The appointment of an Israeli Arab to a post in Israel's Cabinet has provoked a predictable controversy on both the left and the right.
Raleb Majadele — slated to become the nation's new minister of science, culture and sport — is not the first non-Jew to serve in such a post. Salah Tarif, an Israeli Druze who briefly served in the cabinet of Ariel Sharon, has that distinction.
But the choice of Majadele, a member of the Labor Party, serves to highlight the commitment of Israel to democracy and equality.
Zionism's founding fathers always envisioned a situation where Arabs would sit in the Cabinet of a Jewish state. Indeed, Ze'ev Jabotinsky, the leading ideologist of the Zionist right and the founder of the movement that was the forerunner of the contemporary Likud Party, specifically wrote that he thought the vice premier of a Jewish state ought to be an Arab. Only a tiny minority of Jewish extremists have ever opposed democratic rights for the Arab minority.
Despite the false claims of some of the small nation's critics, Israel remains a vibrant democracy where minority rights are protected, and where Arabs enjoy greater political freedom than in virtually any other part of the Middle East.
Unfortunately, an even bigger problem than the lies about Israel is the fact that many Israeli Arabs reject Majadele because he's a member of a Zionist party. Indeed, his rise comes in an era in which Arab voters have increasingly opted for extremist parties that express tacit support for Israel's enemies. Such sentiments have served as justification for the views of the minority of Israelis who would like to place some parts of the country with heavy Arab populations outside of the Jewish nation's permanent borders.
While we can take pride in the commitment to democracy that this choice illustrates, the shift toward rejection of Israeli identity on the part of its Arab citizens is troubling. We hope that Israeli Arabs will take this symbolic moment as a reason to question the increasingly hostile nature of their interactions with the state.
Despite the real problems they face as members of a national minority group, Israeli Arabs must learn to take yes for an answer. If they do not, the divide between Jews and Arabs, both inside Israel and throughout the region, will only grow larger.
The Problem at Emory
For an institution that's supposed to be promoting peace, the Carter Center at Emory University in Atlanta seems to be working overtime to create strife. The resignation of 14 Jewish members of the board of a place dedicated to promoting the work of former president Jimmy Carter — following the publication of his controversial book attacking the State of Israel — should be setting off alarms at the institution.
The inaccuracies and downright falsehoods contained in Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, as well as his tacit endorsement of the right of Palestinians to murder Jews if they do not get their way in negotiations, has not produced the sort of universal revulsion we would have hoped for.
Sadly, the resigning Jewish board members were not joined by any of their non-Jewish colleagues.
At a time when much of the scholarship produced by the academy about the Middle East is biased against Israel, it's probably not too surprising that Emory and the center are standing by their man.
Nevertheless, we commend the courage of those who are leaving, and encourage others associated with both the Carter Center and similar institutions that have produced anti-Zionist screeds to rethink their support for the publication of nontruths. –