Relations Today and Tomorrow Between Israeli-Jews and Israeli-Arabs – Good or Bad???

Today and Tomorrow
Israeli-Jews and
Israeli-Arabs -
Good or Bad???

© David Burton 2021


     In May of 2021, the riots, the ambushes, the stoning and near lynching of Jews by Arabs provided a rude awaking from the nascent illusion of increasingly harmonious coexistence between Israel-Jews and Israel-Arabs. Such was the typical media reaction to the apparent unrest induced by the Hamas rocket barrage into Israel.

     Thugs and hoodlums took advantage of the heightened tensions between Israeli-Jews and Israeli-Arabs brought on by the rocket attacks from Gaza and the Incitements to violence from the PA leadership in the West Bank. Both Jews and Arabs in various cities and towns in Israel were attacked by violent thugs and hoodlums bent on creating mayhem. The large majority of Israeli-Jews and Israeli-Arabs remained law-abiding and refrained from such acts of terror against each other. As usual, the atrocities perpetrated by these thugs and hoodlums garnered the most media attention while the peaceful and supportive behavior of the vast majority of Israelis was rarely mentioned.
     The rioting was largely incited by Arab extremists spreading rumors and falsehoods. But facts are irrelevant to Arab trouble-making youths who are eager to attack Jews and Israel under any pretext. These troublemakers continue to demonstrate the ignorance that exists among them and many other Arabs who have no concepts of reality and simply follow the exhortations of unscrupulous leaders like proverbial blind mice. On the other side, many Israelis suspect that the rioting was simply an effort to divert attention away from the ongoing infighting and bloodshed that has been taking place for years now between Fatah and Hamas.

     Jewish terrorists retaliated by viciously attacking Israeli-Arabs. Many, if not most, of them were young orthodox and ultra-orthodox Jews, particularly Jews seeking to resettle and reclaim the lands of Judea and Samaria. Others were simply after revenge for atrocities committed against their Jewish brethren by Arab extremists.

     In some cases, Israeli-Arab thugs, unable to take their aggression out on Israeli-Jews in Israel following police suppression of their actions in Lod, Ramle, Haifa, Acco, the Negev, and elsewhere, resumed their customary violence against fellow Israeli-Arabs.
     Following police intervention to prevent further attacks and rioting perpetrated under the “Al Aqsa is in danger” pretext, the dregs of Israeli-Arab society returned to their peacetime routine of killing other Israeli-Arabs, with a spree in the Arab town of Umm El-Fahm that included the burning of a police station, street fights, and at least three murders.
     Observers noted the speed with which these thugs made the pivot to, and then away from, targeting Jews en-mass. “The move from subjecting other Arabs in Umm El-Fahm to intimidation and violence happened quickly, but in part we can attribute that to official Palestinian propaganda about Al Aqsa, and further incitement by local preachers,” explained a sociologist who specialized in Arab citizens of Israel. The impressive part wasn’t the violence against Jews, it was the amazing quickness with which these Israeli-Arab criminals went so seamlessly back to killing one another and whoever else happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.[1]

     To be fair, not all the thugs and hoodlums were Israeli-Arabs. There were Israeli-Jewish thugs and hoodlums who committed similar atrocities against Israeli-Arabs.

     Video footage captured a crowd of ultra-nationalist Israeli-Jews pulling an Israeli-Arab driver from a car and beating him until he lay motionless on the ground. The footage from Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv showed the mob attacking the man amid a night of unrest as Hamas fired rockets at Israel, which launched retaliatory airstrikes in Gaza.
     The video showed that the motorist was trying to avoid Jewish extremists walking along a promenade. Israeli-Jewish hoodlums in other parts of the country, including the northern cities of Tiberias and Acre, marched in the streets chanting “Death to Arabs” and vandalizing Arab-owned businesses. [2]

     One Israeli-Jew wrote about his “awakening” shortly after the rioting and destruction was taking place. Of his belief in the “harmonious coexistence” between the two groups, he wrote: “I admit. I was totally mistaken.” (Ref. 3)

