Saturday, April 28, 2007

Bishara Affair Meta-Blogging

Imshin posts a strident critique of the concerns I raised yesterday about the potential fall-out of the Bishara Affair for Israeli politics and society. There are three specific points I want to address:

1.) "Brian Ulrich predicts that the Bshara affair will be Israel’s Dreyfus Affair. He thinks 'there are grounds for concern that his potential arrest and trial could become one of those events that both highlights and consolidates existing social differences between racial, ethnic, and/or religious communities'."

This is a minor point, but saying there are grounds for concern about a particular outcome isn't the same as predicting that outcome.

2.) "You are forgetting the October 2000 riots, Brian dear. If anything highlighted and consolidated anything, it was that, not some two-bit shneck of a politician, who turned out not to be as bright as we gave him credit for. And corrupt to boot."

I'll concede Bishara fall-out could be just one of a series of such events, though over the past few months I've seen a lot of polling data which suggests Arab-Jewish relations in Israel are at a low ebb.

3.) "Brian admits he hasn’t seen 'any reaction yet from the Arab sector'. It seems strange to me that a student of Islam currently residing in Jerusalem, hasn’t been reading any of the local Arab rags. What a waste. I’d love to be able to read them.

"Actually, it was an Arab Israeli newspaper, apparently hostile to Bshara and his way of doing things, that first publicized this affair. From what I understand, whole portions of the Arab sector in Israel are, in fact, very aware of exactly how damaging Bshara has been for them. However, the Arab sector is not made up of one opinion, or they’d have long ago made good use of their electoral power, instead of splintering up into lots of little parties, and in doing so allowing a loudmouthed toxic character like Bshara to act as their official mouthpiece."

Here again, she's right, and when I say I haven't seen any reaction, that doesn't imply a thorough search. This is even less my day job than it is for bloggers like Marc Lynch who deal with modern Arab politics. I did notice yesterday that al-Jazeera is going with an "Arabs rally around the persecuted Arab narrative, but I didn't see any mention of Israeli Arabs, which was my main focus. I'm not familiar with the Israeli Arab media, so I wouldn't know what to make of any particular bit of coverage I did read.

That said, I'm not sure the rest of Imshin's post really serves as a rebuttal of my own. It is a perfectly logical, mainstream Jewish Israeli perspective which makes the case that the position of Israeli Arabs is pretty good overall and that Bishara is an obnoxious and scheming twit. I suspect, however, that many Arabs within Israel may see things differently. This includes many who may not like Bishara, but perhaps feel sympathetic to parts of his agenda and believe he is being persecuted for political reasons. Reactionaries like Caroline Glick, who have used Bishara to critique "a culture of treason that has come to dominate Israeli Arab society" will fuel this process, much like extreme voices in the Arab sector.

That said, I'm starting to think he isn't coming back, which would limit the story's headline life and hence its ability to do damage. We'll also find out more of the actual allegations when the gag order is lifted in a few days.



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