We Arab Israelis are holding a lot of pain
OpinionGuest columnist

We Arab Israelis are holding a lot of pain

We, the Arab public in Israel, are also still in shock.

Ghadir Hani
Flag of Israel close up. (Photo by cottonbro studio, courtesy of Pexels)
Flag of Israel close up. (Photo by cottonbro studio, courtesy of Pexels)

Friends, I ask that you share my words.

It is hard for all of us to find words these days, and it is even harder for me as an Arab citizen of Israel.

Today, we are a month since that damned morning, that morning when the sky fell.

Even today, time does not dull the pain. On the contrary, what we could not digest in the first days, the extent of the horrors, the shocking murder of families, the abuse, all the personal stories with names and faces, now cause us all to tear up, cry, remain speechless incapable of expressing the depth of pain.

The brutal war continues to hit us all, more and more dead and wounded in body and soul. All of us, even those who are not physically injured, are hurting. In one moment, our lives became a whirlwind of blood, rage, fear and terror.

The Arab public in Israel, to which I belong, found itself speechless in the face of the horror. For me, the knowledge that people in Hamas — my people, the Palestinian people — deliberately chose to murder and abuse Israeli citizens and foreigners, among them the elderly, women and children, is unfathomable and unforgivable.

I will shout everywhere and with all my voice: Whoever is capable of harming the innocent, whoever is capable of perpetrating such atrocities, is not a human being. I am ashamed that those murderers belong to my people.

A lot has happened since that cursed Shabbat. So many ripples to the circles of pain and destruction. I am painfully aware that many in the Jewish public have no compassion for the citizens of Gaza. I also know the arguments — that Hamas was elected with a majority of votes, and so on.

It saddens me greatly that the suffering of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, whose lives have been unlivable for so many years, is perceived with indifference and sometimes even with glee among many in the Jewish public.

I hear around me, also in relation to the Arab citizens of Israel, horrible statements of revenge on Arabs wherever they are. I am not afraid to say, even if they come to question me, that I feel the pain of the citizens of Gaza. A human heart can unfortunately contain a lot of pain. The thousands of children who were killed in the bombings in Gaza are children with dreams, who played and lived in hardships that not many people even know. Their small palms buried in the rubble flood me with tears. Humanity is becoming extinct in our region, but we must not lose our humanity. Those children in Jabaliya, Khan Yunis or Gaza, their deaths are terrible tragedies.

We, the Arab public in Israel, are also still in shock. As per usual, in times of security and tension, silence is the natural act. The silence stems first of all from fear, lest they see us as the enemy.

The obvious must be said out loud. The Arab public in Israel is shocked by the actions of Hamas.

The Arab public in Israel is shocked by the endless number of dead in Gaza.

The Arab public in Israel is afraid that it will pay a heavy price for the terrible Hamas assault, because of the feelings of revenge of many in the Jewish public. In the absence of a public space that can contain this complexity, many of the Arab public remain silent.

Those who are not silent speak.

Many of them speak with courage in condemning the assault and the importance of the solidarity of the Arab population in Israel with their Jewish neighbors. Their position is that of the majority of the Arab public. It is not for nothing that in Kfar Qasim, Batira, Bir HaDaj, Berhat and other towns, civil initiatives began to operate to help evacuees from the surrounding area and the north.

Amid my despair, I cling to glimmers of hope within a civil society that helps everyone — in the willingness of my Bedouin friends to risk their lives to save others on Oct. 7, such as Amer Abu Sabila from Abu Talul, who was murdered while saving two girls in Sderot.

Friends, we have no choice. Two peoples will continue to live side by side, and therefore the forces of light must fight extremism, hatred, violence and all the death-mongers. Only if we act together can we look into the eyes of our children and offer hope for better days. This is the time to do everything for the common future of both nations.

The moderate forces, those who desire life, both in the Jewish public and in the Arab public, must say out loud the obvious: This is our country, and we must reach out for peace. The outstretched hand will meet many hands. We are the majority. PJC

Ghadir Hani is a Palestinian citizen of Israel, an award-winning peace activist, and a member of the Habima-Almanbar Initiative – a Religious Vision for peace. This first appeared on The Times of Israel.

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