     He had been somewhat skeptical about the “loyalty” of Israel’s Arab citizens to the Jewish state, believing that, by and large, they harbored a latent yet smoldering disloyalty that one day would erupt. But, he had been ready to change his mind.
     He had begun to believe that a certain awareness of the tremendous advantages the Israeli-Arabs enjoyed living in Israel compared to the lives of their fellow Arabs in neighboring countries was beginning to settle into their collective consciousness.
     Today, in many ways, Israel-Arabs look more and more like Israeli-Jews - except, of course, for those Arabs or Jews who don Islamic or ultra-Orthodox religious attire. The result was a false sense of similarity and diminishing differences between “them” and “us.”
     However, the riots, the ambushes, the stoning and near lynching of Jews by Israeli-Arabs provided a rude awaking from the nascent illusion of increasingly harmonious coexistence. Indeed, it was mayhem not born of socioeconomic grievances, but of inimical ethno-nationalistic affiliation with Israel’s foes, bent on eradicating it as a Jewish nation-state.
     It was not socioeconomic despair that drove an Israeli-Arab mob to tear down the Israeli flag and replace it with that of the enemy, under whom their socioeconomic plight would be considerably worse - by orders of magnitude.
     The well-known dictum that “Democracy is not a suicide pact” may not be new, but it was never more apt than it is for Israel today. No democracy can survive a situation in which one section of the population not only rejects the basis for its inception and existence, but embraces those seeking its destruction.[3]

     Back in 2006, my wife and I had been reading, watching TV and listening to the news reports about the Hezbollah’s kidnapping of 2 Israeli soldiers, Israel’s response, and Hezbollah’s rocket attacks on Northern Israel from Lebanon. Along with the “war” news, we’d heard the calls for volunteers to come to Northern Israel to help the residents. My wife decided that we needed to join these volunteers.

     Early in January of 2007 we, along with another 8 volunteers from the Boston area went to Israel to see what we could do to help out Boston’s sister city, Haifa, which had been hit a number of times 6-months earlier by Hezbollah rockets fired from southern Lebanon.

     One memorable part of our 6-week stay in Israel involved a visit to a Muslim Mosque and Community Center in the Kababir section of Haifa.

     At the Kababir neighborhood, we were given an explanation of the Muslim prayer services and other features of the Muslim religion by the Muslim Sheriff. After the visit to the mosque, we went into the community center, where our host told us about his community, their Muslim sect and some of their concepts of Islam, which advocates peace and tolerance rather than violence against and subjugation of all others.

     Kababir is a mixed neighborhood, with an Ahmadiya Muslim majority, a significant minority of Jews, some Christians and a few Druze. The community includes a small number of “Palestinians” who sought shelter in Haifa, after they were “excommunicated” by their larger families in the West Bank. Haifa city officials viewed Kababir as a model of coexistence.

     I left Kababir with the hope that one day the moderate elements in Islam, like those in kababir, would be able to take the lead in the Muslim religion and help the rest of the world in defeating radical Islamic terrorism.

     Are moderate Muslims beginning to see the light and joining in the struggle against radical Islam? Maybe. The recent improvement in relations between Israel and several Arab countries points in this direction.

     It may be that a moderate movement in the Islamic world with attitudes very different from that of militant Islam is developing. Hopefully this movement will strengthen and take a more active and aggressive role in the struggle against militant Islam. What is needed is a flood of Islamic moderation – not just a few Muslims speaking out against the barbarism of Islamic fanatics, but the raised voices and actions of hundreds of millions moderate Muslims opposing the violent actions of the jihadists. As we so often hear - Deeds speak louder than words! A start has been made in this direction, but the all-out condemnation and opposition of radical Islam by moderate Muslims has yet to be fully achieved.

     “Moderate” Arab/Moslem leaders and governments are aware that the excesses of Islamic fanatics threaten not just “infidels” but themselves as well. These “moderates” have seen that Muslims are being butchered and abused by fanatics across the Middle East and elsewhere. Victory over fanatic Islam requires that these Muslim “moderates” aggressively join the fight to defeat and destroy Islamic fanaticism. Instead of a trickle of support from “moderate Muslims” in the war on Islamic fundamentalism, there needs to be a veritable flood of concerted and continuing opposition to Islamic terrorism from these “moderates".

     In view of the violent clashes reported between some Jews and some Arabs in Israel during the May 2021 fighting, one may ask what happened with the moderate Muslims in Haifa and with the Jewish population there. Perhaps the following will provide an appropriate answer.

