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Being an Arab Citizen of the State of Israel

January 12, 2003

Re "The Dilemma of Israeli Arabs," Commentary, Jan. 8: What Azmi Bishara claims is the impossibility of democracy in a Jewish state is, in fact, the impossibility of realizing Arab national aspirations within a Jewish state. Bishara feels like a second-class citizen in Israel. (We will put aside the fact that Jews were second- and third-class citizens in countries throughout the Middle East for centuries and that they left Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen as soon as they could -- that is, as soon as there was a Jewish state to which they could go.) What creates this feeling of second-class citizenship, however, is not Israel's Jewish "essence" but the incessant hostility of its neighbors.

War with and terror against the Jewish community began before the birth of the state of Israel, continued throughout the decades before Israel came to occupy the West Bank in 1967 and continues today. It is the desire to bring the state of Israel to an end that creates suspicions of Israeli Arabs in the minds of Israeli Jews and contributes to Arab feelings of second-class citizenship.

Bishara's effort to de-legitimize the state of Israel in his essay is itself an attempt -- albeit rhetorical -- to bring about Israel's demise. And yet he wonders why he is viewed with suspicion and cannot feel at home.

Elliott Oring

Long Beach

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Bishara says, "One need not be Arab to identify with the Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation." Really? Occupation of what? Occupation of what has been historically Jewish? He also says that "we are accused of 'threatening the Jewishness of the state.' "

In reality, it's quite clear that Bishara wants something that never existed before, a Palestinian state. A Palestinian state -- without an Israel. That, in light of the fact that Arabs in Israel enjoy freedoms and live under democratic guarantees unknown in Arab countries.

Arabs have rejected the opportunities to have a Palestinian state.

Sheldon Kronfeld

San Diego

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