Arab minorities in Israel and Europe

I note somewhat belatedly, via The Head Heeb, a series of articles in Ha’aretz on the condition of Israeli Arabs. As Jonathan Edelstein notes, there’s good news and bad news and while I disagree with the concept of national minorities and ethnic states in general, I agree entirely with Jonathan, the editors of Ha’aretz, and apparently the not-so-good folks at Shin Bet that the current situation of Israeli Arabs is untenable and continuing neglect is a bad idea. The series is fascinating, but it is long enough that you will have to commit more than a brief glance to reading it.

I have never been to Israel, and the relatively small number of Israeli Arabs I have met over the years are probably not representative. So, I am hard pressed to make any grand statements about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, I want to focus on a theme that appears in several articles in the series, something that ought to be a bit surprising and that has considerably more significance for Europe: the degree to which Israeli Arabs have become quite western in outlook and behaviour. This shines through in the article on an Arab language radio talk show abouty sexuality and relationships, in the article on the political attitudes of young Arabs, and in the marketing trivia of the Arab-Israeli consumer. Israeli Arabs remain, by European standards, quite conservative. However, I know of fully mainstream American communities that are a good deal more traditionalist than what is described here. I should think this sort of society would be fairly compatible with European and American social standards.

This westernisation has not happened to Israeli Arabs because Israel encouraged them to abandon their traditional attitudes. If anything, it seems that the opposite has happened. Israel’s Bedouins still practice polygamy without any discouragement from the state. Significant portions of Israeli civil law are handled by religious and quasi-religious courts. Arab language schools in Israel do not seem to go out of their way to encourage a critical look at Arab or Israeli culture, or at least they don’t if this is to be believed. This transformation has happened despite living in a state where much of the population is openly hostile to Arabs, and where the state responds to their complaints with rhetoric more often than action.

Contrast this with Europe. In France certainly – and probably elsewhere – there is relatively little open hostility towards Arabs and Muslims by comparison to Israeli attitudes, although there is still plenty of hostility and a long history of egalitarin rhetoric in lieu of action. However, unlike in Israel, fairly large majorities of European-born Arabs identify strongly with Europe. Unlike in Israel, there is little to compare with the events of 1948 to sustain historical grievances. Even in Algeria – the closest example – France ulimately lost.

Yet in Europe, we expel imams for saying things that I suspect barely merit a second glace from Shin Bet. I suspect Israel worries far less about the mere incitement to murder than about actual guns and bombs, and I suspect they ignore the preaching of neanderthal sexual attitudes completely. Israel is far more genuinely threatened by its Muslim population than France is, and yet it has never felt the need to ban headscarves. I note little fear in Haaretz that Israeli Muslims are not modernising or adapting to global cultural norms. If anything, there seems to be a fear of the opposite – that an Arab community representing approximately as large a part of Israel’s population as francophones do of Canada’s population might make very modern demands for cultural equality.

I was watching a programme on BBC the other day about French Muslims who, despite considering themselves quite liberal and well integrated in France, greet the expulsion of imams and the new restrictions on conservative Muslims with trepidation. It leads me to wonder if in France, like in Israel, extremism is less of a problem than fear. Left to their own devices, freed from the entrenched political conservativism of Arab dictatorships but still the objects of suspicion and repression by a non-Arab state, Israel’s highly concentrated Arab population has become at least as liberal as many very successful states in the Far East and Latin America. Why then, is there so much fear that Europe’s small, dispersed Muslim population is failing to integrate?

42 thoughts on “Arab minorities in Israel and Europe

  1. In France certainly – and probably elsewhere – there is relatively little open hostility towards Arabs and Muslims by comparison to Israeli attitudes, although there is still plenty of hostility and a long history of egalitarian rhetoric in lieu of action.

    Hmmm, I’m not entirely sure of that. European far-right populist parties such as the FN do a fair amount of Muslim and Arab-baiting, and some of them use expulsionist rhetoric that’s fairly similar to what I see from the Israeli far right. The far right’s electoral percentage in Israel is only slightly higher than in many European countries (and lower than some), so the level of hostility might be said to be somewhat similar. Also, anti-Arab hostility in Israel rarely translates into violence; the anecdotal evidence I have suggests that an Arab in Haifa is less likely to become a victim of racial violence than an Arab in Brussels or Amsterdam.

    On the other hand, there isn’t nearly as much fear of an Arab fifth column in Europe as there is in Israel, which means that there is probably more anti-Arab sentiment in the Israeli center-right than its European counterpart. Israel’s role as a (partially) ethnic state also creates an institutional fault line that doesn’t exist in most European countries. I’m not really sure where the balance falls.

    In any event, I wouldn’t necessarily characterize France as typical of Europe in this respect, given that it has a very assimilationist national ideology. In France, gestures of cultural distinctiveness (e.g., the hijab) are regarded as un-French. Israel, in contrast, uses a leftover Ottoman millet system in which the tendency is to regard Muslims and other non-Jews as members of separate communities and afford them a certain degree of cultural autonomy. Israel is also a classic nation of immigrants and as such is more tolerant of hyphenated identities than countries where mass immigration is a more recent phenomenon. Most European countries are more assimilationist than Israel but less so than France; I doubt that the cultural Kemalism now being practiced with respect to the French Muslim community will be duplicated in more than a few countries.

  2. If anything, there seems to be a fear of the opposite – that an Arab community representing approximately as large a part of Israel?s population as francophones do of Canada?s population might make very modern demands for cultural equality.

