Do Israel’s Arabs Have a Future?

The Palestinians in Israel: A Study in Internal Colonialism

by Elia T. Zureik
Routledge and Kegan Paul, 249 pp., $20.00

Arab Education in Israel

by Sami Khalil Mar’i
Syracuse University Press, 209 pp., $15.00

Beyond the Gunsights: One Arab Family in the Promised Land

by Yoella Har-Shefi
Houghton Mifflin, 226 pp., $9.95

For Israelis, one of the most disturbing facts of life is that so many of the five hundred thousand Arabs who are Israeli citizens are increasingly militant supporters of the PLO. In the elections of 1977 over half of them voted for Rakah, Israel’s pro-Moscow Communist Party, which claims to be anti-Zionist and openly favors a PLO state in occupied territory. When the party planned an Israeli-Arab political congress in Nazareth for December 6 the Begin government banned it from taking place. Arab student organizations at the Hebrew University and other universities have refused to stand guard duty on their own campuses, though these have been the targets of terrorist attacks. Students’ groups have issued statements endorsing the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people. So has Tufik Zayat, the communist mayor of Nazareth, who told me not long ago that such sentiments are only the surface signs of deep disaffection.

Four books have been published recently to account for the estrangement of “Israeli” Arabs from their state. Each seems complementary to the others, which is remarkable in view of the diverse origins of their authors. Elia Zureik is a Palestinian scholar who lived in Israel until he graduated from high school and was thereafter educated in England. His book is the most bitterly polemical of the four, but also the most daring work of social theory. The Palestinians in Israel recapitulates the relations of Jews and Arabs in Mandate Palestine in order to show that the Arabs are casualties of Zionism’s “internal colonialism.”

Zureik’s main evidence for this thesis is the current social condition of his former community. About half of Israel’s Arabs still live in nearly isolated towns, and serve as a work force for Israeli Jewish industries. A quarter work on Jewish farms and construction sites. Zureik’s figures convincingly show that the Israeli Arabs are “dependent upon and dominated by” the Jewish economy; that Arabs have become a segregated industrial proletariat in Israel and will remain one unless some of Israel’s political institutions are reformed. The other books under review recognize the force of Zureik’s facts.

But Zureik’s attempt to use the Arabs’ current problems to discredit Zionism under the British Mandate as colonialism is something else. It seems to me not only insupportable from the historical record, but to obscure the intense cultural conflicts among the Israeli Arabs themselves. In 1948 the 175,000 Palestinian Arabs who stayed in the territory that became Israel were almost all peasant farmers. Unlike the professional people, merchants, workers, and other urban Arabs who fled cities such as Haifa and Jaffa in panic, or were driven out of towns such as Ramle by the Haganah, the Palestinians who became Israeli citizens lived mainly in rural villages in north-central Galilee or the Little Triangle between Haifa and Nablus where the fighting did not quite reach. With the exception of Christian Nazareth, these were among the most backward places in the country …

This article is available to Online Edition and Print Premium subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
If you already have one of these subscriptions, please be sure you are logged in to your nybooks.com account. If you subscribe to the print edition, you may also need to link your web site account to your print subscription. Click here to link your account services.
Letters

An Exchange on the Palestinians July 16, 1981