IMEMC Interview with Reem Natour, resident of Nazareth.
Q: Could you speak about how some of the first casualties by the Hezbollah rockets were Israeli-Palestinians, or so-called Arab-Israelis? Why do you think that was? How are Arab-Israelis being affected by the rocket fire?
A: If you talk about probability, Arabs are about 40% of the population in Northern Israel in the Galilee. So there is about a 50% probability of being hit also as an Arab by a rocket. We know that Arab cities and villages are not targeted, but unfortunately it happens. It is very painful but politically speaking the majority of Arabs believe that Israel is responsible for this war. And with all the pain and anger we can still see, politically speaking, who is responsible.
Q: Some people in Northern Israel probably have relatives in Israel. Do you know if that is the case?
A: Some people do. Not a lot of people here have relatives in Lebanon. I think even if we don’t have relatives, Lebanon is a very dear country to Palestinians. It has a special place in the heart of Palestinians and maybe Arabs in general. We are very worried and feel a great sorrow about what is going on there.
Q: Do you as Israeli-Palestinians or Arab-Israelis have the same access to bomb shelters and protection that Jewish-Israelis do?
A: Not at all. Our villages and cities are not equipped at all with shelters and even in the mixed cities like Haifa or Akka, Arab populations live in lower socio-economic situations and even though their neighboring Jews have shelters and are well-equipped, most of the Arabs in these mixed cities do not have adequate measures to protect themselves from rockets.
Q: The mayor of Nazareth has even accused the Israeli government of not providing the necessary funding. Do you know if that is the case?
A: Yes I think it is the case. Its part of a general Israeli policy towards Arab citizens. We lack budgets in all domains of life such as education and welfare, as well as shelters and what we need to protect ourselves from missiles or rockets.
Q: Do you feel that Israeli-Palestinians or Arab-Israelis are being discriminated against in this way?
A: Of course. But as I told you it’s really part of the general policy towards Arab citizens and it is systematic, from the foundation of the state of Israel. With all governments. We cannot exclude any of the governments, not Labor nor Likud. They were all systematically discriminating towards Arabs in their budgets and also other aspects in our citizenship here.
Q: So discrimination against Israeli-Palestinians is not a new thing?
A: No not at all. We are the indigenous people on this land but we are treated as class B citizens. Even the right of being here is questioned and we have to even defend that, for example a Jew anywhere in the world is potentially an Israeli citizen, a Jew has only to step into Israel to get citizenship while we are prevented from the right of return, for example. And this is one the basic rights of our citizenship. We are also discriminated in regards to property of land, job opportunities, etc.
Q: Some people in Nazareth have said that Israeli government forces actually purposefully build military installations near Arab-Israeli communities. Do you know if that is the case?
A: Yes. There are many of these cases. First of all, many of the lands near Arab locations are confiscated. When these lands are confiscated they are used either for building Israeli settlements or for military purposes. Usually the reason given for the confiscation is military use. So they say we need this land for military use and no one can say anything. For example, near Sakhneen there is a big military property that I don’t know exactly what they do there. Near Eil-a-boon there is one as well. Near many villages there are military bases.
Q: I understand this has also had a big affect on Bedouin communities. I know that Israeli air bases have been built near Bedouin comminutes. Do you know about the affects on the Bedouins?
A: In the Negev or in the north?
Q: In both locations. I’ve heard about military installations by Israel being built there, but particularly in the north.
A: I don’t have much information about Bedouin villages in the north. I know more about the Negev. People are really in danger there because they are near lands where the army does military trainings, and sometimes they leave weapons and landmines, which are dangerous to the population, especially small children that play in the open areas.
Q: In the United States I think a lot of people are unaware of the Christian population, in Nazareth particularly. How has this affected the Christian population?
A: We don’t have any differentiation between Christians and Muslims in this case. We live altogether in this city. We are all Palestinians, we are all Arabs, and we are all subject to the same policies from the state. We are the same people. So we don’t really feel that it makes a difference if a Palestinian is Muslim or Christian. The only difference is religious convictions. Besides that, we have the same culture, we share the same social and political values, there are differences but they are not sectarian. Its not because someone is Christian or Muslim that they have for example, different political positions. It’s like everywhere, there is nothing really special about belonging to one religion or the other.
Q: Do you know anything about the situation about Majdal Shams, the Syrian village that’s inside of Israel? How this has affected the village that is in a minefield?
A: I don’t have any specific information about that. I haven’t heard about anything.
Q: Do you think that Israel is attempting to use the war to expand the northern border of Israel?
A: No, I don’t think they want to expand the border. I think they want to create a new situation in Lebanon and in the Middle East in general, where regimes that are obeying American instructions in the region become the powerful and anyone who is opposing the American views or the Israeli views is eradicated, such as Hezbollah, Syria and of course Iran. I don’t think it’s a question of geo-political borders. It’s part of a political vision for the Middle East, maybe what Condoleeza Rice is calling the “new Middle East.”