    Or in my case, a hope that they will do this, because this will mark their transition to full citizens of Israel.

  3. Very interesting post. I never thought about the difference between how Israeli Arabs are modernizing and how many European Arabs are not. But given all that I don’t understand you conclusion at all:

    “It leads me to wonder if in France, like in Israel, extremism is less of a problem than fear. Left to their own devices, freed from the entrenched political conservativism of Arab dictatorships but still the objects of suspicion and repression by a non-Arab state, Israel’s highly concentrated Arab population has become at least as liberal as many very successful states in the Far East and Latin America. Why then, is there so much fear that Europe’s small, dispersed Muslim population is failing to integrate?”

    You note (and I think correctly) a fairly dramatic difference in how the two groups have (or have not) westernized. Why would you attribute that to fear? There is clearly some sort of different dynamic going on in the two groups, but the fear of the host government seems like an odd thing to pin that on. The headscarf ban for instance (which I think was an awful idea) still was a reaction to the fact of non-assimiliation.

    I realized but did not notice (if that makes sense) that there was a difference in how the communities were Westernizing. It seems very important to notice, but your explanation doesn’t seem to really explain it.

    Perhaps one factor is cultural and geographic proximity to the Middle East? Israeli Arabs are within a few hundred miles of some of the worst regimes around. Perhaps it is easier for them to see the contrast of Middle Eastern cultures and their more western counterparts when they have to deal with the differences regularly. In Europe there is a distance from the day to day corruption of a society wholly run under Middle Eastern models which perhaps allows for more nostalgia? I don’t know. That doesn’t seem very comprehensive either.

    You definitely present an excellent question.

  4. Jonathan – I’ve never been to Israel, I could be wrong, but even during the headscarf thing, an openly nativist attitude towards Arabs was something that only happened on the far right. And, France is unique only in claiming to be protecting secularism and les valeurs républicaines. Bavaria is being just as inane and has even less of a protective fig leaf, and if anything it has just as strong a tradition of religious pigeon-holing. The Netherlands is even more strongly built on explicit social and religious categorisation, and anti-Islamic sentiment seems even stronger there than in France.

    Sebastian, I think you’re missing the point. In my experience, European Muslims are far less conservative than Israeli ones and far less of a threat to the state or to community cohesion than they are in Israel. Yet, Europe takes assinine measures that would never pass muster in Israel. My suspicion is that European fear of Muslims is a much bigger problem than Muslim extremism. This seems to be the diagnosis in Israel as well.

  5. I?ve never been to Israel, I could be wrong, but even during the headscarf thing, an openly nativist attitude towards Arabs was something that only happened on the far right.

    The kick-them-out rhetoric in Israel is coming from the same place. Currently, far-right nationalist parties (the National Union and Mafdal) hold 13 of 120 seats in the Knesset, which translates to about 11 percent of the vote. Far-right parties in Europe seem to get a roughly similar electoral percentage these days, sometimes more, so the base for expulsionist rhetoric seems roughly similar.

    There are some signs that far-right attitudes in Israel extend beyond Mafdal and the National Union into the right wing of the Likud. For instance, the Smooha poll linked above indicates that about 20 percent of Israeli Jews (i.e., about 16 percent of Israelis) don’t believe that Arabs should share Israeli citizenship. The mainstream Israeli right, however, tends to be more conventionally racist in its views (vice Ze’ev Boim), somewhat like the mainstream European right. I’d say that the political patterns are broadly similar, although the effect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict makes the tensions in Israel more acute.

    And, France is unique only in claiming to be protecting secularism and les valeurs r?publicaines. Bavaria is being just as inane and has even less of a protective fig leaf

    Point. At the same time, though, radical assimilationist measures like the hijab ban don’t appear to be spreading outside France and Germany. I could be wrong, but I’m not aware of any serious proposals along those lines in the Netherlands despite the degree of anti-Muslim sentiment there.

    My suspicion is that European fear of Muslims is a much bigger problem than Muslim extremism. This seems to be the diagnosis in Israel as well.

    I agree. The Jews seem to be taking quite a bit longer to get over the October 2000 riots than the Arabs.

  6. Jonathan:

    I could be wrong, but I?m not aware of any serious proposals along those lines in the Netherlands despite the degree of anti-Muslim sentiment there.

    There is, actually. Islam Online carries information on various Dutch initiatives, ranging from the effective ban on further immigration into the Netherlands to various programs to encourage cultural assimilation.

    Israeli and European Arabs are assimilating with equal speed, actually, Sebastian. If anything, European Arabs are doing so more quickly; I’m not aware, for instance, that significant numbers of Israeli Arabs speak Hebrew as their first language, and European Arabs (or rather, Europeans of Arab descent) generally fall into the conservative end of Europe’s sexual, demographic, and political spectrum. They’re assimilating like Latinos in the US.

    The difference bwetween France and Israel isn’t Kemalism–Israel has made abundant use of its military to define the nation–but rather the role and legitimacy given to minority religious and sectarian communities. In Israel, Israeli Arabs are treated like ultra-Orthodox Jews in that the ability of conservative religious hierarchies to define the conduct of all members of their communities is recognized and encouraged, even if community members don’t want that authority. France lacks that tradition of giving minority sects temporal autonomy entirely.

  7. Scott:

    Yet, Europe takes assinine measures that would never pass muster in Israel.