     In a 25 May 2021 essay, The Myth of Coexistence in Israel, Diana Buttu, a Canadian-born “Palestinian” lawyer and former advisor to the PLO, wrote about her hometown of Haifa. Self-identified as a “Palestinian” citizen of Israel and focused on her “half-empty” conception of the glass. Her op-ed was illustrated with maps presenting a false, agenda-driven picture of the geography of the holy land fought over by Israelis and Arabs for over a century. A long-time Jewish resident of Haifa wanted to set the record straight and rebutted Buttu with the following.

     “My wife and I, both retirees from Haifa academic institutions, love to sit in coffee shops. Our favorite one near our home is jointly owned and managed by a Jewish citizen of Israel and an Arab citizen of Israel. (I have never asked, it being none of my business, but I have reason to doubt that he identifies as a Palestinian citizen of Israel). Misleadingly, Buttu has decided for Arab citizens of Haifa that they have no choice but to identify as Palestinians, not as Arab Israelis. I wonder how many of them has she asked? How many of them, including Buttu herself, have moved from Haifa to areas under Palestinian control?
     “My wife and I also enjoy walking on Haifa’s beautiful beachfront. I cannot identify whether the large majority of the people enjoying the sunny stroll with us are Arab, at least not until they speak. The other morning we noticed a pair of armed security guards at the beach, speaking Arabic to each other. Despite recent events, we discern no tension in the air, or on people’s faces.
     “When we swim in our local pool, we swim together with Arabs and Jews. When we need medical attention, it is often Arab physicians and nurses who treat us, as was the senior rheumatologist who recently saw me through a painful bout of arthritis, with care and compassion. In Haifa it is rare to encounter a pharmacist who is not an Arab. We feel fully comfortable putting our lives and health in the hands of Arabs.
     “One of our Arab friends (a colleague from before we retired), told us that his mother praises God every morning for living in the State of Israel. Her deceased husband had a brother (the colleague’s uncle) who chose to flee Haifa in 1948. Sadly, he fell for the lies propagated by Hitler’s co-conspirator and ally the ‘Grand’ Mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who sowed fear by painting a grim picture for Arabs of what would happen if the invading Arab armies failed to throw the Jews into the sea. Her husband, who chose to stay in Israel, made a successful life for himself and his family here and raised a son (our friend) who earned several academic degrees and is a highly regarded professional. Her husband’s brother, on the other hand, the one who had elected to flee to Lebanon, spent the rest of his life in a Palestinian refugee camp, denied by his Lebanese Arab brethren the rights of legal residence, not to mention citizenship. That brother chose to abandon his home — he was not ‘ethnically cleansed’ as Buttu would have it.
     “There are two universities and several colleges in Haifa. Each institution is blessed with senior Arab professors, administrators, and many Arab students, whose percentage of the student bodies is greater than the percentage of Arabs in the general population. Generally, the relationship of Jewish and Arab students in Israeli universities is civil and even harmonious. I write as someone with first-hand knowledge of the University of Haifa, where I taught for many years and served as Dean of Students.
     “It is true that Haifa suffered from one night of clashes between hooligans, both Jews and Arabs, at the beginning of the most recent round of fighting. Everyone in the city was shocked, embarrassed by the outliers in each side, and quickly came together to put a stop to it. It may also be true that Haifa’s largely successful coexistence between Jews and Arabs is partly a function of the fact that many Muslim Haifaites are members of the Ahmadi movement and that many other Haifa Arabs are Christians. This shows that Jewish-Arab relations elsewhere could be different and better. It also helps that many Arab political activists in Haifa (some of whom I know personally) focus their efforts on improving the lives of local Arabs, instead of tying themselves to Hamas terrorists in Gaza or to the geriatric kleptocracy that the Palestinian Authority has become.
     “No doubt Buttu would reply to all this that it is easy for me, a Jew, to see Haifa through rose-colored glasses. Yet it is no less true that her own hatreds make it impossible for her to see beyond her falsehoods.” (Ref. 4)

     I have abstracted the following from a post by an Israeli-Jew in another response to Buttu.

