Israel offers full rights to all

"Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country," former U.S. President John F. Kennedy famously said at his inaugural address in 1961. These immortal words, meant to inspire societal and national contribution, are completely lost on Arab Israeli leaders like Ahmad Tibi.

In his piece on The Hill's Congress blog, “Israel’s ‘Jim Crow’ treatment of Palestinians continues”, Tibi once again maligns and libels the country which he purports and is paid to serve, not only as a elected official, but also as the Deputy Speaker of Israel’s parliament.

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Perhaps more than anyone else, Tibi represents all that is wrong with parts of the Israeli Arab leadership. Rather than encourage integration among our community, the community of Arabic-speaking Israeli citizens, Tibi supports segregation, calling for the complete ostracism of any Israeli Arab who volunteers for national civilian service.

He knows his political future rests on the continued demonization of the State of Israel and its Jewish majority. Tibi and many other Israeli Arab politicians spend much of their term in office on lavish trips to meet with regional despots and repressive regimes, rather than representing the people who democratically elect them and pay their wages.

During the last Knesset, before the revolution in Libya, Tibi and other Arab Members of Knesset travelled to meet with former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Describing the visit to Gadaffi’s Libya as “wonderful,” these Israeli Arab MK’s were feted by the autocrat who discussed with his guests ways to end the existence of the State of Israel in its current form.

While the Syrian regime was massacring its people, another Arab Israeli Member of Knesset led a demonstration of support for Bashar Assad, claiming the Syrian leader was the “victim of aggression” even while the rest of the world stands aghast at his systematic butchery.

While Tibi and many of his cohorts are recklessly supporting and encouraging some of the most brutal regimes and terrorist organizations in the world, their local constituency is ignored.  

However, there is another way.

As a member of the Arabic-speaking Druze minority, I served my country on the battlefield and I now serve my country in its legislature as Deputy Speaker.

During my few years in the Knesset I have quietly set about assisting our community without making headlines. I initiated an overhaul, repair and modernization of the sewage and water systems and the electricity grids in predominantly Arab areas in the north of the country, long ignored by others.

Furthermore, in a voluntary capacity, I created and continue to oversee a youth movement comprising of thousands of school children from the Arabic-speaking Druze community who are taught to love their country and contribute to society.

From among the graduates of our movement, we claim the highest percentage of Israeli army elite unit members in the country.

This is what can happen if one chooses integration and contribution over ostracism and demonization.

No one is going to deny that there are problems in the State of Israel, as there are in any state. However, the state has not created any laws that differentiate between peoples based on religion, nationality or background. What is most noticeable in Tibi’s article is that he fails to provide even one example of what he claims is “discrimination.”

In fact, the opposite is true.

In our whole region consisting of over 350 million Arabs, there are only 1,658,000 Arabs who have complete political and religious freedom and have the right to vote in full democratic elections.

It is no coincidence that all of these Arabs live as full and equal citizens in the one Jewish State.

From its very beginning, the State of Israel demanded full equality before the law.

In Israel’s Declaration of Independence, its first leaders wrote that: “it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the holy places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations."

It has stayed true to its principles.

The only question remains, what is our role as Arabic-speaking Israeli citizens? Will we pick up the gauntlet and contribute and assist in the building of our country, as Kennedy encouraged, or will we, like Tibi, continue to malign it while preventing our community from the progress, development and integration it requires and deserves?

Amar is a Druze citizen of Israel and deputy speaker of the Knesset.