Friday, February 22, 2013

Arabs in Israel

Dr, Mordechai Kedar, an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam,  is a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena. Dr. Kedar recently spent several days touring Northern California, educating  hundreds about the new realities in the Middle east following the Arab Spring.

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav with permission from the author. Original materials copyright (c) by the author. 

In this important article, Dr. Kedar erases some common misconceptions regarding the Arab population of Israel. Rather than being an "indigenous" population, many were recent migrants, with various ethnic divisions differing from each other in religion, culture, origin and historical background.  He writes:

But the characteristic that most unites the Arab sector in Israel is the environment that they live in: All the Arabs in the world live in one of two situations: Either in dictatorships in their homeland, or in dictatorships in the diaspora. There is almost no Arab community in the world that lives in its homeland for tens of years in a truly democratic state. The Arab citizens of Israel are the only Arab group that lives on its land (especially if you ignore the lands from which they originated) in a democratic regime that honors human rights and political freedoms. This is the reason that Arabs outside of Israel envy the Arab citizens of Israel and call them "Arab al-Zibda", or "whipped cream Arabs".

From the Blog :  Middle East and Terrorism

Mordechai Kedar: The Arabs in Israel - Part I 

Ethnic Division
Within the Arab sector in Israel there are a number of ethnic groups who differ from each other in language, history and culture: Arabs, Africans, Armenians, Circassians and Bosnians. These groups usually do not mingle with each other, and live in separate villages or in  separate neighborhoods where a particular family predominates. For example: the Circassians in Israel are the descendants of people who came from the Caucasus to serve as officers in the Ottoman army. They live in two villages in the Galilee, Kfar Kama and Reyhaniya, and despite their being Muslim, the young people do not usually marry Arabs.
The Africans are mainly from Sudan. Some of them live as a large group in Jisr al-Zarqa and some live in family groups within Bedouin settlements in the south. They are called "Abid" from the Arabic word for "slaves". The Bosnians live in family groups in Arab villages, for example, the Bushnak family in Kfar Manda. 

The Armenians came mainly to escape the persecution that they suffered in Turkey in the days of the First World War, which culminated in the Armenian genocide of 1915. 

Cultural Division

In general, it can be said that the Arab sector is divided culturally into three main groups: urban, rural and Bedouin. Each one of these groups has its own cultural characteristics: lifestyle,  status of a given clan, education, occupation, level of income, number of children and matters connected to women, for example polygamy (multiple wives), age of marriage, matchmaking or dating customs and dress. The residents of cities - and to a great extent also the villagers - see the Bedouins as primitive, while the Bedouins see themselves as the only genuine Arabs, and in their opinion, the villagers and city folk are phony Arabs, who have lost their Arab character.

The Arabic language expresses this matter well: the meaning of the word "Arabi" is "bedouin", and some of the Bedouin tribes are called "Arab", for example "Arab al-Heib" and "Arab al-Shibli" in the North.

The Bedouins of the Negev classify themselves according to the color of their skin into "hamar" (red) and "sud" (black), and Bedouins would never marry their daughters to a man who is darker than she is, because he does not want his grandchildren to be dark-skinned. Racist? Perhaps. Another division that exists in the Negev is between tribes that have a Bedouin origin, and tribes whose livelihood is agriculture (Fellahin), who have low status. A large tribe has a higher standing than a small tribe.

Religions and Sects

The Arab sector in Israel is divided into Muslims, Christians, Druze and 'Alawites. The Christians are subdivided into several Sects: Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant, and among the Muslims, there is a distinct sect of Sufis, which has a significant presence in Baqa al-Gharbiya. There is also an interesting Salafi movement in Israel, which we will relate to later. The Islamist movement is organized along the lines of the Muslim Brotherhood and we will dedicate significant space to it in this series.

The religion of the Druze is different from Islam, and Muslims consider the Druze to be heretics. Because of this, the Druze are supposed to keep their religion secret, even from each other, and therefore most are "juhal" (ignorant - of religious matters) and only a small number of the elder men are "aukal" (knowlegable in matters of religion"). In the modern age there have been a number of books published about the Druze religion. 

The 'Alawites in Israel live in Kfar Ghajar, in the foothills of the Hermon and some live over the border in Lebanon. They are also considered heretics in Islam, and their religion is a blend (syncretism) of Shi'ite Islam, and Eastern Christianity and ancient religions that existed in the Middle East thousands of years ago. Their principle concentration is in the mountains of al-Ansariya in northwest Syria, although some are in Lebanon and some migrated southward and settled in Ghajar. The meaning of the word Ghajar in Arabic is "Gypsy", meaning foreign nomads with a different religion. In Syria the 'Alawites have ruled since 1966. The family of Asad is part of this heretical Islamic sect , and this is the reason for the Muslim objection to 'Alawite rule in Syria since according to Islam, not only do they not have the right to rule, being a minority,  but there is significant doubt as to whether they even have the right to live, being idol worshipers.

 Read the entire article here

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