israeli parliament, Issam Mahoul, rejected this advice. "We have nothing to do outside of Haifa, and we have no reason to panic. The Palestinian people are especially unwilling to be refugees of any kind again." Mahoul also recalled 1948: "Nasrallah should have known that in 1948 the communist party was also opposed to Arab residents leaving their homes." Shadi Mzawin, whose sister and grandparents were injured by a Hizbullah rocket, had choice words for the Hizbullah leader: "I hope Nasrallah gets a rocket between the legs for what he is doing to me here, for harming grandma and grandpa."
Israeli Arabs volunteer for military service: Dozens of Arabs, headed by Fuad Nasser, 54, wrote a letter to Minister of Defense Amir Peretz asking that their youth be drafted to serve in the IDF in response to Nasrallah's call for the Arabs of Haifa to leave the city. "We are proud of Israel, and its just struggle," the letter reads, "and are prepared to carry out any mission that the IDF gives us." Nasser himself volunteered for the Israel Defense Forces, while his son and nephew were the first Arabs to serve in the famed Golani Brigade. "We are Israelis like everyone else and we strongly oppose Hizbullah and Nasrallah," he explained. "Some of us are already too old for service, but we can also do our share. We have all the motivation in the world."
Attitudes toward Israel: Near East Consulting of Ramallah publishes a survey about once a month that asks about 700 Palestinians over the telephone, "Should Hamas maintain its position on the elimination of the state of Israel?" A yes answer means Israel should indeed be eliminated. Note the big jump of late, and especially since the war with Hizbullah began, in those replying yes, suggesting that Palestinians feel a surge of confidence vis-à-vis Israel:
27-29 January 2006 25 percent 24-26 February 2006 38 percent 23-26 March 2006 32 percent 22-25 April 2006 35 percent 19-21 May 2006 41 percent 22-24 June 2006 44 percent 2-4 August 2006 54 percent
(August 10, 2006)
Aug. 15, 2006 update: Using figures posted at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, I calculate that Hizbullah's over 3,500 rocket attacks against northern Israel between July 12 and August 13, 2006, killed 24 non-Arabs and 19 Arabs.
Aug. 16, 2006 update: What about those Haifa Arabs who did take Nasrallah's advice and fled to Arab towns like Bethlehem, Ramallah, and east Jerusalem? In "Israeli Arabs' war experience," Roee Nahmias of Yedi'ot Aharonot provides some information about the families who did just that.
Ghani Abassi, married and a father of three daughters, decided to go with his family to Bethlehem and flee the Katyusha attacks. Abbasi traveled to the Palestinian town with some 10 other families from Haifa, who all chose to stay at local hotels. Unfortunately, this was when their true nightmare began. "I waited for three days until I got a room. Then it turned out that the air conditioning wasn't working, and I was told that the reason was the high price of electricity. I decided that this wasn't that bad, because we felt we were among our brothers at the West Bank and were willing to endure the terrible heat, knowing we're safe and that our visit was also of financial help," Abbasi described to the website of the Israeli-Arab newspaper al-Sinara.
"However, the treatment we received was disgraceful and dreadful," he said. "We walked around town for a while, but the attitude we encountered on the part of the locals was horrible. The youngsters on the street started harassing our wives and daughters and used shocking expressions that I cannot even bring myself to pronounce," he said.
Another Haifa resident, who went with his family to Jerusalem to escape from the rocket threat, said that the local merchants blatantly took advantage of the situation and inflated the prices in stores. A bottle of mineral water that usually sells for about NIS 4, for instance, was being sold to the Haifa tourists for NIS 10. "They told us, 'you are worse than the Jews.' We heard expressions of joy over the fact we have fled our homes, and some even tried to attack us. We were disgusted and decided to return to Haifa," he said, stressing that he used to be a regular donor to the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza.
According to him, after that day and the humiliation he experienced in Bethlehem, he does not plan on donating even one shekel. "We thought we are one nation and that what really hurts them, hurts us too. We went to demonstrations for them and we donated a lot of money to them because we thought they are our brothers and that is our obligation. But, what we found was exploitation and undeserving treatment toward someone supposedly from the same nation," he told. The same resident added that he expected the families from Haifa and Nazareth to be warmly received in the West Bank towns, but what took place was the exact opposite.
Today he speaks with regret about the two days he spent in Bethlehem. "While touring in Ramallah, a few youngsters said to us, 'you are the same as, even worse than, the Jews.' We tried to understand why they were acting that way toward us, but they attacked us and a fight broke out. We are very sorry for what happened and we couldn't have expected such an unfit welcome from members of our nation whom we had respected and appreciated very much. But they didn't respect us at all, and saw as worse than the Jews. We are very sorry for what happened and that we drove all the way there to see the painful truth that they don't respect us there," said Ghani Abassi.
Abassi added that the restaurants jacked up prices for customers because they thought they were foreign 'tourists.' "Even foreigners are respected there, but we, their own brothers, felt like they don't respect us, and my friends and I asked why? Are we unworthy of the respect due to members of the same nation?" Following such treatment, Abassi and his friends hurried back to the lap of the Katyushas and air raid sirens of Haifa. "'We will never again make a donation or participate in a demonstration for the West Bank from now on," said one of them.
Israeli Arabs volunteer for military service: Dozens of Arabs, headed by Fuad Nasser, 54, wrote a letter to Minister of Defense Amir Peretz asking that their youth be drafted to serve in the IDF in response to Nasrallah's call for the Arabs of Haifa to leave the city. "We are proud of Israel, and its just struggle," the letter reads, "and are prepared to carry out any mission that the IDF gives us." Nasser himself volunteered for the Israel Defense Forces, while his son and nephew were the first Arabs to serve in the famed Golani Brigade. "We are Israelis like everyone else and we strongly oppose Hizbullah and Nasrallah," he explained. "Some of us are already too old for service, but we can also do our share. We have all the motivation in the world." (August 10, 2006)