In Ne­tanyahu case, Is­raeli Arabs trust the po­lice this time

Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By BEN LYNFIELD

While Jewish Is­raelis on Wed­nes­day were heat­edly ar­gu­ing over whether Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu should re­sign, Arab cit­i­zens were also closely fol­low­ing the de­vel­op­ments, in­clud­ing in the Napoli café in Baka al-Ghar­biya.

Here peo­ple be­lieve that Ne­tanyahu has com­mit­ted other trans­gres­sions be­sides cor­rup­tion.

“He should re­sign be­cause of all the [cor­rup­tion] cases and be­cause of the di­vide he makes be­tween Jews and Arabs, be­tween Left and Right. He is shred­ding the coun­try,” said Hi­lal Ki­tan, a trans­la­tor and as­pir­ing novelist.

“He doesn’t treat us as equal cit­i­zens and as hu­man be­ings,” said Ki­tan, 32, who, like other pa­trons, ref­er­enced the March 2015 Elec­tion Day state­ment by Ne­tanyahu urg­ing his sup­port­ers to vote be­cause Arabs were flow­ing “in droves” to the bal­lot sta­tion. De­spite Ne­tanyahu’s sub­se­quent apol­ogy, that in­sult is still a fes­ter­ing wound. It is seen as the true ex­pres­sion of the prime min­is­ter as some­one will­ing to in­cite against Arabs to gain po­lit­i­cal ben­e­fits.

“It wouldn’t bother me at all if he ends up in jail,” said re­tired teacher Abed al-Haj. “Even if he’s in­no­cent of all the charges, he is re­ally bad for us. I pre­fer that he not be prime min­is­ter.”

The café is a blend of Is­raeli and Pales­tinian in­flu­ences, with pa­trons read­ing Ye­diot Aharonot and Maariv and pep­per­ing their Ara­bic with He­brew phrases as they sit against the back­drop of an en­grav­ing of the Dome of the Rock and a poster of Pales­tinian pris­on­ers in Is­raeli jails. It is on the main street of a city of more than 25,000 peo­ple in the Haifa district where white stone vil­las are in close prox­im­ity to brown stucco build­ings and un­fin­ished gray con­crete struc­tures.

One of the own­ers of the café, who de­clined to be named, was in the mi­nor­ity in as­sert­ing that Ne­tanyahu should not have to step down. “Why should he re­sign? If ev­ery­one un­der sus­pi­cion re­signs, the whole coun­try will be un­em­ployed.”

He said thiev­ery and law­break­ing are ram­pant, cit­ing the cases of Ehud Olmert, Moshe Kat­sav and for­mer chief rabbi Yona Met­zger. “He who steals a shekel and gets caught is a thief. He who steals a mil­lion and doesn’t get caught is a mil­lion­aire. Count the num­ber of mil­lion­aires in the coun­try.”

For a change in the Ne­tanyahu case, Is­raeli Arabs seem will­ing to trust the po­lice. “In this case I be­lieve the po­lice. They wouldn’t do this with­out a ba­sis,” said Ziyad Masarwa, 45, who stud­ied law in Ger­many. “I dis­tin­guish be­tween the way po­lice act to­ward Arabs and how they are han­dling the case of the prime min­is­ter. The po­lice is a large ap­pa­ra­tus.”

Masarwa con­ceded that Is­rael is the only coun­try in the re­gion where such po­lice rec­om­men­da­tions against a prime min­is­ter are pos­si­ble. “If I com­pare Is­rael to Arab coun­tries, it is demo­cratic to­ward its cit­i­zens. But if we com­pare it to Europe, it is not demo­cratic, be­cause it dis­crim­i­nates against Arabs.”

He and oth­ers see Ne­tanyahu as head­ing up a sys­tem that, if any­thing, is be­com­ing more racist.

“There is dis­crim­i­na­tion in most ar­eas,” he said. “In ed­u­ca­tion, com­pare how much the gov­ern­ment sup­ports the Arab sec­tor with how much it sup­ports the Jewish sec­tor. In em­ploy­ment, what per­cent­age of gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees are Arab?”

“Ne­tanyahu has done a lot of dam­age that will take a long time to fix,” he said. “He brain­washed peo­ple that they are un­der threat from north and south. When did he speak of peace?”

Haj said that be­cause of dis­crim­i­na­tion in plan­ning, he is be­ing heav­ily fined for build­ing with­out a per­mit. He says it is im­pos­si­ble for him to build legally, be­cause of the ab­sence of an ad­e­quate mas­ter plan for Jatt, the town next to Baka.

“Is­rael is de­te­ri­o­rat­ing, it’s be­com­ing less hu­mane,” Ki­tan added, not­ing plans by the Ne­tanyahu gov­ern­ment to ex­pel 30,000 Eritrean and Su­danese asy­lum-seek­ers. “He who is racist is racist in ev­ery di­rec­tion.”

Ki­tan said he does not be­lieve Ne­tanyahu’s as­ser­tions that the po­lice con­nived against him in an ef­fort to top­ple him. “I don’t be­lieve him at all. Any­one who knows him and fol­lows him knows he is a chronic liar. In this spe­cific case I be­lieve the po­lice.”

The Ne­tanyahu gov­ern­ment is also as­so­ci­ated by Arabs with the “na­tion-state bill,” which, ac­cord­ing to crit­ics, gives pri­or­ity to the Jewish as­pects of Is­raeli state­hood over the demo­cratic ones.

Ab­dul­lah Ghara, a com­puter sci­ence teacher who was sip­ping espresso, termed the bill “an­other brick in the wall. It might well be that Ne­tanyahu wants us to live well – but not here,” Ghara said.

But he said that if Ne­tanyahu is forced to re­sign, his suc­ces­sor might not be any bet­ter, as far as Arabs are con­cerned.

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