    I’ll just say that European Muslims, just like European Christian counterparts, increasingly seem to perceive efforts by conservative religious leaders to make their percepts unavoidable temporal guidelines for all of their flocks, very broadly defined, as a threat to their personal autonomy. Cf the plurality of French Muslim women, and the apparently overwhelming majority of French Muslim schoolgirls, who support the formal ban of the hijab.

    Israel is a society with very different dynamics, being a place where minority religious communities are free to establish their own laws governing their members regardless of the actual opinions of those members. It’s a much less secular society than most European states, as witnessed by the inability of Israeli citizens to enjoy civil marriages inside the frontiers of their state. Its situation does not map onto Europe well, IMO.

  8. I second Randy?s points. The radical factions among Israel?s orthodox Jewry have dress codes similar to those of the Islamists. That explains why Israel won?t introduce a non-discriminatory ban on religiously motivated attire in schools.
    (There are, in fact, many more similarities between Ultra-Orthodox Jews and radical Islamists.)
    Having taught German to Muslim Turkish girls as a student, I feel pretty confident that I am in a position to guess what their opinion on the matter is. The majority of them probably doesn?t agree with Scott.
    The case of Southern Germany definitely needs to be differentiated from that of France.

  9. Randy: We’ve disagreed on this before, and I still don’t think that the freedom of choice of group A (those who don’t want to wear hijab) can be validly protected by taking away that of group B (those who do). If women are being coerced to wear hijab by parents or community leaders, then the problem is the coercion, not the hijab. The French approach addresses one symptom while leaving the disease intact, and leaves me wondering whether the underlying problem is simply a convenient cover. I don’t favor any kind of compulsory personal status for minority religions or mandatory jurisdiction for religious authorities – one of the most important minority rights is the right to opt out – but I also don’t favor state compulsion against religious practice.

    In any event, I agree with you about the distinction between Israel, which follows the Ottoman practice of recognizing religious minorities, and Europe, which tends to think in terms of national minorities. (This may be one way in which France is a special case even within Europe, because it doesn’t give official status to national or linguistic minorities within the metropole.) The problem is that the distinction between religion and nationality is often blurred among Jews and Muslims; some European countries treat Jews as a national minority while others consider Judaism a religion only, and Muslims in some countries have agitated for national minority rights. The two may not be as different as you think.

    Joerg: When I read comments such as yours (and I’ve read many), I sometimes wonder whether Americans and Europeans mean the same thing when they talk about religious freedom. I often hear Europeans speak of “freedom of worship,” which is satisfied by the right to have churches and other religious institutions. To me, and I suspect to most Americans, freedom of religion includes the much broader right to live according to one’s conscience. Europeans, or most of them, also recognize such a right, but within narrower limits and not delineated according to religion.

    This means that, to me, a “non-discriminatory ban on religiously motivated attire” is an oxymoron. Any such ban is inherently discriminatory, because it favors those who do not have a religious compulsion to wear such attire over those who do. It may be “non-discriminatory” in that it applies to all citizens across the board, but it deprives certain targeted groups of the right to live according to their conscience.

    BTW, I don’t mean to derogate your opinion, only to point out that religious freedom may mean different things depending on the context of the discussion.

  10. The kick-them-out rhetoric in Israel is coming from the same place.

    Benny Morris? He didn’t say “kick them out,” he said, “we should have kicked them all out.”

    Guys, the two situations aren’t remotely similar. You are all smart guys so I need not describe the differences.

    Scott, I have been to Israel, several times, lived there as well. The last time I was there I had a conversation with a Labor-supporter. This was not long after the suicide bombings that in effect elected Netanyahu, and he basically said the same thing that Benny Morris did.

    Eventually the whole situation will blow up. Meanwhile, it’s fun to live in a fool’s paradise where philanthropy takes the place of policy.

  11. Well, if there actually is a difference in the speed of assimilition (or westernisation) and if it goes faster in Israel than in Europe, it is a good question why. But it would be good to know if there is a case to discuss in the first place. Scott claimes that there is a case, Randy that there isn?t.

    To get to some kind of answer, I think the answers to the following questions need to be found:

    1. Is there any good statistical answers to questions about integration? Language, which Randy points out, is of course a good starting point, but I would guess there is more.

    2. If the answer to question 1 is yes, where can we find some about inhibitants in Europe and Israel of Arab descent (preferably on the internet)?

    Considering the general level of education on thus blog and it?s commentary sections I think there is a good chance of these questions being answered. Or at least Scott and Randy can try to demonstrate their cases.

    I would like to finish with contributing with some anecdotal evidence of my own:

    In Sweden a scarf-ban has been discussed on and of for at least five years. I wouldn?t be surprised if it there comes a law within 5-10 years, though I think it would demand some kind of moral-outrage-situation to come into existens. Integration is in Sweden seen as something every immigrant should do to benefit themselves and the society (regrettably this one-sided wiev is predominant). Arab immigrants are usually not mentioned among neither the best nor the worst in integrating.

  12. Randy: We?ve disagreed on this before, and I still don?t think that the freedom of choice of group A (those who don?t want to wear hijab) can be validly protected by taking away that of group B (those who do).

    It can, barely, IMO, inasmuch as many elements of group B use coercive pressure against people of group A (to say nothing of members of group B).

    If women are being coerced to wear hijab by parents or community leaders, then the problem is the coercion, not the hijab.