     Buttu’s negative rhetoric will have a devastating impact and will only perpetuate the inciteful hatred towards Jewish Israelis. The question is, what do most Israeli-Arab citizens of Israel teach their children? Do they feed the same hatred and fear as some “Palestinian” citizens do from the diaspora? Do they use the Palestinian Authority (PA) textbooks, which the latest EU report says “contain dozens of examples of encouragement of violence and demonization of Israel and Jews?“
     This Israeli-Jew’s 20 year experience of working in informal education within the Jewish and Arab sectors in Israel has shown him a very different perspective. Overwhelmingly, Israeli-Arab citizens of Israel want a good life for their children, free of hatred and full of hope for an equal and shared society. The truth is, while there is discrimination in some areas of society, there are also many opportunities in place to break down ignorance and mistrust between communities and help Israeli-Arab children to succeed and even thrive.
     One of the best platforms to combat discrimination and promote equality is through sport. For decades, hundreds of thousands of Israeli-Arab and Arab-Jewish children in mixed and separate cities have been discovering sport’s transformative power for themselves.
     There are more than 30 sport for peace organizations in Israel using pedagogical trust-building programs designed to bring different communities closer. The Sport for Peace coalition has over 100,000 children a year actively involved in soccer, basketball, tennis, catch ball, surfing, skateboarding, karate, judo, and other programs. Every encounter helps build a shared society whose members not only co-exist but co-thrive.
     It is well known that politicians use “fear-of-the-other” tactics to garner votes and power. The recent violence seen in mixed cities was ignited by the political stalemate and several political leaders, but it is not a true reflection of civil society in Israel.
     For that, look no further than a hospital, a shopping center or a sports match. You will see Jewish and Arab patients being treated by Jewish and Arab medical staff. You will see mixed customers and sales staff at the mall and mixed spectators at the stadium. And you will see Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Jewish entrepreneurs working in the vibrant high-tech industry. This reality may not be newsworthy, but a shared society is flourishing behind the TV cameras all the same. Unfortunately, TV and the rest of the media remain fixated on violence – good news doesn’t sell.
     Civil society in Israel does not rely on political leaders. It relies on people taking responsibility for offering their kids a better future. Consider the Hand in Hand schools, a network of six bilingual (Arabic and Hebrew) schools with 1,300 students and 6,000 parents and staff. Or the myriad educational programs such as the Hartman Institute’s Min HaBe’erot program, which trains Israeli and Arab educators to better understand each other through interfaith studies. They are but two of the 150 organizations in the Alliance of Middle East Peace (ALLMEP) - the fastest growing and largest group of peacebuilders in Israel and Palestine. ALLMEP is responsible for lobbying the US Congress to create the Middle East Partnership for Peace Alliance (MEPPA ), a $250 million fund promoting grassroots people-to-people peace initiatives.
     With this type of cooperative mindset, Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel will not just co-exist; they will have the opportunity to co-thrive.[5]

     In light of the wave of violence between Arabs and Jews in Israel during the rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip in May of 2021, the University of Haifa held a roundtable discussion following the ceasefire in Gaza, where students, faculty, administrative staff and general public were able to discuss how they were being impacted by the increased tensions and they attempted to find solutions to restore harmony.
     Over 120 Jews and Arabs of various backgrounds attended the Zoom meeting, hosted by the University’s Jewish-Arab Community Leadership Program, which fosters multicultural encounters among students to create leadership groups within the University and their local community.
     “As a multicultural community, we wanted to offer a safe space for Jews and Arabs to talk about the difficult issues surrounding the conflict,” said the dean of students at University of Haifa. “From Orthodox Jews, to Ethiopians, Druze and Arabs, participants talked about their frustrations and worries, but also of hope for better times ahead. Importantly, they were able to see and understand perspectives from one another, even during these tense times.”
     Students reflected on the open discussions with their Jewish and Arab peers, and spoke about how such interaction and dialogue is the only way to move forward.
     Expressing her fears following the violence, an Arab BA student stated: “I shared my feelings and worries of going outside with an Islamic head cover. It helped me to listen to others’ experiences of fear, and one of the participants suggested it may relate to the media’s emphasis on violent events. . . ”
     With Arab students making up over 30 percent of the student body at University of Haifa, more than the average among Israeli academic institutions and the Arab share of the nation’s total population, the University’s community of co-existence has for the past 50 years served as a model for Israel and the region.[6]

