Reprinted from Gush Shalom
IT SOUNDS like a joke. But it isn't.
About a month ago, on the eve of the Jewish New Year, the government statistical office published a set of interesting items about the population of the state. It is intended as a gift for the citizens. The population is growing, it is getting richer and it is satisfied.
One of the items lists the most popular names given last year to newborn boys and girls.
When the statisticians saw the results, they were flabbergasted. It appears the name that topped the list was Muhammad.
Muhammad? The most popular name in the Jewish state?
There is a simple explanation for this. Arabs constitute more than 20% of the citizenry. Arab parents like to give their sons the name of the Prophet, God bless his soul. Also, Arab citizens have many more children than Jewish citizens. If every second Arab boy is called Muhammad, you get in principle 5%.
Jewish citizens have a much wider choice. There are hundreds of names for boys, and the list is growing all the time, because young parents like to invent fresh Hebrew names. Even if a tenth of the Jewish parents prefer the name Josef, the most popular Hebrew name according to the list, you get only 4%.
What to do? Simple: you just omit the Arab names. No Muhammad.
When this became known, many Israelis laughed. How silly can you get?
BUT IT is not a joke. It shows that the Arab citizens are not considered as really "belonging." Sixty-six years after the foundation of Israel, the place of the Arabs in the "Jewish State" remains problematical, to say the least.
Last Tuesday, reading Haaretz, I noticed that a whole page -- page 4 -- consisted of news concerning Jewish-Arab relations.
Item 1: Tens of Jewish settlers invaded the Arab neighborhood of Silwan, next to the Temple Mount, in the middle of the night. Silwan, the biblical Shiloah, is an Arab village that was joined to Jerusalem when East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel after the Six-day War. For years now an association of settlers called Elad has been trying to Judaize this neighborhood by secretly buying properties from poor Arabs, using Arab traitors as straw-men. Now the association has decided to fill these houses, arriving like thieves in the night.
(The president of Elad is Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust writer and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. I boast of having detested him from first sight, and even invented a new Hebrew word for him. It translates roughly as "Holocaustist.")
Item 2: It was disclosed that the central building organization of the settlers, which is heavily subsidized by the government, is giving huge donations to a group called "If You Will," which specializes in ferreting out leftist lecturers in the universities and other places.
The group has built a Stasi-like system of informers, and claims to "promote Zionist values in Israel" -- denouncing lecturers who demand equality for Arabs and such.