    The hijab as it’s being used is both sign and signifier, reflecting and creating meaning, demonstrating an individual’s commitment (whether voluntarily or not) to the vision of social order set forth by religious leaders, described by people who
    favour the hijab as mandatory for all members. The hijab as it’s being treated by the is part of the problem.

    The French approach addresses one symptom while leaving the disease intact, and leaves me wondering whether the underlying problem is simply a convenient
    cover. I don?t favor any kind of compulsory personal status for minority religions or mandatory jurisdiction for religious authorities – one of the most important minority rights is the right to opt out
    – but I also don?t favor state compulsion against religious practice.

    What about a coercive and expansionistic religious practice? Most French Muslim women perceive the hijab as the thin edge of a wedge, as the first step towards the implementation of a restrictive and
    downright misogynistic set of roles for gender behaviour, and with good reason. (Cf. the experience of Algerian and Iranian women with the hijab of late.)

    What is to be done if the minority community in question doesn’t recognize a right to opt out? Should wider society do nothing to force the community to concede the right of non-membership, or should it let things be?

    The problem is that the distinction between religion and nationality is often blurred among Jews and Muslims[.]

    I think that this is overstating the differences between Christian and other Abrahamic practices. If Jews and Muslims have religious laws which they’re supposed to cleave to, then so do Catholics in the
    form of canon law (and Protestants, too, depending on the precise sect). If the line between religion and nationality is blurred among Jews and Muslims, then it’s also blurred among Christians, whether among
    traditionally exclusionary and hegemonic Protestant sects in northern Europe, Catholics caught between transnational affiliations and Counter-Reformation
    ideologies of nation, or Orthodox who’ve tried to combine the pressures of nationalism with a transnational quasi-federal church. There are differences right now as Judaism and Islam are practiced (or, particularly in the case of Judaism, as
    they are not), but they’re similar to the historical differences of various denominations of Christianity.

    Back to the question of the hijab. I’ve supported the hijab ban in public schools mainly because it allows the large majority of women–particularly younger women in the process of determining what sort of relationship they’ll have
    with their religion–to freely exercise their conscience and avoid religious coercion. It involves coercion of a minority, true; inasmuch as significant
    elements of the minority freely acknowledge that the hijab is coercive, though, I’m not exceptionally concerned.

    It comes down to the age-old question of how to deal, in a liberal state, with groups committed to anti-liberal means and methods. The ban doesn’t strike me as the best decision, but it’s certainly much better than allowing through complacency, ignorance, and/or racist orientalization (“those other women, they’re not like us”) the marginalization of almost three million people in France.

  13. Morten:

    I’ve blogged about it, here. After looking at the various statistics available, many from conservative and/or Islamist sources, I came to the conclusion that immigrants to France from Muslim countries are assimilating with some speed: Most of them don’t speak Arabic (or Berber, Turkish, Wolof, et cetera), their birth rates are dropping sharply, and they’re increasingly disinclined to support traditional models of social behaviour, including gender norms. To the extent that assimilation is slowed down, it’s as much because of the economic marginalization of French Muslims as because of religious conservatism.

    A single French Muslim community simply does not exist; the population of Muslim origin is much too fragmented to support one, at least without the active intervention of the French state. They seem to be more “French” than “Muslim.”

    Jonathan can go into more detail, but I don’t think that you can claim comparable developments among Israeli Arabs, who seem to remain rather more alienated from the Israeli state than French Muslims from the French state.

  14. One more note:

    Jonathan,

    I’m not sure how representative are the calls for national minority status among Muslim immigrants. Looking at the Arab European League, for instance, between the propagation of fairly nasty Islamism, threats lodged against Benelux Jewish communities in the context of a general tolerance of anti-Semitism under the aegis of Zionism, and a fierce opposition to any form of acculturation, the AEL doesn’t seem to be particualrly representative of Benelux Muslims (I hope). Or, if it is, in fact, representative, then it certainly shouldn’t be placed in charge of a minority community.

  15. I realize that this is a conflict that is waged on the wrong battleground. I surely didn?t intend to support those who consider the hijab as – oh, a Trojan garment?
    OTOH: Isn?t the invocation of the right to live according to one’s conscience a bit grandiose in this context? I remember once having perused a Christian fundamentalist website in the U.S. There are lots of things those groups take issue with – first being taught Darwinist biology in public schools, then being forced to attend public schools at all – rather than being allowed to practice homeschooling-, and, finally, seeing their kids being subjected to state exams in which the children are expected to know Darwinist biology although they were taught creationism at home.
    I also remember that the website talked about stoning being the appropriate punishment for adultery. I think the reasoning was that stones are the cheapest and most readily available means of executing judgment. There also was a reference to missionary work in competition with al-Quaeda – I suppose bin Laden and Louis Farrakhan are exchangeable from such a perspective.
    My conclusion is that the hijab ban is either a non-issue – or it is a forerunner of very dramatic developments in the future. I think there is a parallel to the attempt of enforcing school desegregation by means of busing.

  16. The odd phrasing of part of my above comment makes me realize that I don?t know anything about the legal status of those home-schoolers in the U.S. Is this a matter that each state decides for itself?

  17. Joerg, one of the things I’ve long wanted to put up a post on is the idea that you have, in general, the right to live as you think right. It’s not an unlimited right – you have to get along with your neighbours, you have to behave in a sustainable and environmentally sound manner in the broadest sense of the word – but it certainly would be enough to claim that this particular crusade is incompatible with it.

