I am not the enemy | Rawia Aburabia

ACRI Attorney Rawia Aburabia

Those who routinely treat others with racism and hatred are the ones defeated long ago – their human experience is damaged and tainted.

Three times a week I take the train from Be’er Sheva to my office in Tel Aviv. For two years now it has been the same routine: I enter the train station, my bag goes into the screening machine, I walk through the metal detector, I buy my ticket, and sometimes there’s a short wait. There, I’ve earned an hour of undisturbed reading. Since the beginning of the war in Gaza, I’ve tried to head north as early as possible, postponing as long as possible the return home to the sirens and the missiles.

The relief I felt when the cease-fire was announced didn’t last long. The morning after the announcement, at the entrance to the train station, I spoke in Arabic on the phone. The security guard didn’t waste any time; he immediately asked for one ID, then another. The other passengers continued on their way – screening machine, metal detector, ticket.

It was obvious the only reason for stopping and questioning me was my identity as an Arab woman, and the guard saw no point in claiming otherwise. I tried to explain that I wasn’t against showing a card, as long as it was part of a policy that included everyone. I said he was engaging in ethnic profiling, a humiliating and infuriating expression of racism. I don’t think he was convinced.

In recent years it seems the pattern of war has been changing: The wars have been getting shorter, but more frequent. What hasn’t changed is Israel’s national reflex. From operation to operation, the air is filled with the poisonous atmosphere of “Quiet, we’re at war,” and the stench refuses to go away when the hostilities end. The collective enlistment for nationalist propaganda melds with the rejection and suppression of criticism, or even innocent aversion to, the love of war. This time, the person subjected to this public lynching was the model Bar Refaeli. Last time it was TV anchorwoman Yonit Levi, who raised a brow at the wrong moment.

In this system of rules, Arabs like me are, by necessity, the enemy. The more violent expressions of this notion can be found on the Facebook pages of Michael Ben Ari, Baruch Marzel and the like. There, suggestions were posted this week to slash, torture, rape and burn alive MK Haneen Zoabi.

But the Kahanists are only expressing in their vulgar, violent manner a sentiment much more widespread than Marzel’s Facebook page. The notion that sees Arabs as the enemy is entrenched in all strata of the Jewish public. This was the attitude of the television hosts who demanded that MK Ahmed Tibi condemn Hamas again, even though he had already done so without hesitating. It was the attitude of my security guard, who did nothing more than put into practice what he had learned: Look out for suspicious people. And suspicious people, as we well know, are Arabs.

When you’re the enemy, it’s legitimate to make you feel that you’d better not speak your language. You’re turned into an immediate suspect, into a punching bag.

I am not the enemy. The greatest enemy of Israeli society is the racism, violence and conceit it shows toward others, toward minorities, toward anyone who refuses to take part in the demonization of the other. The greatest enemy of the state is itself, raising a generation of fearful, obsessed citizens who accept the militant discourse of hatred toward the other and don’t dare challenge it, not even imagining that things can be otherwise.

Well, security checks, however humiliating, and expressions of racism won’t defeat me. Those who routinely treat others with racism and hatred are the ones defeated long ago – their human experience is damaged and tainted.


The writer, an attorney, is in charge of the Rights of the Negev Bedouin program at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

The article was originally published in Hebrew in Haaretz on 26 November 2012 and in English on 28 November 2012.

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Categories: Arab Citizens of Israel, Racism and Discrimination, The Right to Equality

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One Response to I am not the enemy | Rawia Aburabia

  1. Terry Mulroney כתב:

    When the powerful must humiliate the less powerful they have demonstrated their uncivilized nature. Military activism against the oppressed is a sign of weakness not strength. It leads to glorifying militarism, indoctrinating the youth into mistreating their perceived ‘enemies’ and leads to a crumbling system with less resources for civilizing its population.