Friday, October 14, 2011

The Hypocrisy of the Price Tag Campaign Reveals Itself in Tuba-Zangariya

Bedouin-Israeli soldiers training in the Negev. Sadly, the Price Tag campaign
has targeted the very same citizens who risk their lives everyday to protect Israel
By: Ariela Ross

Until recently, Tuba-Zangariya - a small Israeli Bedouin village of about 5,200 residents near the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) - was virtually unknown outside of the local region. The village was recently thrown into the spotlight when the enforcers of the "Price Tag" campaign torched and vandalized a mosque, one of three in the two square kilometers east of Rosh Pina that comprises Tuba-Zangariya - or “Tuba” as it's known among locals. For readers that are unfamiliar with the phenomenon, the Price Tag campaign is carried out as a series of vandalizations and retaliatory attacks committed towards groups considered to be against the Israeli right-wing settlement movement. So far, the campaign's initiators have attacked at least one other mosque, a Peace Now office, Rabin Square, and buildings and cemeteries around Israel, including in the Galilee and Jaffa.

It is especially disconcerting that these radicals chose to attack the residents of Tuba, a village with a long history of close ties and strong relations with the Jewish residents in neighboring Rosh Pina. Mokid Heib, a Tuba native and a Muslim-Bedouin Israeli serving in the IDF, has a strong, familial relationship with several Jewish families in Rosh Pina. Their families barbecue together, children intermingle, and they even host a set of keys to each others' private homes. After forging his mother’s signature to enlist in the IDF’s Golani infantry unit, Mokid has since surrounded himself with a mixture of Jewish Israeli friends, including the wealthier secular elite of Tel Aviv - and he’s far from unique in this regard.

The majority of Tuba's Israeli Bedouin population voluntarily chooses to serve in the Israeli military, with many continuing on to find themselves in the upper echelon of the IDF with distinguished military careers. Moreover, soldiers from Tuba don't just sit behind a desk doing administrative work or support jobs behind the scenes. They risk their lives by serving on the front lines everyday with their Jewish brothers in arms.

Bedouin Israeli soldiers from Tuba typically serve in the Border Guard and IDF Field Scout units. The soldiers who enlist in the Scouts protect Israel on the Syrian and Lebanese borders; they even have a base just outside of Kiryat Arba/Hebron, where the incident that inspired the Price Tag campaign occurred. Tamer Heib is one of these soldiers, a Field Scout serving on the Israel-Syria border in the Golan Heights. He chose to put off his passion for art and desire to learn graphic design so he could serve the mandatory three-year commitment in the IDF. Unlike Jewish and Druze Israelis, Bedouin Israelis are not obligated to serve in the Israeli military, which makes Tamer’s story all the more inspiring.

Tamer Heib (center), an IDF Field Scout & Tuba-Zangariya native    
One of the Border Guard’s direct responsibilities in the area is to provide protection for religious settlers as they conduct their daily affairs around the Old City of Jerusalem. There is a piercing irony within their mission, as they are constantly being tasked to protect the very same individuals who often resort to violence against the Bedouin communities in the wake of the Price Tag campaign. Amidst the rising level of protests, riots and even some reciprocal attacks from the residents of Tuba, one might question the resolve of the Bedouin soldiers to protect their country, especially in an increasingly polarized nation such as Israel. Yet the Tuba residents are resilient, and a refrain from rushing to point fingers or blame the Jewish-Israeli community as a whole.

Tuba-native Firas Ibrahim states that, "while the feeling in our hometown is certainly tense, at the end of the day, the soldiers and other residents understand that the individuals who carried out this attack are don't represent the majority of Israelis." He hopes that the incident will not have a negative impact on the IDF's Bedouin soldiers service or future enlistment.

Ibrahim is a young man in his mid-20s who lives, studies and works in Central Israel. Even when speaking with his brother Osama over the phone, a former Border Guard soldier in the Old City of Jerusalem, he speaks in half-Hebrew, half-Arabic. Their family has accepted the Jewish girlfriends brought home by their sons with open arms, and could be described as secular-traditional regarding their observance of Islam. He considers himself a proud Israeli, and his perspective provides a similar example for the majority of other residents of the Tuba community.

The morning after the mosque arson occurred, a handful of misinformed Israeli Jews praised the attack, claiming that "the Arabs deserved it." Such statements are made out of a disturbing sense of ignorance and bigotry that is simply not representative of most Israelis, and needs to be confronted and subdued. Price Tag attacks are a shameful phenomenon that bring embarrassment to many Jewish-Israelis such as myself. Ultimately, these attacks are targeting our own citizens - our own soldiers - due to a misplaced hatred that needs to be addressed through education, relationship building and open dialogue. 

Fortunately, a growing number of Israelis, including the religious sector, are coming together in unison to condemn these attacks wholeheartedly. A group of Rabbis recently came out strongly against the Price Tag attacks, stating, "these acts are prohibited and completely contradict the way of Torah, and therefore we believe and hope that they were not committed by Jews."

On October 6th, an 18 year-old right-wing religious Jewish resident from the West Bank was arrested on suspicion of taking part in the Price Tag attack in the Tuba-Zangariya. The case is currently under a gag order, but any forthcoming conviction will only confirm that an individual blinded by hatred and denseness chose to defile a house of worship in what is generally a peaceful and loyal community. Any Israeli who cherishes the contributions and loyalty of individuals such as Mokid, Tamer, and Ibrahim to the State of Israel would be wise to join in the efforts to make one thing irrefutably clear: these abominable actions do not represent the majority of us here in Israel.

30 comments:

  1. Simply pathetic...these courageous Bedouin soldiers give their lives to protect Israeli civilians and yet face discrimination by the far-right. This type of viscous hatred must be stopped.

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  2. Despicable acts committed by sad, misinformed people. G-d bless these soldiers and their service in the IDF.

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  3. If this comes through twice I am sorry- I hit the wrong button. Reading this article is an instruction. Just last evening I wrote Jonah on FaS and I truly have embarrassed myself. Foot in mouth again. Even I never cease to be amazed at my ignorance. I guess this is why I have such a presence here...I'm the kid who has to go to summer school to make up for her lack of knowledge. Thank you for never ceasing to challenge me. Reading these articles and interacting on these sites is a humbling experience.

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  4. Great article, the Bedouin and Druze actually contribute to Israeli society, while many Arab-Israelis refuse to even do national service in their own communities. It's a sad state of affairs.

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  5. "These acts are prohibited and completely contradict the way of Torah, and therefore we believe and hope that they were not committed by Jews."

    Informative and good story about "Ibrahim"

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  6. Thanks for this useful story

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  7. Since these "price tag" operations don't make a bit of sense, one has to consider the possiblity that the whole premise that stupid hate-crime equals right-wing extremists is just not true. Who loses here--the poor victims that have to repair some property damage, or the "wicked crazy Jews" that allegedly did such a thing? Who is really getting delegitimized in this process? Even though there's a "price tag" story prominantly displayed in the news every few weeks for the last year or two, no Jew has ever been convicted, except in the court of public opinion. So far this smells like anti-Right street theatre. If you want to remain in the Center, it is good to be aware of the possibility of dirty tricks of one end of the spectrum against the other.

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