Israeli Arabs originating from thin air


A pre-1937 photo showing Arabs demonstrating in the Old City of Jerusalem against Jewish immigration to Palestine

Suhail Kewan writes in Middle East Monitor:

“Israeli of Arab origin” is a phrase I have read several times in the context of a news story about an Arab Palestinian who holds Israeli citizenship. It is a description often used to introduce artists who were participating in Arab singing competitions or acting in films, or about famous soccer players who signed to play with foreign teams. This description usually comes at the end of the news in a sentence, such as: “It is worth noting that Mu’nis – or Dia – is an Israeli of Arab origin.”

This definition is usually reserved for a person who became a citizen of a country after their family immigrated to it, as is the case of the former President of Argentina Carlos Menem. Menem is of Syrian origin, meaning that his family immigrated to Argentina some time ago, and became Argentinian.

The same is true for Americans, most of whom descended from families who migrated from somewhere else around the world, except for the Native Americans. They are the indigenous inhabitants of America. This portrayal also applies to the Israelis, who are often described as “so and so, an Israeli Jew of American or European origin.” As for those who descended from Jewish families born in Palestine, they are simply referred to as “tzabar” or “sabra”, referring to the cactus plant that is widespread in the country. This name was initially given by new immigrants from Europe to the Palestinian Jews as a form of mockery. Then, every Jew born in Palestine was called a sabra, even if their father was born in Russia or elsewhere. This means that Lieberman’s children of Moldavian origin, for example, are considered tzabar in the Israeli census.

As for describing an Arab as an “Israeli of Arab origin”, it does not apply to the Palestinian Arabs in Israel because they did not travel thousands of kilometres to come and settle. Rather, they are the heirs of those who were born there, generation after generation, many centuries ago, and some of the lineages date back to before Islam.

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