    One of the idea I’m going to put up a post on one of these days is a short list of things you explicitly do not have a right to. One of them is that you do not have the right to segregation. If your lifestyle is incompatible with sharing your public spaces with the heathen, then tough luck. The second is ignorance. You do not have the right to ignornance and you do not have the right to expect ignorance of others, including your wife and your children. You have the right to tell your children that they are going to go to hell if they have sex outside of a heterosexual marriage. You do not have the right to prevent them from knowing what a condom is, how to find one and what it’s good for.

    In this sense, you may have the right to tell your daughters that if they don’t wear an hijab then they are bad girls. Certainly this anti-hijab law doesn’t do anything to prevent you from exercising such a right. I object to claims that the state has a right to protect other children from the existence of religion by banning religious symbols; I object to a law that will keep the girls who most need exposure to secular public values from receiving such an exposure; and I object to empowering people who believe that beliefs can be changed through repression. I continue to disagree very strongly with Randy because this law will not offer any choices whatsoever.

    I think people should have a right to take issue with evolution, just I would expect them to take issue with a school that taught a doctrine I thought was assinine. I think people have no right to expect their children not to know what evolution is, why so many people hold it, and that it matters to your career whether or not you do. I would, in the same manner, agree that a gay teenager has no right to be shielded from the knowledge that the world has plenty of homophobes. I would use the same logic to claim that no white kid has the right to be educated in a school with no black kids, even if the black kids have to be bussed in. The new anti-bussing movement claims that long commutes are hurting children and desegregation is no longer helping their grades much.

    People keep acting like children are vessels to be filled and expect schools to do the filling. This is so far from reality that it’s laughable. I am sympathetic to the homeschooling movement, which is legal in all parts of the US but is a bit more complicated in Europe. The parents who homeschool because they think schools are inadequate have my sympathies. The ones who do so to protect their children from knowledge of the larger world don’t.

  18. Randy:
    You show quite convincingly that the muslims in France are integrating quite fast. The articles Scott points to also delivers the message that the Arab population in Israel are integrating quite fast to.

    Even if Scott manages to find some comparative statistics to support his original thesis that the Arab population in Israel are integrating faster, it doesn?t seem so interesting to find out why as long as both populations are integrating fast.

    However this thread seems to long have leaved the original question and instead focused on pro/con hijab-ban in public schools in France.

  19. Muslims in Israel are westernizing, Muslims in France are integrating. I think those are two different things.

  20. Even if Scott manages to find some comparative statistics to support his original thesis that the Arab population in Israel are integrating faster, it doesn?t seem so interesting to find out why as long as both populations are integrating fast.

    It is interesting, I think, inasmuch as it demonstrates how Israeli society differs from (say) French society. Whether this Westernization of Israeli Arabs is an intermediate stage towards full-fledged assimilation, or whether Israel is fundamentally different from France, will be interesting to see in the decades ahead.

    On the topic of the hijab, I’ll just say that although gay teenagers don’t have an automatic right to expect their families to be non-homophobic, they do have a right to expect to be free of abuse–if their parents beat, rape, or otherwise mistreat them because they’re not heterosexual, it’s still child abuse and quite actionable by social services. Inasmuch as schools and teachers have a role of acting in loco parentis and are–at least in Canada–legally liable if they detect signs of child abuse on their students and do nothing, they’re obliged to do something (to say nothing of the morality at hand). Public schools–including schools which receive public funds–aren’t obliged to support the prejudices of their students parents or community. Just because a group of parents don’t believe, say, that students who aren’t heterosexual should be tolerated, or that the theory of evolution should be excluded from science classes, doesn’t mean that they have a right to expect public schools to follow their views. If they feel strongly enough, well, that’s what private schools or home schools are for. Fortunately, the French law at hand, while relieving the majority of students of a form of pressure that they see threatening, allows for private schools, at least. (I don’t know about the French law on home schooling.)

  21. Morten, I’m not sure how I’ve come to be so misunderstood. I DON’T THINK ISRAELI MUSLIMS ARE INTEGRATING INTO ISRAELI SOCIETY FASTER THAN EUROPEAN MUSLIMS ARE INTEGRATING IN EUROPE. I think the opposite. That Israel is able to do fine without very restrictive laws on Islamic practices under the existing conditions suggests that Europe should also be able to cope without them.

  22. Sorry Scott, I misunderstood too. In that case I think the explanation is simple. Israel understands religion and the need for religious tolerance. Much of Europe is intolerant to religion in general and even many of the religious aren’t all that keen on worrying about religious tolerance. It also suggests that I was wrong to think that the French ban on Jewish symbols in schools was a kind of faux evenhandedness on the hijab issue. In this explanation it makes sense as a system of general religious intolerance.

  23. Well, if there actually is a difference in the speed of assimilition (or westernisation) and if it goes faster in Israel than in Europe

    There’s nothing for Israeli Arabs to integrate into. Israel’s elite is firmly Jewish (Ashkenazi, at that) and is impermeable for Arabs.

  24. Diane:

    Scott, I have been to Israel, several times, lived there as well. The last time I was there I had a conversation with a Labor-supporter. This was not long after the suicide bombings that in effect elected Netanyahu, and he basically said the same thing that Benny Morris did.

    And I’ve had conversations with European social democrats in which they told me how all the Muslims were ruining their country and should go home. The fact remains that, barring catastrophe, the only people inclined to act on such sentiments as opposed to venting steam are those on the far right. As far as I know, this is as true in Israel as in Europe.

