Did you know that the Arab citizens of Israel, including Christians, Muslims, Druze, and Bedouin, make up 20% of the population?
In the documentary film, My Home, filmmaker Igal Hecht raises a lively discussion about the racism that exists within Israeli society and, notwithstanding this reality, he shows that many of these Arabs citizens are loyal to the state of Israel. We meet a diverse group of articulate people, all of whom are seriously working towards coexistence and understanding, some of whom have served in the army, and all of whom support the State of Israel.
Following Ariel Sharon's famous pilgrimage to the Al Aqsa compound (Temple Mount) in 2001, there was rioting among the Arabs of the Lower Galilee. The violent response by the police against these rioting citizens caused the death of 13 young men. In a democratic country, police do not usually open fire on their own citizens even if they are part of an active and even violent protest movement. According to one woman, this destroyed something in the social fabric and the goodwill in the Galilee. But she still lives a life which reflects her desire for coexistence.
It cannot be denied that there is a certain amount of racism and discrimination smoldering -- sometimes below the surface, sometimes more blatant -- against the Arab citizens of Israel. Even the Druze and Bedouin, who serve in the army and believe in supporting the state, admit this and say that things must change. We also hear from a young man whose father was a soldier in the Southern Lebanese Army (SLA). After having been granted asylum in Israel, they live in Acre and this young Christian man finds that he identifies with Israel and is thankful to Israel for having saved his family.
The film also gives voice to other opinions, to people who are Palestinian Arab citizens and are very critical of how Arabs are treated in Israel. For example, there are Arab members of the Knesset -- Ahmad Tibi, Ayman Odeh and Haneen Zoabi -- who are all very critical of the discrimination that Arabs suffer within Israeli society. In addition, they speak out forcefully against the Occupation.
Perhaps one of the things that points more than anything else to the xenophobia within the country is that a day before the 2015 elections, Bibi Netanyahu made a plea to Likud voters to come to the polls by announcing that "the Arabs are coming out in droves." He was trying to ensure the election of his right-wing government. It was a terribly shocking comment which drew a lot of criticism and he was forced to apologize for it.
The film My Home, directed by Igal Hecht (documentary, 52 minutes), is a fascinating documentary which reveals the complexity of life in Israel for its Arab citizens. The film is available from Ruth Diskin Films.