Monday, January 02, 2017

 By Petra Marquardt-Bigman

When the Israeli journalist Noga Tarnopolsky posted a tweet announcing the heartbreaking news that a young Israeli woman was among the victims of the New Year’s eve terror attack in Istanbul, Haaretz World News Editor Asaf Ronel insisted that the victim should be described as “Palestinian.”

Tarnopolsky responded by pointing out that not all of Israel’s Arab citizens identify as Palestinians; indeed, a relevant recent poll she posted showed that only 12% chose “Palestinian” as their preferred identity, while 24% chose Arab, 25% Israeli, and 29% preferred to be identified by religion, i.e. Muslim, Christian or Druze. Tarnopolsky also noted correctly that irrespective of the victim’s preferred identity, Israeli authorities would provide the family with the same assistance that every Israeli family receives in these terrible circumstances.

However, in the course of the exchange it quickly turned out that Ronel couldn’t care less about how Israel’s Arab citizens prefer to be identified. He insisted that designating the victim as Palestinian was “more accurate since it’s factual.” Preposterously, he even insisted that if the victim’s family preferred to identify as Israeli Arabs, “they are Palestinians w Israeli citizenship that define themselves as Israeli-Arabs.”

So we know now that it’s progressive and politically correct to ignore the wishes of Israeli Arabs who don’t want to be described as Palestinian.

I’m not sure if this should perhaps have implications for Article 1 of the Palestinian Constitution, which declares: “Palestine is part of the large Arab World, and the Palestinian people are part of the Arab Nation.” After all, this clearly implies that being Palestinian is a subcategory of being Arab, similar to being Bavarian is a subcategory of being German. Does Ronel approve of this or would he prefer the Palestinians to forget about feeling “part of the large Arab World” and “part of the Arab Nation”? And what about the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, that proclaims: “The State of Palestine shall be an Arab State and shall be an integral part of the Arab nation”?

In this context it’s interesting to consider the poll posted by Tarnopolsky in some more detail. It is taken from the 2016 Israeli Democracy Index, published two weeks ago by the highly respected Israel Democracy Institute (IDI). The relevant poll is on page 78 of the report, and IDI notes [emphasis added]:

“Arab respondents were given the following options to choose from as their primary identity: Israeli, Palestinian, Arab, and religious (Muslim/Christian/Druze). As the figure below indicates, the strongest identity among Arab respondents is religious, followed by Israeli and Arab. Palestinian identity was selected as primary by the smallest share of respondents, bolstering the argument that the Arab population is undergoing a process of Israelization and, at least seemingly, countering the widespread claim that a major process of Palestinization has taken place, or is taking place, in Arab Israeli society.”

IDI explains further:

“A breakdown of the Arab sample by religion yielded interesting results. The responses of Muslim interviewees when asked about their primary identity can be summarized as follows: religious identity, as chosen by the largest share, followed by Arab and Israeli identity, with Palestinian identity trailing far behind. […] We learned further that among Christian Arabs, Arab identity takes precedence, followed after a sizeable gap by Israeli and religious identities. Here too, Palestinian identity is at the bottom of the list. Among the Druze, religious identity is dominant, followed by Israeli identity, while Arab identity is weak and Palestinian identity is negligible.”

But it’s perhaps only fitting that the Haaretz World News Editor would insist that imposing the preference of a tiny minority on everyone is somehow “more accurate since it’s factual.”  

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