    Re things blowing up: they already have, in October 2000, and since then the government has begun stumbling toward a coherent policy. If the United States is any guide, this policy will take a generation or so to shake itself out, but at least the need for one is now recognized.

    Randy:

    The hijab as it?s being used is both sign and signifier, reflecting and creating meaning, demonstrating an individual?s commitment (whether voluntarily or not) to the vision of social order set forth by religious leaders

    And if certain individuals want to commit themselves to this vision, or simply have a different view of the significance of hijab, what then? There’s a logical gap between saying that “certain community leaders are coercing people to do X” and “X is inherently coercive.” You mentioned heterosexuality, for instance. It is beyond doubt that, in many parts of the world, community leaders actively coerce people to conform to norms of heterosexual behavior. Does this mean that the state should step in and forbid heterosexuality? It seems to me like the ideal would lie somewhere between the two – i.e., in using state coercion only as a direct counter to communal coercion, and even then only against the coercers rather than their victims.

    What is to be done if the minority community in question doesn?t recognize a right to opt out? Should wider society do nothing to force the community to concede the right of non-membership, or should it let things be?

    If the community doesn’t recognize individual members’ right to opt out, then the state should certainly help those who want to do so. Although minority rights are often characterized as “group rights,” their fundamental basis is the individual human rights of minority citizens to freedom of conscience and cultural expression. As such, it is the individual who should decide whether he wants to be treated as a member of a minority and, if so, which minority rights (s)he should exercise. If community leaders stand in the way, then the state should enforce the individual’s right to opt out, up to and including providing protection to the individual and/or prosecuting the coercers.

    If the line between religion and nationality is blurred among Jews and Muslims, then it?s also blurred among Christians, whether among traditionally exclusionary and hegemonic Protestant sects in northern Europe, Catholics caught between transnational affiliations and Counter-Reformation ideologies of nation, or Orthodox who?ve tried to combine the pressures of nationalism with a transnational quasi-federal church.

    This is probably more true of the Orthodox than of other Christian denominations. Christians do have religious law, but for the most part they don’t have a long history of being treated like a distinct foreign nation (Jews) or a religious imperative toward political unity (many Muslims). The idea of “Christendom” exists, but for the past few centuries it hasn’t been nearly as strong as the ummah concept. There are of course many fault lines among Jews and Muslims, particularly the latter, and Muslim nationality is a problematic concept even where Muslims are grouped together as a minority, but the idea does have some force.

    It comes down to the age-old question of how to deal, in a liberal state, with groups committed to anti-liberal means and methods.

    Seems to me that the answer is to go after the persons who use the illiberal means rather than responding to communal coercion with state coercion. One of the fundamental problems I have with the French hijab law is that it leaves the underlying issue of community coercion untouched, which means that repression by communal leaders will simply be channeled elsewhere. Even if the hijab is inherently repressive – something I am not prepared to grant – then its elimination merely treats one symptom of the underlying disease. Laws like that are no substitute for the hard work of policing the coercive elements and educating Muslims as to their civil rights.

    A single French Muslim community simply does not exist […] Jonathan can go into more detail, but I don?t think that you can claim comparable developments among Israeli Arabs, who seem to remain rather more alienated from the Israeli state than French Muslims from the French state.

    The Israeli Druze (and to some extent the urban Christians) are not as alienated, and alienation isn’t the only fault line among Israeli Arabs. Aside from the obvious religious divisions, there are also distinct cultural groups like the Bedouin as well as urban/village and secular/Islamist cleavages, all of which have political ramifications. As with French Muslims, I think it’s only possible to speak of a single Israeli Arab community in certain respects.

    Joerg:

    OTOH: Isńt the invocation of the right to live according to one?s conscience a bit grandiose in this context? […] I also remember that the website talked about stoning being the appropriate punishment for adultery.

    Obviously this right should have limits – for instance, freedom of conscience should not extend to a right to kill. I agree broadly with Scott Martens as to what the limits should be, although I disagree as to how some of those limits should be applied; see here for further discussion. In general, I believe that both individual freedom of conscience and communal autonomy should end where the harm to society and/or the members of the community in question outweighs the utility of the practice. The exact limits depend on one’s conception of harm and utility, which can be widely divergent – for instance, consider the circumcision debates now taking place in the Scandinavian countries. I tend to conceive the limits broadly, and I certainly believe that a high degree of freedom of conscience is incorporated into the notion of religious freedom.

    Morten:

    where can we find some about inhibitants in Europe and Israel of Arab descent (preferably on the internet)?

    Finding sources on Israeli Arabs is easy. The hard part is finding non-politicized sources. The articles linked in Scott’s main post are a good place to start; I’ll try to find a few other reasonably objective overviews later.

  25. [snipping out the hijab debate, since I’ve said it elsewhere and no one is probably going to change their minds because of its resurgence]

    Christians do have religious law, but for the most part they don?t have a long history of being treated like a distinct foreign nation (Jews) or a religious imperative toward political unity (many Muslims).

    I’m not certain of this. Catholicism in Ireland and Poland, for instance, is strongly linked with oppression received from non-Catholic powers and played an important role in Poland, at least, in assimilating other Slavic Catholics to the Poles, while Catholic and ecumenical dreams of European unity have played an important role in the formation of the European Union. More recently, conservative Christians in the United States and elsewhere in the greater West have been constituting their communities as existing parallel to secular national societies while emphasizing the creation of transnational religious communities.