     In May of 2021, Israel was in the midst of a crucial operation to ensure the safety of millions of its citizens. It was not Israel’s first operation in Gaza, and it’s unlikely to be the last. Every time Hamas decides to drag the Jewish nation into another round in this everlasting conflict, it sparks support from “Palestinians” in the West Bank and Arab villages and cities in Israel (not to mention the Muslim world). Even for many Israeli-Arabs, Hamas’s cause is ultimately their cause. This time around, the fighting evoked violent protests unlike any seen before all across the nation.
     The ensuing violence made people rethink their outlook on Israeli society. Many woke up to the reality that the fabric of Jewish-Arab coexistence is much more fragile than they thought. Mixed towns suddenly exploded, hatred spilling into the streets. As police were struggling to disperse the angry mobs, Jews took it upon themselves to fight back, and to intercept the Arab rioters. On occasion they filled in for the lack of security for the Jewish population, other times it went too far and Arab businesses were damaged and Arab bystanders were beaten.
     Many have come to believe that the real threat in Operation Guardian of the Walls was the internal conflict, and not so much the Gaza rocket fire. Israeli-Jews have had to wake up next to their fellow Israeli-Arab neighbors. Many of them are doctors, grocery store owners, car dealers, construction workers, restaurant owners. Israelis – Jews, Arabs and many other religions and ethnicities - all live side-by-side. Every day. What will the relationships look like after all the fighting is over?
     While the media was busy covering the terrible goings on, joint Jewish-Arab endeavors for peace were pushed to the sidelines. For instance, the Haifa Municipality published photos of residents who work and live side-by-side, in Nof HaGalil they uploaded a picture of a mixed children’s soccer team and the Religious Leaders Forum spoke out strongly against violence and said emphatically: “Violence is not in my religion!” The chairman of Islamist political party Ra’am also issued a conciliatory message following attacks on a few synagogues in Israel, saying: “We are ready to take part in the restoration of the damaged synagogues. I will lead this.” Not all is lost.
     Demonstrations with the participation of hundreds of people took place in Habima Square in Tel Aviv, Clock Square in Jaffa and the Hadar neighborhood in Haifa. The demonstrations were led by the “Standing Together” movement, which promotes a Jewish-Arab partnership. Their slogan: “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.”
     The challenges are real, but they also breed opportunities for genuine change. For the first time, a representative of the Arab public (Mansour Abbas) has expressed the desire to negotiate. Not as a pretense, but truly negotiate for the sake of the Arab communities living in Israel. It is a golden opportunity. Israel has a chance to facilitate much-needed change. It could help the Arab population feel like things are starting to move in their direction.
     Cooperation with the Arab leaders is essential. In the future, things need to be done differently for the sake of Israeli citizens - both Jew and Arab. The truth of the matter is that the Jews aren’t going anywhere - this is their homeland. But the Arabs aren’t going away either. Therefore, both must find ways to coexist, with mutual respect, all the while leading an uncompromising position against terror and violence. [7]

     So, as we enter the third decade of the twenty-first century, the question yet to be answered is Are today’s relations between Israeli-Jews and Israeli-Arabs Good or Bad? If the extremists - Arab and Jew – have their way, then there will be no coexistence between Jew and Arab, only eternal death, destruction and strife. On the other hand, all people of good will are continuing to work toward the elimination of the areas of contention and toward the achievement of mutual trust and respect that will assure that all segments of Israeli society prosper and thrive in an atmosphere of peace, civility and mutual esteem. There are many members of Israeli society who are working diligently to achieve this result. The extremists and terrorists in the region must not be allowed to defeat them!

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!

It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Coming down upon the beard;
Even Aaron’s beard,
That cometh down upon the collar of his garments;
Like the dew of Hermon,
That cometh down upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the LORD commanded the blessing,
Even life for ever.
[Psalm 133]


  1. Anti-Jewish Riots Over, Umm-El-Fahm Arabs Return To Killing One Another, PreOccupied Territory,
    Accessed 20 July 2021.
  2. Far-right Israeli mob’s vicious attack on Arab man caught on live TV, Yaron Steinbuch, New York Post,
    13 May 2021.
  3. Et tu, Ahmad – The illusion of Arab loyalty, Martin Sherman, World Israel News, 16 May 2021.
  4. A Different View of Haifa, Menachem Kellner, the algemeiner, 7 June 2021.
  5. Is co-existence in Israel a myth? Co-thriving is not!, Danny Hakim, The Times of Israel, 29 June 2021.
  6. 'More Jewish-Arab encounters needed to spread comradery, hope', Arutz Sheva, 24 May 2021.
  7. The Real Problem and the Real Opportunity, Arthur Schwartzman, Israel today, 20 May 2021.


  26 August 2021 {Article 490; Israel_55}    
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