Rabbi Dr. Yakov Nagen, Director of Ohr Torah Stone’s Blickle Institute for Interfaith Dialogue, pushed back against criticism of the inclusion of the United Arab List (Ra’am) in the Israeli government – or the formation of a government relying on UAL’s support from outside of the coalition – arguing that that the UAL has changed, and should no longer be automatically dismissed.
Speaking with Arutz Sheva, Rabbi Nagen said that the Southern Islamic Movement, which the UAL represents in the Knesset, is sincere in its rejection of terrorism, and that the recent comments by UAL chief Mansour Abbas rejecting political violence were in line with the Southern Islamic Movement’s positions going back to the 1990s.
“Before getting to the political, we have to get to what I feel is significant in what’s happening now, the social and religious, that there is now an opportunity to fundamentally change the relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel.”
“This is an opportunity that we cannot miss. Only if we understand the religious and social dimensions can afterwards we understand what are the political implications.”
What do you say to people who point out that these are lawmakers who opposed the Abraham Accords, who met or went to visit terrorists in prison?
“Let’s look at the ‘yes’ before we look at the ‘no’. The founder of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Abdullah Darwish changed in the 1990s when he came out calling for integration in Israel, and also condemning terror. He condemned terrorist attacks such as kidnapping and murdering Israeli soldiers. He condemned missiles from Gaza.”
“Two weeks ago, I visited in Kfar Qassem, where the Islamic Movement was formed. I went to their high school. The students there were thrilled that a rabbi would show up. On that day, students who volunteered during COVID got certificates commending for their volunteering and they all took pictures with me. The principal is the imam. He is the religious leader of Kfar Qassem. Three-thousand people come to his lectures at the mosque.”
“He told me that after the murder of Esther Horgan, he devoted his lecture to condemning the terrorist attack. The condemnation of terrorism is real. I disagree with them on many issues, I’m not their spokesperson. I believe that this is a humanitarian issue, visiting terrorists. I disagree with this. But what we have to realize is that supporting prisoners and their living conditions is not the same thing as supporting terrorism. And, in fact, they condemn terrorism.”
Dialogue is one thing, but why should they be in the government? Their aspirations are different from ours – they don’t want a Jewish state in the Land of Israel.
“I think having a government rely on one, tiny party is a problem, no matter which party it is.”
“I think what we have to work on is the social and religious connections, and through that try to build a new future. There are three words: connection before correction. There’s a lot to correct on the Arab side, and also what to correct on the Jewish side. But the way to get the correction is to get a connection.”