    I’m not convinced that the difference between Christianity and the other Abrahamic traditions is one of kind; rather, it seems to be one of degree.

    And on the question at hand, I’d guess that Israel sets a lower bar. The assimilation of Israeli Arabs into the wider Israeli population isn’t desired. Parallel communities, with relatively little intermixture, appear to be the Israeli pattern.

  26. Jonathan:

    Oh, just one point.

    You mentioned heterosexuality, for instance. It is beyond doubt that, in many parts of the world, community leaders actively coerce people to conform to norms of heterosexual behavior. Does this mean that the state should step in and forbid heterosexuality?

    Category error. Heterosexuality is no more of a problem for people who aren’t heterosexual than Islam is for people who don’t want to follow its precepts. Rather, the issue at hand is with people who say that heterosexuality as an ideology justifies the exclusion of non-heterosexuals from the human community, likewise Islam in relation to people (particularly nominal Muslims) who don’t accept all of its principles.

  27. Scott,
    It seams I really misunderstod you. But apparently I wasn?t alone, so my explicit misunderstanding at least brought some good. 🙂

    Jonathan,
    do not put in any extra work on my account (in finding sources for comparative studies), since I misunderstod Scotts original point. And thank you for reminding me of the circumcision debate in Sweden, which I had forgotten though it was just three years ago. The memory is a funny thing.

  28. Let’s be realistic. If a few Muslims had not flown planes into the World Trade Center, and a few more had not bombed trains in Spain, no one would care what a few other Muslims said in their speeches.

    Once we’ve been under siege as long as the Israelis, I’m sure we’ll get better at separating the wheat from the chaff. That might be 50 years or more.

  29. Thanks Randy.

    I’m really not trying to win arguments here but to bring something out that is taboo, which is that there is no place in Israeli society for non-Jews as Israel is currently constituted. Given the fact that the country is nearly 30% “non-Jewish” this is no small issue, but even if the country were 2% Eskimo it would present as great a moral conundrum as it does now.

  30. Diana: Kimmerling believes that a common society is beginning to develop; I’m somewhat skeptical, but that isn’t really the point. As the Belgians and Catalans have discovered, there are other ways besides a common society for two peoples to live together in one country. I think Israel will have to reinvent itself, become quasi-binational in many ways, and settle for being a Jewish state de facto rather than de jure with certain exceptions like the Law of Return. But we’ve discussed this before.

  31. Jonathan,

    Good for Kimmerling–I think he’s flat out wrong.

    We have discussed the situation before, where, because it is your blog, I always concede the point. This is not your blog, so here I’ll stand my ground and say that I think you are engagin in high-grade self-deception.

    The situation of Belgium and the Catalans aren’t remotely comparable.

    My suggestion is to live in Israel for an extended length of time to see what I am talking about. The country is run by hard-core Zionists who wouldn’t think of creating what you are talkinga bout, but as you would say, “that isn’t the point.”

    The point is, what you are talking about doesn’t exist. You can talk about it until you are blue in the face, it doesn’t exist.

  32. PS I meant that neither the situation of the Belgians or the Catalans is remotely comparable to the situation in I/P, not to each other, the way it looks in my comment. But they aren’t comparable to each other, either.

    The I/P situation is truly uniqely bitter. Not looking at it full in the face of its true ugliness is yet another way of prolonging the agony.

  33. I have to agree with Diana. Belgium is seeing a growing separation between its component communities (threefold between the Dutch, French, and German language communities, and between the Flemish, Walloon, and Bruxellois regions), but this separation reflects a territorial separation that has remained more-or-less constant since the Middle Ages, at least. In the Spanish region of Catalonia, you’re seeing attempts over the past quarter-century to normalize the position of the Catalan language, making a Catalan-language society including everyone at the same time that Spanish is retained (as a mother tongue, and as a language of wider communication. Immigrants are being assimilated in Catalonia; in the Belgian territorial regions, assimilation policies are mainly left to each of the regions, Flanders being hostile, Wallonia being integrationist, Brussels being multicultural. Neither situation is comparable to Israel/Palestine.

    The closest similarity, I suppose, if we’re looking for Israeli similarities with any European state, is with Germany. this isn’t too surprising, given the origins of Zionism in Germanic central Europe and the core demographic of Zionism among the Ashkenazim. Situations where Russian or Kazakstani citizens of nominal ethnic German descent, despite a lack of German language or traditions, can automatically gain German citizenship where second-generation native-born Germans of Turkish situation are not, are similar to the marginalization suffered by many non-Jews in the framework of a Jewish nation-state that’s somewhat exclusionary.

  34. Also, since we’re on neither of our blogs here, I’ll say that however much self-deception I may be using, anyone who makes a historical uniqueness argument is using a fair bit of it herself. Jews and Arabs aren’t the only people who’ve ever oppressed each other, shot at each other, asserted historic rights over the same land or even wished each other out of existence. There have been other conflicts in recent history that have led to widespread massacre and ethnic cleansing, and were deemed so deep-rooted and virulent that they had no chance of resolution: Serbs and Croats, Greeks and Turks, Hindus and Muslims, you know the drill. If they can come to a modus vivendi, then so can Jews and Arabs between whom less blood has passed.

    Elon and his ilk don’t have to win, I’m involved in several organizations that are trying to make sure they don’t win, and if that’s self-deception then I’d rather deceive myself than throw up my hands.

  35. There have been other conflicts in recent history […] Serbs and Croats, Greeks and Turks, Hindus and Muslims […] If they can come to a modus vivendi, then so can Jews and Arabs

    You must realize that what you can call “modus vivendi” in those other conflicts is the result of previous eliminationist behavior by all parties, and that this modus vivendi does not include an integrationist nationalism (except maybe for India, and there only precariously).

    Elon and his ilk don?t have to win

    Elon and his ilk are in fact fantasists who cannot possibly win.

  36. Jonathan:

    Not to sound catastrophic, but current Croat-Serb relations are marked by the fact that there are few Serbs in Croatia–many of the Serbs who didn’t flee with the collapse of the ministates in 1994-5 are assimilating. Less than 5% of Croatia’s population is Serb now.

  37. Jonathan,

    Jonathan, you are changing the subject from one where you envisage binational amity to something quite different. This is what I call self-deception. I see no reason to change my characterization.

    Regarding self-deception, I think that ALL situations are unique, and I prefer to dwell on that rather than on what they have in common with one another. But you are right, situations in which two contending peoples vie over a piece of land are not unique. They are virtually always settled by war. Why not this? Because the Israelis are in a chess game in which they are close to being checkmated. They can beat the Palestinians. They can’t win out against all the Arabs in a war without end.

    Here’s a difference: In this case, you’ve not only got a group of people who considers itself the Chosen People, you’ve got the group that wrote the book. There is, by definition, no place in Israel for non-Jews. It’s not only a situation where you have separate and equal or separate and unequal. It’s a situation where a Utopia was envisaged that didn’t take into account a native non-Jewish population. There’s still a dominant Zionist mythology that the place was once mainly Jewish and that non-Jews invaded the place as a result of foreign control. It’s just not so, and I would venture a guess that Yossi Beilin believes this as much as does Benny Elon. Non-Jews would have it little better under Beilinism than they would under Elon. They’d still be strangers in someone else’s homeland. Sorry, but your philanthropic organizations aren’t going to satisfy the majority of Arabs in Israel who want not just comfort but actual equity. There is no such thing as virtual equality.

    None of the examples you offered really came to a the sort of conclusion you envisage as satisfactory. They all ended in massive ethnic cleansing with one group utterly dominating the other. I never said that was impossible. I say that it is highly unlikely given the factors that control I/P, another reason it is unique. If this were anywhere else the “problem” would have been solved with another bout of ethnic cleansing. But Israel is totally dependent on US good will and money, so it can’t.

    Turkey is the best example of how ethnic cleaning really can work. Anatolia was once 20% non-Turkish Muslim with a thriving Greek minority. The Greeks are now a shrunken remnant of what they once were. Anatolia is 99% Muslim.

  38. Jonathan,

    Jonathan, you are changing the subject from one where you envisage binational amity to something quite different. This is what I call self-deception. I see no reason to change my characterization.

    Regarding self-deception, I think that ALL situations are unique, and I prefer to dwell on that rather than on what they have in common with one another. But you are right, situations in which two contending peoples vie over a piece of land are not unique. They are virtually always settled by war. Why not this? Because the Israelis are in a chess game in which they are close to being checkmated. They can beat the Palestinians. They can’t win out against all the Arabs in a war without end.

    Here’s a difference: In this case, you’ve not only got a group of people who considers itself the Chosen People, you’ve got the group that wrote the book. There is, by definition, no place in Israel for non-Jews. It’s not only a situation where you have separate and equal or separate and unequal. It’s a situation where a Utopia was envisaged that didn’t take into account a native non-Jewish population. There’s still a dominant Zionist mythology that the place was once mainly Jewish and that non-Jews invaded the place as a result of foreign control. It’s just not so, and I would venture a guess that Yossi Beilin believes this as much as does Benny Elon. Non-Jews would have it little better under Beilinism than they would under Elon. They’d still be strangers in someone else’s homeland. Sorry, but your philanthropic organizations aren’t going to satisfy the majority of Arabs in Israel who want not just comfort but actual equity. There is no such thing as virtual equality.

    None of the examples you offered really came to a the sort of conclusion you envisage as satisfactory. They all ended in massive ethnic cleansing with one group utterly dominating the other. I never said that was impossible. I say that it is highly unlikely given the factors that control I/P, another reason it is unique. If this were anywhere else the “problem” would have been solved with another bout of ethnic cleansing. But Israel is totally dependent on US good will and money, so it can’t.

    Turkey is the best example of how ethnic cleaning really can work. Anatolia was once 20% non-Turkish Muslim with a thriving Greek minority. The Greeks are now a shrunken remnant of what they once were. Anatolia is 99% Muslim.

  39. As an Arab i would like to add my 2 cents. The comparison between the Arabs in Israel and the Arabs in Europe is not logical. the Arabs in Europe are immigrants and their descendent’s. They moved to a new country with a different language and slowly the adopted their new countries language and customs while trying to keep as much of their old culture as possible.

    The Arabs in Israel are the NATIVES to that land, where they have been living for many hundreds of years. they didn’t immigrate to Israel or even ask to be part of a new Jewish state that was built on top of their land. They where simply too weak to stop it and were some of the lucky ones who stayed in their home. the majority of them have relatives who live few miles away in the many refugee camps in the west bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria … etc.

    If any one here can read Arabic you can read any of the Arabic newspapers that are printed by the Israeli Arab community online. It will not take a long time to realize that they consider themselves to be Palestinians and they sympathies with the people in the west bank and Gaza and they complain alot about discrimination by the Israeli government.

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